Biden’s victory and Trump’s state of denial
Donald Trump’s last hope to reverse the November 4, 2020 election results was dashed when on December 15, the US Electoral College voted 306-232 to declare Joseph Biden’s victory in presidential election. Immediately after that, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnel congratulated Biden on winning the elections. The same day, Russian President Vladimir Putin became the last world leader to congratulate Biden on securing an electoral victory.
It is uncertain whether Trump will attend the oath-taking ceremony of Biden and Kamala Harris on January 6, 2021, which will take place after a special joint session of Congress that will be held to re-count the electoral votes, because even now Trump insists that the elections were rigged. He reflected in his December 15 tweet that, “tremendous evidence pouring in on voter fraud. There has never been anything like this in our country.” Never before in American history has a sitting president refused to accept election results in such a manner and tried to make the entire election process controversial to the extent that his close Republican associates also sided with him disregarding the fact that their rhetoric and accusations caused serious damage to American democracy. In November 2000, when Al Gore refused to accept George W Bush’s victory after losing in the state of Florida, he conceded defeat when the US Supreme Court settled the matter in favour of Bush. But, in 2020, even after the rejection of law suits in swing states, Trump is intransigent in his stance and dismissed his attorney general Bill Barr who did not endorse his claims of widespread voter fraud in the election.
Even if Biden and Harris reach the corridors of power in the White House, the legacy of Trump and “Trumpism” will continue to haunt them because he has managed to gather support of enough like-minded people who will leave no opportunity to destabilise the Democratic Party’s control over the White House and the House of Representatives. Sensing the nuisance value of Trump and his associates, Biden, in his speech on December 14, made it clear that “in America politicians don’t take power. People grant power to them. The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago. And we now know nothing, not even a pandemic or an abuse of power can extinguish that flame.” Will Trump continue what Biden termed an “assault on democracy” or will his fellow Republicans ditch him in his campaign to discredit the elections? In the last four years of his presidency Trump managed to polarise American society and caused a serious damage to his country’s global image. Furthermore, if the Republican Party is able to maintain its majority in Senate after the result of the two seats in Georgia, it will be highly difficult for the Biden-Harris administration to implement their election manifesto as far as foreign policy matters are concerned.
Trump’s state of denial to the Biden-Harris election is a reality and cannot be undermined. His assertion that the 2024 presidential elections will give him another opportunity to try his luck depends on his influence in the Republican Party. If he is again elected as president in 2024, he will be the second American president to win a non-consecutive term after Grover Cleveland who was America’s 22nd and 24th president. Cleveland was elected president from the Democratic Party in 1884, after defeating Republican James Blaine but lost in 1888 to Benjamin Harris. Cleveland ran for presidency again in 1892 and defeated Harris thus becoming the first American president to hold presidency for two non-consecutive terms. It is yet to be seen as to what extent Trump will be resilient and confident to return to the White House for the second time after four years of President Biden.
Unlike many American presidents who got elected because of their political and administrative background, Trump is an exception because he was never a senator, governor or a member of the House of Representatives but was the first billionaire who reached White House. As a businessman, he ran his presidency in a different manner. Trump’s state of denial and his consistent bashing of the 2020 election results must be examined by taking into account two major realities, as follows.
First is to create serious doubts and mistrust about Biden’s electoral victory before the American people while also questioning the legitimacy of the President-elect at the international level. The strategy of Trump and his diehard supporters is to sustain pressure over the Democratic Party so that in the next four years they are unable to perform and focus on issues they had committed to resolve during their election campaign.
In the lead story “The Resilience of Democracy”, published in the December 4, 2020 issue of The Economist (London), it is rightly maintained that, “Mr Trump has still done harm, as have the Republican leaders who indulged him. Given that four in every five Republican voters say the vote was ‘stolen’, trust in the fairness of elections has been shaken and Mr Biden unjustly undermined from the very start. That is not a threat to the republic’s existence, but it does mark a further partisan deterioration in American democracy.” Unless damage control measures are taken with the support of saner elements of the Republican Party, one can expect more polarisation and chaos in 2022 midterm and 2024 presidential elections. Yet, it is the strength of American democracy and its judiciary that despite all his efforts, Trump failed to reverse the results of the 2020 elections. Had the Supreme Court and election offices of swing states accepted allegations of rigging and fraud by Trump, the US would have been in a serious political crisis.
Although the Senate majority leader and few Republican Party officials have congratulated Biden for winning the elections, the vast majority of Republicans have refused to accept the reality that Trump has lost. It means, the Republican Party which is still under the influence of “Trumpism” will be in a state of denial till 2024 when Trump may again contest and seize control of the White House.
Second, the only way the Democratic Party can neutralise Trump’s state of denial is by showing better performance after assuming power. How the Biden-Harris administration will deal with grave economic and the pandemic crises along with the challenge of political polarisation dividing the US on racial grounds is yet to be seen.
A sign of optimism about the possible success of the incoming administration in meeting domestic and foreign policy challenges is the homework the Democratic Party has done to lead America and the world. Biden and Kamala made sure to complete their homework on tackling thorny issues and restoring the people’s confidence which has been badly shaken because of highly controversial policies undertaken during the Trump administration.