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America Passed the Trump Stress Test

Summary:
After four years of President Donald Trump's contempt for established political norms, it is tempting to say that American constitutional democracy has suffered long-term damage. But, as the 2020 election showed, the institutions of American democracy have emerged even stronger. CHICAGO – The all-but-completed US presidential election has upset a range of lurid predictions. We were told that ballots would not be counted, voting machines would be hacked, state legislatures would order electors to defy the will of the people, armed thugs would intimidate voters, and riots would erupt – with the police taking the side of the “law and order” president. President Donald Trump, true to form, has indeed refused to concede, accused

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After four years of President Donald Trump's contempt for established political norms, it is tempting to say that American constitutional democracy has suffered long-term damage. But, as the 2020 election showed, the institutions of American democracy have emerged even stronger.

CHICAGO – The all-but-completed US presidential election has upset a range of lurid predictions. We were told that ballots would not be counted, voting machines would be hacked, state legislatures would order electors to defy the will of the people, armed thugs would intimidate voters, and riots would erupt – with the police taking the side of the “law and order” president. President Donald Trump, true to form, has indeed refused to concede, accused Democrats of fraud, and challenged the election in the courts. But he has no realistic prospect of remaining in office after Inauguration Day.

Those arguing that Trump’s post-election behavior amounts to an attempted coup d’état are misreading the situation. Trump’s refusal to concede means nothing. His legal challenges are frivolous and have been swatted away by courts. He has lost.

While many Republican voters tell pollsters that the election was stolen, hardly any of them have taken to the streets or pursued tactics that one would expect from people who truly believe that democracy has been subverted. There has been no Hong Kong-style uprising. Trump’s attacks on American institutions are largely a form of political performance art.

It is tempting to say that Trump has nonetheless damaged the US electoral system, and American constitutional democracy more generally. The basic claim – repeated with extraordinary frequency over the past four years – is that Trump has subverted certain “norms” that are crucial to the functioning...

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