A president in denial
M Serajul Islam
US vice-president Joe Biden has won the US presidential election resoundingly with 306 electoral and 78.6 million popular votes. President Donald Trump received 232 electoral and 73 million popular votes, 5.6 million less than Joe Biden. The president’s next to an impossible path through the courts has also vanished after the majority of the cases that his lawyers had filed in the swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Arkansas have been dismissed. The lawyers in the main case in Pennsylvania where he questioned 2.5 million mail-in votes simply withdrew and left.
The president is not conceding, nevertheless. The majority of the Republican senators led by majority leader Mitch McConnell are backing him despite all evidence that he has lost without the shadow of a doubt. They have reasons for their action for which they are blatantly subordinating the nation’s interests to theirs and, in the process, humiliating and insulting their country before the world. Worse still, they are exposing their country to dangers that are real and scaring the daylight out of the country’s security analysts. General John Kelly, once the president’s chief of staff, has called the president’s action a ‘national security… crisis.’
The president’s reasons for not conceding are many of which his inflated ego is one. He said during the campaign that he had considered defeat to Joe Biden unimaginable and insulting and, therefore, unacceptable. He is, thus, determined to make Joe Biden’s victory unpleasant in the two months and a few days he still has as president. The long delay between the election and the inauguration of a new president has been allowed by the US constitution for a peaceful transition. The president is turning that provision on its head, the first president in US history to do so, for appalling reasons.
He is acting like the classical third-world dictators from the pages of history by his decision not to concede. He has left no one in doubt that if he had their powers, he would throw the elections out of the window that federal election infrastructure officials, in a written statement, have described as ‘the most secure in US history.’ That has not stopped the president though in behaving, with the world watching, in ways that even the third-world dictators who are history have not behaved and those, at present would not consider behaving.
The president has questioned the very structure and institutions that have been built over centuries and have made the United States the leader of the ‘free world’. He has shamed Americans to judge the credibility of the November 3 elections by phone calls of the world leaders to the president-elect the same way they are accustomed to judging the credibility of elections in the third-world dictatorships. This is surreal. The president’s actions would have made sense only if the United States was his empire and he was punishing Americans for going against him.
The president has instructed all federal agencies not to accept Joe Biden as the president-elect. He has, in particular, asked the General Services Agency headed by one of his sycophants not to certify Joe Biden as the winner. Without the GSA certification, the Biden transition team cannot claim the millions of dollars’ fund set aside in the budget for a peaceful transition and more importantly, access to the important national security briefings so that the new president is fully prepared to deal with national security when he assumes office. The 9/11 commission underlined the crucial importance of smooth transition for national security in a report that stated that the United States was unprepared for the 9/11 terrorist attacks partly because of the month delay that was lost by intervention of the Supreme Court in the 2000 election.
The president has also created serious security apprehensions by sacking the defence secretary general Mark Esper as an act of vengeance because he had refused to let him use the US army to quell the Black Lives Matter protests. He has made other changes in the department with questionable intents. He has placed retired Major General Anthony Tata in one of the vacated posts. Defence department professionals are scared about the president’s motives forcing General Mark Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs, to issue the following statement: ‘We do not take an oath to a king or a queen, a tyrant or a dictator. We do not take an oath to an individual.’
The president’s unbelievable actions, however, have sinister political motives. He believes that a very large number of the 73 million Republican voters who voted for him will follow him like a cult leader when he leaves the White House underlined by the way they came to his rallies in huge numbers throwing caution to the wind, without masks or social distancing. He is targeting and energising them by casting doubts on the election. He has hinted at running in 2024. His intentions are to dominate the Republican Party and force the party leaders in the Congress to toe his line without questions asked.
The president’s intentions, sinister and ominous for the party though, are well within his reach. The Republican senators were afraid of him as the president because of his vindictive nature.
They are now backing him in denial of the fact that he is humiliating the country and exposing it to security dangers because they are aware that with his huge grass-roots support and charisma achieved through the elections, he will now become more powerful and vindictive if they cross his path. They are, thus, as president Obama said in a recent interview, abdicating their responsibility and backing the president out of fear of his newly acquired power with the Republican base.
The Republican senators have chosen a denial over the president’s actions as a political strategy also because of their own political ambitions looking at the 2022 mid-term and the 2024 presidential elections. A few of them even have presidential ambition. Senator Mitch McConnell needs the president’s support for the two critical run-off senatorial elections in Georgia on January 5 that will determine whether or not the Republican Party controls the senate. Mitch McConnell’s political career will end if the party loses these run-off elections. The Republican senators are, therefore, not willing to stand up to the president although they see the dangers and damage that he is causing to the country as plain as daylight. They want him to see the reality and concede.
The president’s game in hanging to power is, nevertheless, over waiting only for the constitution to show him the exit. The constitution will now require the states to certify the results and send it to Congress giving the latter sufficient time to convene the meeting of the electoral college as also required by the constitution, on the first Monday after the second Wednesday of December. That constitutionally required date is December 14 when the electoral college will meet for what will be a formality to declare Joe Biden as the next president.
President Trump will be the president even after the electoral college declares Joe Biden as the next president till midday of January 20 when Joe Biden will take oath of office as required by the constitution. The constitution does not require the outgoing president to concede or attend the inauguration. In 1800, President John Adams refused to concede or attend his successor Thomas Jefferson’s inauguration. He was simply forgotten by the government the moment Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated. The same fate now awaits president Trump, a case of history repeating itself.
Postscript: COVID-19 has, meanwhile, gone completely out of control. The president has done practically nothing since losing the election except tweeting and energising his base with false narratives and undermining US’s democracy and credibility.
Emperor Nero played the flute and watched Rome burn. President Trump is tweeting while tens of thousands of Americans are dying of COVID-19 that he helped spread waiting to join Emperor Nero in the books of history.