The coming crisis of legitimacy

The prospect that Trump will lose but try to remain in office has spooked analysts. The question on their mind is how many Americans would go along with such a blatant attack on democratic institutions.

A new poll by the Campaign Legal Center and Protect Democracy (where I serve as a senior adviser) provides a preliminary answer. A clear majority of Americans, including six out of every 10 Republicans, said they were confident that “votes for president in November will be counted fairly, accurately and securely.” But, crucially, confidence in the election is strongly conditional on its outcome. Only one in three Americans who plan to vote for Trump said that if Joe Biden is declared the victor, that would be “because he receives more votes than Donald Trump.” More than two in five said it would be “because voting systems are rigged and voter fraud is committed.”

What most surprised me about the poll, though, is that many Biden supporters also said they would doubt the validity of the election if they didn’t like the outcome. Just one in five Biden supporters said that a win by Trump would be because he received more votes than Biden; nearly two in three said it would be due to “voter suppression and foreign interference.”