The all important US presidential election is over and the country has a new President-elect for next four years: Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. and his running mate Kamala Harris of the Democratic Party. Though there has been euphoria in the US because of Biden’s victory, the next four years of Biden’s presidency may not be as rosy as his followers or rest of the world would like to think. One must not forget that out of the total vote cast approximately 48 per cent voters supported Donald Trump and Biden managed to get the support of 51 per cent. In the final count, Joe Biden bagged 290 Electoral College votes while 217 went to Donald Trump. One needs 270 electoral college votes to win the election. Unlike many other countries, where the president or prime minister is chosen by direct popular votes, in the US, a candidate may win the popular vote and still not be elected to the union’s highest office. The just concluded US presidential election was a closely contested one.
The US also differs from most other democracies as it has no independent electoral commission to certify the final vote count. However, once the election is over and the counting of the popular vote is completed, and the assessment of gains and losses of electoral votes are known, the people know who will be their next president and vice president. On January 6th the Congress convenes to count the electoral votes and officially certify the winner of the election. As a convention, the incumbent Vice-president also serves as the president of the senate. However, neither the American people nor the world waits for these officials to complete the results, unofficially it is known to everyone once the count at the state level is completed. Though the 2020 election gave America a new President, Joe Biden and a Vice President, Kamala Harris, the all-important Senate is still dominated by the Republicans though on 5 January two vacant seats will have new Senators elected from Georgia. The chances of Democrats controlling the Senate still hang in balance. If they cannot, Biden’s life as the President may not be comfortable as many would like to think. The Republicans will have enough chips to bargain with Biden on any important issues or bills.The election of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the US was thought to be the end of an eventful Donald Trump era, but due to the stubborn attitude of Donald Trump and his refusal to concede his defeat to Biden a sense of uncertainty looms over the oath taking ceremony of the new President scheduled for 20th January 2021. Donald Trump’s four years of US presidency has been fraught and riddled with rhetoric, deceit and lies. According to a count by the Washington Post during his four year presidency, Trump lied at least twenty two thousand times to the people on many different issues and according to the prestigious US national weekly the Atlantic, Trump sold his failures to 70 million of his voters misleading them through his lies and rhetoric.
Not convinced with his defeat in the election, not only Donald Trump refused to concede to Joe Biden as is customary but also challenged the result in the US State and Supreme Courts crying foul and fraud, something unprecedented in US history. With the perception that US Supreme Court will take his side, he also nominated a Republican leaning judge to the Supreme Court just on the eve of election and now the court has a five-three lead in his favour. Such hurried appointment of a judge of his choice in the Supreme Court has given ample ammunition to the critiques to question the integrity of the US courts. But eminent US constitutional jurists have expressed their opinion that the President’s litigation strategy is unlikely to succeed as he lacks enough evidence to substantiate his claims of fraud in the election. Even Donald Trump’s family is divided on this count. His wife Melania and is son-in-law have expressed their frustration to Trump’s defiance to accept the defeat but his two sons stood by their father. If the present impasse does not come to an honourable end before the inauguration on 20th January, US democracy will be facing another Watergate type scandal, or even worse.
Donald Trump, an obscure figure before the 2016 primaries, did not stand a chance against Hillary Clinton, the former President Barack Obama’s Secretary of State and a former First Lady. However unbelievable it may seem, to most American voters, at the end of the day she was the Secretary of State of Barack Obama, whom many saw not only as a Black American but also a Muslim. During Barack Obama’s campaign for presidency in 2008, throughout his presidency, and afterwards, there were extensive news coverage of Obama’s religious preference, birthplace, and of the individual questioning of his religious beliefs and citizenship. He had to prove that he was born in Hawaii and was a Christian by faith. But the average voters were not much convinced though he won the election because of his personality, appeal and promises he made to the Americans to make their country a better place to live in. His campaigns were so successful that even the Nobel Committee announced on October 9, 2009 that year’s Nobel Peace prize will be awarded to the newly elected US President in anticipation that the world will be more peaceful under his leadership. In reality during the Obama’s Presidency there were more drone killing in the Middle East than any other time. Hillary Clinton was identified not as Hillary Clinton, the former First Lady or the Secretary of State, or even a former US Senator, but an active accomplice of ‘black Barack Obama and someone from another faith.’ Finally, it was the obscure Donald Trump with a not too bright past made it to the White House and virtually turned it black during his presidency.
In the end Donald Trump will have to leave the White House (if he is not given a berth by the US Supreme court) as one of the four one-time Presidents in the history of the United States of America.
Trump will leave behind a legacy that will haunt the average sensible Americans for years to come. He has divided the country right in the middle. He has made jingoism and populism an integral part of US politics. Never before in American history was the country so divided as it was during Trump’s four year rule. The divide is between whites and blacks; it is between immigrants and non-immigrants, the haves and have-nots, the rich and the poor. It seemed in the years of Trump era the country was in a battle with itself. It was literally a battle between two souls of America. When the all destructive Covid-19 pandemic arrived on the shores of America, Trump brushed it under the carpet saying that it is a Chinese problem and failed to take any preventive measure. Today more than one hundred thousand people are affected every day and beginning last April so far about two hundred and thirty nine thousand people died of the pandemic, the highest in the world. On last Tuesday two hundred thousand people were identified corona positive in US, with one hundred and fifty thousand on Thursday.
Though most Americans and the world would like to see America return to the values it always cherished - equality, fraternity and liberty - the job ahead of Joe Biden may not be easy. Even before he has taken up the presidency his Vice-president Kamala Harris, gave an off-the-record (?) speech at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC on November 9th where she emphasized the need for a strong relationship between the US and Israel though Democratic lawmakers are increasingly sympathetic to the plight of Palestinians; while not anti-Israel, more and more party members believe the US should be more mindful of Israeli human rights violations. AIPAC is a powerful, pro-Israel lobbying force. Saudi Arabia has been continuously bombing innocent civilians in neighbouring Yemen with the approval and support of US killing thousands of innocent people. Can Biden administration ask the Saudis to stop this mindless killing?David Remnic writing for New Yorker on November 7th said ‘there can be no overstating the magnitude of the tasks facing Biden. If he survives whatever challenges, legal and rhetorical that Trumps throws his way in the coming days and weeks, he will begin his term facing a polarized country, one even more divided and tribal than the polls have suggested. It is a nation in which one half cannot quite comprehend the other half. He also confronts a country that is suffering from an ever-worsening pandemic and ailing economy, racial injustice, a climate crisis that millions refuse to acknowledge. … but even if Trump’s career in elective politics is over, Trumpism will, in some form, persist … to rebuild trust in democratic processes, Biden needs to restore faith in the integrity of the government he will preside over.’ With all possible holy intentions of Biden and his team still he has a protracted battle to fight if he fails to gain a majority in the Senate, which as of now seems unlikely. Whether Joe Biden will be a one-time President like his predecessor only future can tell. Till then let his supporters keep their fingers crossed. But the world hopes he will make a better person and a President than Donald Trump who was an ultimate example of populism and a narcissist, did not believe a better person may exist than him and to make his slogan ‘American First’ viable he managed to isolate the country from rest of the world, shunning all sorts of bilateral and multilateral connections.
The writer is an analyst and a commentator.