Trump: you’re fired!
Joe Biden has clearly won the popular vote by over 4 million votes—with a massive turnout. After his victory in Pennsylvania, Biden has been declared the winner as he crossed the threshold of the necessary 270 Electoral College votes. Nevertheless, much as I have warned in a series of WSI articles, Trump will not step down without a struggle. A spiteful and poor loser, Trump has not yet admitted defeat.
At present, Trump hopes the US Courts will help him to retain the presidency. Yet as it appears dubious that his lawyers will be able to provide convincing evidence that the Democrats cheated on a scale large enough to call into question the election process in several states, then his goal appears to be one of casting himself as a persecuted victim of a “corrupt” system—in an effort to undermine the ability of Biden to rule the country.
For his part, Biden has vowed to “heal” and “unify” the country after roughly 74 million voted for him and 70 million people voted for Trump. Biden has stated that he wants to be the President of all Americans, both Republicans and Democrats. Yet the process of healing and unifying the country means that Biden will need to co-opt Trump’s supporters.
Some of those supporters may eventually accept a centrist Biden presidency more easily than other Trumpists. There is nevertheless the risk that the situation could degenerate into a social and political confrontation that could be directly or indirectly fueled by Trump, his family, his wealthy friends and supporters—as a means to keep the Trumpist movement alive and united against the Democrats and the “Left”.
Trump’s claims and the blue wave
In statements perceived as undermining American faith in democratic procedures, Trump made claims that he had won the 2020 elections and that the election was “stolen” without waiting for all the votes to be counted by the Democrats and by the Big Media. Trump’s assertions generated largely peaceful anti-Trump protests throughout the country, although protests in Portland, Oregon, for example, turned violent. Concurrently, pro-Trump protests demanded that the counting process either be stopped or “better” supervised. Some polling places and voters experienced intimidation and were threatened by pro-Trump groups and armed thugs.
These threats and voter intimidation did, however, not stop the blue wave—even if that democratic blue wave was not as huge as many Democrats had hoped and even if that blue wave can be characterized as more anti-Trump than pro-Biden.
The question remains: given the fact that Trump obtained more votes than did Obama to become president, would Trump have won the elections had he been capable of handling the Covid pandemic more effectively? And what would have happened if Pfizer had announced a 90% effective vaccine before the elections?
Huge voter turnout: more anti-Trump than pro-Biden
The large voter turn-out revealed the extent to which this election was believed to be a potential turning point in American history. 160 million people—roughly 66.4% of the potentially eligible voting population—voted. It is by far the largest participation rate since 1900 and much larger than the post-Vietnam, post-Cold War, era. Yet the fact that roughly 74 million people voted for Biden and 70 million people voted for Trump reveals a deep division and polarization of American society.
In many ways, the 2020 election represented a form of plebiscite “for” or “against” Trump. Many voted for Joe Biden as a means to block a kleptocratic and nepotistic Trump 4ever dictatorship—but they did not vote whole-heartedly for Biden. And despite hopes for a “blue wave,” Biden did not do as well as expected, in part as Trump’s Law and Order campaign gained some support among propertied elites who fear unrest and violence. Trump’s many lies and outrageous mishandling of the Covid pandemic did not hurt him in the Midwest and South as much as many expected. Trumpists tended to be more worried about the negative impact of restrictive sanitation measures upon the economy than the health dangers of the pandemic which Trump downplayed to the anger of those who suffered.
Voters from the Center and South of the United States and from rustbelt, manufacturing, agricultural, oil and coal producing regions tended to vote for Trump while the insular East and West coast states, plus most of the Great Lakes region voted for Biden. 52% of men voted for Trump, while 55% of women voted for Biden. Trump obtained 55% of the White American vote, 28% of Asians, 34% Hispanics, but also 52% of American Indians and 59% Native Hawaiian/ Pacific isles, but only 8% of African-Americans. Of course, these stereotyped categories need to be broken down further. Among the category “Hispanic,” Mexican-Americans, for example, tend to see American politics much differently than do Cuban and Venezuelan Americans.
In short, the much expected democratic “blue wave” did sweep forward in the Sun Belt of Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico, but not in Texas and Florida, and the House of Representatives lost a few Democratic seats. The Georgia Senate race will be tough for the Democrats to win. Biden only won his birth state of Pennsylvania by roughly 34,000 votes. And Trump hopes to challenge the Biden victory there in court in an effort to humiliate the person he called the “worst presidential candidate in history”—as if Trump was the best!
Examples of election corruption in the past
Accusations of election fraud and corruption are not new in American politics. Both parties have accused each other of voter fraud and corruption in the past.
