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November 11, 2020

Will he go peacefully?

Opinion

November 11, 2020

Four tense days of tabulating results followed the November 3 elections in the US. Finally, all major networks announced that Joe Biden had achieved an insurmountable lead over Donald Trump and Biden was anointed ‘president-elect’.

Counting of votes continues, and in all but four states the vote count has reached a point where the winner is clear. The official result will be certified on December 8. Trump will remain president till noon on January 20, when Biden is sworn in.

Usually US presidential elections end when one of the candidates concedes based on unofficial count reported by the media and the nation accepts the result. Trump has neither the temperament nor the character to accept defeat.

At this point the only way for him to win is if several states that have announced Biden the winner recount votes and reverse their decision. This is highly unlikely. With no evidence, Trump is charging there has been massive electoral fraud and filing lawsuits in dozens of States. Many lawsuits have been dismissed already.

He has riled up his followers who are showing up at election offices, some with guns, protesting what they consider a fraudulent election. While Trump’s legal challenges may be dismissed in the next couple of weeks, calming down his supporters will take much longer. Social media is awash with fake news and conspiracy theories. Not in at least 100 years has the country faced such a situation.

The result of all of this is that the important transition process will be badly hurt. Trump has already indicated he expects complete loyalty from all in his administration. He fired Mike Esper, the defence secretary, with a single tweet. It seems this action has had the desired effect – Republicans at all levels are falling in line behind Trump, supporting his claim of voter fraud and the need for investigation.

This behaviour among Republicans reminds one of Trump's original entry into politics when he came to prominence by spreading lies about Barack Obama's birthplace – that Obama wasn't born in the US and therefore not a legitimate president. An openly racist claim against the first black president of the country. In spite of all documentation, more than half of all Republicans to this day do not believe Obama was born in the US. Such is the power of cults.

While the election results will be resolved, damage done to the fabric of US democracy will be long lasting. Trump after all has received over 70 million votes (Joe Biden got about 75 million). Trump voters are people who do not mind his corruption, indecency, and racism, nor his ineptitude in handling of the virus. They wanted four more years of the same.

The US political scene has turned extremely ugly, but I still have faith it will get resolved according to the law. One bright spot in all of this has been the confidence and competence exuded by election officials of all key states; and the diligence of election workers in the middle of a pandemic has been commendable.

Even as Trump supporters continue to question the legitimacy of the vote, the Biden-Harris team has started to work in earnest on the transition. There is no time to waste. The country faces a once-in-a-century health catastrophe and a looming economic crisis. Twenty million Americans are unemployed and more than 100,000 are getting infected each day.

The hope is that, once the next few weeks of turmoil are behind us, a much more competent and honest administration will take over. No one will remain in the White House forcibly. The nation’s nightmare will end.

The writer is a freelance contributor based in Washington DC. Website: www.sqshareef.com/blogs