Democracy both means and requires so very much. But at a bare minimum, it means and requires that our political leaders show full respect for the will of voters. They must infallibly accept and faithfully ensure legal and peaceful transfers of power by honoring the results of democratic elections.

On January 6th, this bare minimum democratic expectation was brazenly violated in the United States for perhaps the first time in our troubled and tumultuous history. The President of the United States openly encouraged and then publicly applauded a violent assault on our nation’s Capitol and the people’s representatives in their task of finalizing the results of the 2020 presidential election. Every legal challenge to the current President’s defeat in that election has been rejected and exhausted. To claim that the election was fraudulent or stolen is to betray the democratic foundations of our Republic. To violently assault our seat of government in an effort to interrupt or even overturn a peaceful and legal transfer of power is to move into the realm of insurrection and sedition.

Democracy never finishes emerging. It is a set of actions, not a finished state of being. American democracy has always been incomplete. It has never worked for all of us. This week’s violent events show just how fragile and faulty our incomplete democracy is as well. Here at WCED, we remain committed to analyzing and understanding the many challenges to democratic emergence both at home and abroad. It is painfully obvious that we have a tremendous amount of urgent work to do.

Dan Slater
Ronald and Eileen Weiser Professor of Emerging Democracies
Director, Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies (WCED)
Professor of Political Science