The results of the 2020 presidential election will not be the end of the world, BYU political science professor Richard Davis told students during a Nov. 4 panel on the pending election results.
“The republic does not fall apart. It may someday, but it’s not going to be because of this election,” Davis said. “The bottom line here is that there will be another day. The sun will come up, after let’s say Donald Trump becomes the president again.”
“You really are a ray of sunshine,” BYU political science professor Kelly Patterson interrupted, laughing.
Patterson and Davis, along with BYU political science professor and director of civic engagement Quin Monson, answered questions about the forthcoming election results and what they will mean for the state of American government as part of the “Challenges to Democracy” lecture series hosted by the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies.
Monson agreed that students should remain optimistic about election results. He encouraged students to “take the long view” and look for productive ways to make a difference in local politics. “You can have more of an impact more quickly and distract yourself from whatever madness is happening at the national level that you can’t control very much by turning your attention to the local level.”
Monson, Patterson and Davis each focused on different challenges to democracy during their opening remarks in the panel. Monson said President Donald Trump’s claims of voter fraud during his speech on election night could potentially undermine the integrity of American elections.
“If you’re going to make claims about malfeasance in elections or fraud in some way, you need some evidence. And he hasn’t produced any,” Monson said. In an interview prior to the panel he said it would be difficult to conceal widespread voter fraud, and in the case of some inaccuracy, it will be important to accept the outcome, move on and and try to improve voting for the next election rather than trying to go back and change the results.
Patterson said much of the tension surrounding the election can be traced to the electoral college, whether it is necessary, and whether or not it is functioning the way the framers of the Constitution intended it to function. He also raised the issue of funding with elections, stating that often county clerks are overburdened.
“If we really want a political system that tells itself that it’s democratic and accountable to the people that we have to have really good procedures in place to make sure that that happens. And as a nation we haven’t figured that out yet.” Patterson said possible inefficiencies in Utah voting may not be as visible because Utah is dominated by Republican voters and the results aren’t usually close.
Davis said the presidential race is evidence of how divided America has become politically. “This could be the closest political election since 1876. It could be that the gap that separates the candidates is two electoral votes,” he said. Davis attributed the national division between Republicans and Democrats to the two narratives being presented by the news media.
“It isn’t just related to this election. It is related to a trend that has been going on for some time, that party has become the way which people decide how to vote but also how to see the world,” Davis said.
Anessa Pennington, a BYU journalism senior, has been a teaching assistant for the “Challenges to Democracy” lecture series (IAS 301R) for multiple semesters and said the series is one of her favorites so far.
“I’m pretty liberal. Sometimes I don’t really feel like I see a lot of academic perspectives on the right, but I feel like in this lecture series there’s been a wide array of people on political spectrums,” she said. “It’s so relevant and so what we need right now.”
Students can hear more lectures in the “Challenges to Democracy” series Wednesdays at noon. They can find past lectures in the Kennedy Center lecture archive.