[Column] America’s dangerous denialism

Posted on : 2020-12-14 18:15 KST Modified on : 2020-12-14 18:15 KST
Only 25% of Republicans believe 2020 presidential election is legitimate
John Feffer
John Feffer

By John Feffer, author and co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies

Joe Biden won the presidential election in November. He captured the same number of votes in the Electoral College as Donald Trump did in 2016. And while Trump lost the popular vote four years ago, Biden won by more than 7 million votes and more than 4 percent.

The election wasn’t close.

Yet, Donald Trump still refuses to concede. He has tried to pressure Republican legislators to overturn the election results in the states where Biden’s margin of victory was narrow. His legal team has filed suits to subvert the popular will. The president has even tried to enlist the help of the Supreme Court.

All of these strategies have failed. Despite many accusations of fraud, the president and his party have been unable to produce even one piece of credible evidence.

Trump’s latest plan is to skip the inauguration on January 20, 2021 and hold a rally in Florida to announce his intention to run again in 2024.

Trump’s sore-loser performance is pathetic. But it’s the denial of facts by members of his Republican Party that is truly dangerous.

According to a Washington Post analysis, by early December only 27 Republican members of Congress – out of 249 – were willing to acknowledge Biden’s victory. One Republican member of Congress even tried to push through legislation condemning any colleagues who call “upon Trump to concede prematurely.”

Unfortunately, many Americans also deny the reality of the 2020 election. Only 25 percent of Republicans believe that the results of the election are accurate. Many of these denialists embrace conspiracy theories in which the Democrats were smart enough to manipulate the results of the presidential election while somehow failing to win control of the Senate or prevent the Republicans from recapturing a handful of House seats.

Many followers of Trump believe that the Republicans who control the electoral politics of states like Georgia and Arizona, including governors who voted for Trump, are part of this vast conspiracy. These Republicans have bravely defended the integrity of the election, with the governor of Arizona ignoring a phone call from the president himself as he certified Biden’s victory in the state.

This denialism has a violent component. Armed protestors have shown up outside the home of the secretary of state in Michigan, while officials in other states have received death threats.

The refusal of tens of millions of Americans to recognize the results of a free and fair election is part of a much larger denialism.

Americans refusing to take precautions against COVID and denying climate change

The coronavirus pandemic is sweeping through the United States, which has the largest number of infections and fatalities in the world. And yet millions of Americans refuse to take the simplest precautions against the disease, such as wearing a mask and avoiding crowded gatherings. Nearly a third of Americans believe that the COVID-19 death toll has been inflated. Six in 10 Americans say that they won’t take a vaccine when it becomes available.

Then there’s the large number of Americans who are in denial about the current climate crisis. Of major countries, only the populations of Indonesia and Saudi Arabia are more in doubt of the science of climate change than Americans. One in 15 Americans doesn’t even think that the climate is changing.

Some of America’s dangerous denialism can’t be measured in public opinion polls. For instance, many Trump supporters are in denial about the changing demography of the United States. By 2045, according to the US Census, white people will no longer form the majority of the American population. Trump did everything in his power to push against that demographic trend by restricting immigration, deporting the undocumented, and throwing his support behind white nationalist figures. Instead of embracing the country’s diversity, many white people are fighting to keep their disappearing privileges.

America’s falling status as a superpower

But perhaps the most invisible denialism has to do with America’s place in the world.

The United States has the largest economy in the world, measured by GDP. The American dollar is still effectively the world’s currency. America has the most powerful military in the world, thanks to huge annual Pentagon budgets.

But the United States is no longer the world’s sole superpower, as it was after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

China is indisputably a superpower. According to a more accurate measure of GDP known as “purchasing power parity,” the International Monetary Fund recently determined that China’s economy is actually one-sixth larger than the American economy. China has established global financial institutions that may one day rival the IMF and World Bank. It has increased its influence in UN institutions.

And after considerable increases in military spending, China now has a world-class military that is certainly the rival of the United States in the Asian region.

It’s not just China. The “rise of the rest” — the greater global significance of countries like India, Brazil, Indonesia, and South Africa — has been a popular notion for more than a decade. But Americans have been slow to acknowledge the reality of the declining power of their country.

Donald Trump vowed to reverse this trend, to “make America great again.” Instead, he only managed to demonstrate how increasingly irrelevant American has become.

The United States has the worst record of dealing with the current pandemic. Its economy has taken a huge hit — in comparison with China, which recovered rather quickly. Millions of Americans are going hungry because the government has refused to step in with enough federal assistance. Trump promised to rebuild US infrastructure, but only succeeded in building a small part of a wall along the border with Mexico.

And whereas the United States once prided itself on having the best democracy in the world, Donald Trump has clearly undermined that claim, first by winning the election in 2016 under suspicious circumstances and then by refusing to concede in 2020. Although the 2020 election went smoothly, all things considered, tens of millions of Americans have lost faith in these democratic mechanisms.

When Donald Trump announces his intention to run again for president, tens of millions of Americans will flock to his side. They will do so despite all the harm he has caused the United States and the world.

And that might prove to be the most dangerous denialism of them all.

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