The saga of the 2016 election saw another twist during the third presidential debate as Donald Trump implied that he might not accept the results of the election. As much of the nation sat in shock after hearing a major party’s nominee announce his lack of faith in American democracy, I thought back to the legacy of one of my personal heroes, George Washington. When I think of George Washington I see a man who could have been a king, but rejected power for the betterment of the American people. Washington did not want to be, or think he was even worthy, of being president. One of his most endearing qualities was his ability to remain modest and civil while being worshiped and adored as the leader of a newborn nation.
Like many Americans, I turned off the final debate with a feeling of disgust over the lack of respect shown towards our republic. I went to work the following morning and made my daily walk past the George Washington statue sitting in Boston’s Public Garden, and I stopped to look at the image of the man I have long admired.
I thought about how Washington did not even want to be President in the first place, but he once again put his country before himself and accepted the unanimous vote made by Congress. I thought about the French book he copied as a teenager, “Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior,” which I read dozens of times while working as a tour guide in the retirement home he bought for his mother. I thought about how he set the precedent for our nation by stepping aside and allowing a peaceful transfer of power. And I thought about how both times he stepped away from public life, the nation wept and felt as though they were losing a father.
I then thought of Donald Trump, who has dubbed basic civility and decency as being ‘politically correct.’ I thought about how he has set the precedent as the first major nominee to imply, before the elections even take place, that he may not accept the peaceful transfer of power. I thought about how while Washington refused personal power for the betterment of America, Trump seeks to take power that does not belong to him for the betterment of his own ego.
George Washington warned us about partisan politics and men like Donald Trump. He forebode in his farewell address that, “cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government.” Make no mistake, when Donald J. Trump implies that he will not accept the results of the election unless he wins, he is seeking to subvert the power of the people. He is destroying one of the primary principles that have made American so great over the past 240 years. It is dangerous, it is unacceptable, and we should be very wary of the damage Donald Trump is creating for our republic.