America’s Treacherous Transition

America’s Treacherous Transition

How Trump’s Recalcitrance Threatens U.S. National Security

The U.S. presidential election is finally over. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden has won, but he will not assume office for another ten weeks. That prolonged transition period is both unusual in world politics and fraught with danger, especially when the incumbent refuses to accept that he has lost.

The United States is almost alone among major democracies in taking so long to install a new head of state. In France, the president takes office within ten days of the election. In the United Kingdom, the moving trucks arrive at 10 Downing Street the morning after the incumbent loses. The United States’ two and a half months looks good only in comparison to Mexico, where the transition lasts an arduous five months.

Even under ideal circumstances, presidential transitions constitute an uneasy interregnum in U.S. politics. As the lame-duck incumbent continues to exercise authority, the president-elect builds a team and fleshes out a vision for the next four years. The country is caught between the president it has and the president it will soon get. This time around, however, President Donald Trump has refused to accept the election outcome, and his team is not cooperating with the president-elect. As a result, the transition period will be more perilous than ever. Trump’s recalcitrance not only threatens American democracy but endangers national security.  That experience should motivate U.S. policymakers to take an entirely fresh look at the country’s approach to presidential transitions.