Republicans had accused the Democratic machines of Mayor Daley’s Chicago and Lyndon Johnson’s Texas of rigging the 1960 presidential election in the favor of John F. Kennedy against Richard Nixon. For their part, Democrats accused Governor Jeb Bush, the brother of then presidential candidate George W. Bush, of suppressing votes in Florida in the 2000 presidential election, so as to prevent Al Gore from winning the presidency. In addition to charges of voter intimidation, among other complaints, some 12,000 people were denied the right to vote, for example, because they were falsely accused of being former felons and thus did not possess the right to vote by Florida law. So each side can point the finger…
Al Gore did challenge the 2000 Florida vote which gave the presidential election to George W. Bush by a few hundred votes. But once the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Bush one month after the November election, Gore did not challenge the decision even though he could have. In the case of both Nixon and Gore, neither the Republicans, nor the Democrats, wanted to open a potential Pandora’s box of counter-accusations and investigations of voter fraud in other states throughout the country.
The deeper issues such as the decennial Census that can count illegal/ unauthorized aliens and the subsequent gerrymandering of districts based on the Census can lead both Parties to believe the election was fixed, as both sides have counter-accused each other of gerrymandering in states dominated by their respective parties.
All these concerns need to be addressed so as to improve the election process in the future. What makes this situation different, is that Trump, at least thus far, appears to want to go all the way in challenging Biden and the Democrats. As an unrepentant Trump does not want to be seen as a “loser,” he will continue to claim the Democrats rigged the system against him.
Issue of voter fraud and voter suppression today
Trump has been accusing the Democrats of election fraud and corruption without proof for quite a while, with a focus on mail-in ballots, while the Democrats have accused the Republicans of voter suppression. Problems have also resulted from improper voter IDs, accusations of false representation, malfunctioning voting machines, among other irregularities.
The largely unexpected rise of mail-in voting due to the Covid-19 pandemic has made the election process even more complex, longer to complete, and subject to bottlenecks, including damaged, lost and late mail. These bottlenecks resulted in Republican accusations of miscounts, fake votes and fraud. Republicans have claimed that they were not able to closely observe ballot counting to make sure no “illegal” ballots were counted.
For their part, Democrats have accused Trump and the Republicans of trying to sabotage the US Postal Service by appointing a major donor to Trump’s political campaign as the new USPS postmaster general. Democrats accused Trump’s Postmaster of cutting back USPS funding, removing mail-sorting machines, limiting services and cutting overtime pay for postal workers—so as to disrupt voting by mail ballot during the pandemic. Trump evidently believed that more Democrats will vote by mail than Republicans—which may have been true for some districts but not others!
Republican leaders have additionally threatened to appoint Republican Electors to the Electoral College regardless of the vote outcome in Republican-controlled states on grounds that the Democrats have engaged in fraud. Republicans control the state legislatures in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia and Arizona. Whether this scenario can be implemented, and whether Republican governors and legislatures will play along, remains to be seen in December.
Trump tries to appeal to the Supreme Court
Trump has begun to file lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Nevada and Michigan, and has demanded a recount in Wisconsin and Georgia. Yet in order to take his complaints to the Supreme Court, Trump’s accusations must truly involve a constitutional issue or significant fraud. As of November 6, Trump’s minions have thus far faced multiple setbacks in the courtroom, but they will continue trying. With Trump out playing golf, the US Attorney General gave the green light for the Justice Department to investigate serious accusations of fraud. This led the top election crimes prosecutor to resign in protest. It is clear that Trump hopes that his personal political interests will trump the American system of justice. (Trump, his family, and wealthy friends, have tried to pressure major Republican leaders) into raising funds for the expensive litigation that will be needed to take his complaints to the courts. If Trump can somehow prove that the voting process was significantly corrupted, and that Biden did not legally win the Electoral College, then the election could possibly fall into the House of Representatives—which could lead to a Trump victory in a contingent election.
By packing the Supreme Court with three “originalists” or “textualists”, so that the Court now has a ratio of 6 conservatives to 3 liberals, plus appointing roughly 194 Federal judges (24% of the total), Trump has hoped these new Federal and Supreme Court judges will come to his defense.
In Pennsylvania, at least five lawsuits have challenged that state’s election administration. Trump hopes that the Supreme Court will take the case and void late ballots even after the November election. Pennsylvania election officials have agreed to separate late-arriving ballots—just in case the Supreme Court does order them to be thrown out. Much as Trump has hoped, the newest justice, Amy Coney Barrett, could cast the decisive vote. A possible 6 to 3 or 5 to 4 majority on the Supreme Court could rule in favor of Trump’s lawsuits.
Sounds far-fetched? Let’s hope so!
