Restoring Losers’ Consent: A Necessary Step to Stabilizing our Democracy


Matt Germer
Associate Director and Elections Fellow, Governance Program

Key Points

Democracy relies upon the consent of the losers. Unfortunately, as evidenced by the fallout of the 2020 election, electoral losers in the US have come to value the control of government more than they value the institution of government.

Candidates on both sides of the aisle have become more reluctant to concede elections, and at the same time, our political parties have been more ideologically narrow and hostile toward their rivals. The result is a toxic political culture that encourages losers to withhold consent.

To stabilize our democracy, we need reforms designed to earn more buy-in from losers, including rethinking the way we choose candidates, restoring trust in election administration, combating misinformation and myths with facts, and demanding more virtuous behavior from our candidates.

Press Release

Get in Loser, We’re Going to Vote: A Policy Study on Losers’ Consent

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Earning the consent of the governed is a foundational principle of American government. In practical terms, the “governed” includes two perspectives: electoral winners and losers. Getting the consent of the latter is essential to maintaining stability and peace, and it is no easy task. And as evidenced by the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, securing losers’ consent has become more tumultuous today than at any point since the Civil War. This study investigates the way “losers” offer their consent, how they have increasingly withheld consent in recent elections and what can be done to stabilize our democracy by securing greater consent from losing voters.

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