Donald Trump is refusing to concede the US election, making unsubstantiated claims of electoral fraud and planning rallies across the country to build support for the legal fights ahead. The ‘leader of the free world’ is having a wobble and it is a testing time for democracy. President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to unify a country that has become so polarised that even the choice about whether or not to wear a mask during a pandemic is seen as political. What do the deep divisions, and even the denial of the outcome of the vote, mean for the democratic legitimacy of the office of the president? Many of Mr Biden’s followers believe there is now a moral imperative for all Americans, regardless of their politics, to support him in his attempt to unite the states of America. Many Trump voters, however, say they feel not just forgotten, but despised by the opposition, and see the appeal to unity as another way of telling large swathes of the electorate to ‘get with the programme’ or to ‘see the error of their ways’. Democratic legitimacy can be a slippery concept. Many have argued that there is no such thing as the ‘will of the people’, or even, depending on voter turnout, the will of most people. As Brexit trade talks resume this week, there are still those who refuse to accept the legitimacy of the referendum and believe the concerns voiced in the last four years about the social, political and economic impact of leaving the EU change the democratic, and moral, equation. Their opponents denounce them as democracy deniers. How long after a democratic decision is made are we compelled to be loyal to it? While we can all be pious about democratic legitimacy, can we also be guilty of playing fast and loose with it when it suits us? With Prof Matthew Goodwin, Dr Jan Halper-Hayes, Prof Allan Lichtman and Prof Bo Rothstein.

Producer: Dan Tierney.

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