Yet it happened in 2000 and could possibly happen again. The Supreme Court had supported George W. Bush in a questionable, yet still influential, December 12, 2000 ruling that led to the defeat of Democratic candidate Al Gore. The late Justice John Paul Stevens had observed that the 2000 presidential election had undermined popular confidence “in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.” More than that, the 2000 election had, in effect, de-legitimized the American system of democratic governance by permitting the Court to decide the presidency on the basis of an arbitrary and politically questionable determination of which votes should count in a single state and which votes should not count—without taking the overall popular vote, among other anomalies, such as gerrymandering, into consideration.
A Biden presidency prevents a Trump 4eva dictatorship, but…
A Biden victory is of historic importance in that it prevented a Trump 4eva dictatorship. As things stand at present, Biden has won the US presidency—unless Trump’s lawyers, the Supreme Court and Republicans are somehow able to convince the Electors to vote otherwise on December 14, 2020. Once again, it is not the popular vote that counts in the overly complex federal system of American democratic governance— but the Electoral College which casts its votes in mid-December.
In electing Joe Biden, who is the second Catholic president after John Kennedy, the American people have concurrently placed into the Office of the Vice Presidency the first woman of African-South Asian-Caribbean and immigrant descent, Kamala Harris. This represents a historic event.
This is also important because Vice President Kamala Harris represents the President of the Senate and can break a 50-50 tie vote on crucial issues in the Senate. Yet the Democrats need at least 3 Senators to break even, and hope to gain 4 so as to obtain one Senate seat more than the Republicans, 51 to 49. The Democrats are hoping for a victory in Georgia where two Senate races will largely determine which Party controls the Senate. The vote will be close—as Trump’s refusal to concede the election may be a tactic intended, at least in part, to help Republicans win the Senate.
The major political problem remains that Republican power in the Senate will force Biden to move toward the Right on many issues—to the possible detriment of Biden’s supporters on the left wing of the Democratic party. Biden has promised to be the president of all Americans, including those who militantly supported Trump. But can Biden do so without alienating his own left of center electoral base? Will Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren or others on the left of the Democratic Party serve in prominent roles in a Biden administration? And can Biden truly represent both the Left and Center as he deals with his “frenemy” Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans?
What will Trump do as a “lame duck”?
A number of questions remain: What kind of domestic and international damage can Trump do as a lame duck president between November and January? Could he provoke an international incident and declare a national emergency, after “terminating” his defense minister who had been opposed to deploying active-duty military to contain nationwide protests over police brutality? Or what if a major international conflict breaks out, will Trump be rational enough to handle it appropriately? Is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visiting Europe and the Middle East in November in preparation for war with Iran?
What happens if Trump does not step down from power? Will Republicans continue to support him? How will the US military, legal system, and population react?
If he does reluctantly step down, how will Trump handle numerous investigations into his illegal and unethical actions as president once he no longer possesses presidential immunity for civil damages based on his official acts? And what will be the result of the numerous criminal charges against Trump Incorporated? And how will he payback his estimated $1 billion debt—with considerable risk to US national and global security—if he can no longer leverage his position as President? Could Trump feign illness, step down, and be pardoned by Mike Pence who becomes president until January 2021, much as Richard Nixon was pardoned by Gerald Ford after Nixon stepped down from the presidency? A Presidential pardon would cover civil charges, but no criminal charges, from actions taken during Trump’s term of office. Would Trump admit to being a “loser”? Would the Christian Conservative Mike Pence agree to such a devious scheme? Is the scenario really that far-fetched?
But more importantly, how will Trump’s supporters react if a “persecuted” Trump is convicted, and threatened with imprisonment for criminal activities? Will they continue to support him? Or has Trump unleashed popular and revanchist forces that cannot be moderated or controlled?
The large scale purchase of firearms (up 50% from January to September) just before the November 2020 election is a forewarning that many Americans are seeking self-protection in the not-entirely exaggerated fear of social-political unrest. It is estimated that 40% of Americans own guns—even if the possession of guns often results in deadly accidents, suicides and domestic homicides.
Many people are also buying guns in the hope to join like-minded communities for purposes of social bonding. And many Trumpists accuse “totalitarian” Democrats of undermining their Second Amendment right to bear arms (in their interpretation) by demanding strong police background checks. In PEW opinion poll in September 2019, 86% of Democrats and 31% of Republicans argue that gun laws should be stricter, but there are some areas where the two sides can compromise. The question raised here is whether the purchase of arms represents a form of “social bonding” that will serve to strengthen common Trumpist political sentiments in the coming years?
And what is the proportion of people on both sides who are arming themselves? And will Biden and the Democrats be unified enough to peacefully yet firmly counter challenges by Trump and his America-First followers?
As to be argued in a future WSI article, Trump has not only further polarized American society but he has further polarized the international system into two rival alliances. Will the Biden administration be able to mediate forces that are leading to the polarization of both America and the geopolitical world?