TRUMP’S LEAVING PARTY
January 14, 2021
When I wrote last year about the complexities of the American presidential election process, I nowhere near foresaw the mayhem that has developed after the poll in November.
In normal times, the person who fails to achieve a majority of electoral college votes concedes defeat and the incumbent, whether they stood as a candidate or not, prepares the for his successor to take over in late January. The transfer of power is usually smooth, culminating in a symbolic handover of control on the steps of the Capitol at the inauguration ceremony of the new president. This year it will be different.
Many have argued that having to wait nearly three months for the newly elected president to take control of the reins, a delay dating back to the late 18th century, is far too long, but it does give the victor time to formulate policies, get used to the system, learn his responsibilities and build his team of advisors. Cooperation between the outgoing and incoming administrations is needed and even in times when there is a massive gulf between doctrines, transition is usually smooth.
The 2020 process has not worked out so smoothly and this is down to the behaviour of the outgoing president, Donald Trump.
Even during the run-up to the election, Trump cast doubt on the electoral process. He stated that the postal vote system was flawed, and, with little evidence, talked down the efficiency of the postal service. This came in the middle of the Covid pandemic when more and more people were opting to vote by post.
Soon after the election, Trump thought that the early results indicated that he had gained a victory and he declared himself the winner, but as results from the “swing states” started to come in, it was looking more and more like a defeat. This caused Trump to go on the offensive, calling for recounts and claiming election fraud.
Each state has its own electoral procedures which are overseen by professional, non-partisan state employees, but Trump’s allegations of misconduct cast doubt upon their integrity. Claims of accepting ballot papers after deadlines, multiple voting, unregistered and dead people voting and vote alteration were made. All claims were investigated and nearly all were rejected. For instance, a petition in Wisconsin alleged that election officials were directed to fill in missing information on ballot envelopes, issued absentee ballots without receiving applications and allowed people to claim a “confined” absentee vote status. Court proceedings took place, but in all but a handful of cases were thrown out. The claims were made with absolutely no evidential backing. Recounts were also called in some states where the margin of victory was small. Georgia, a very marginal state, had three state-wide recounts which failed to change the outcome. A partial recount in Wisconsin delivered a slightly larger margin for Biden over Trump. Both candidates gained small numbers of extra votes in the recount in Milwaukee County, but Biden ended with a net gain of 132 votes over Trump. There was absolutely no evidence to prove that the election was in any way corrupt.
However, in spite of this, Trump claimed that the contest was stolen from him and that he was the rightful winner. He failed to concede and admit defeat. In fact, he called upon his supporters in rallies, television appearances and social media, to challenge the election result in every way possible.
Meanwhile the transition process continued, with successful Joe Biden, the President Elect, starting the take-over process without Trump’s assistance. The Electoral College met to cast the official vote and on Wednesday 5th January Congress was due to ratify the result in a meeting in the Capitol.
To mark this event supporters of Donald Trump attended a rally in Washington D.C. Trump himself addressed the assembled masses outside the White House and told them, in fact encouraged them, to march on the Capitol and make their voice heard. What happened next is well reported. The mob stormed the Capitol, causing damage and forcing a suspension of business. Five people lost their lives in the mayhem and police are now in the process of arresting some of the main perpetrators.
Despite this interruption, Congress ratified Joe Biden in a sitting that extended late into the night. Soon after the event, Donald Trump told “these good people” to go home and it was only later that he made a feeble attempt to condemn the attack. He also, but not in so many words, accepted Biden’s victory but, said, breaking with tradition, that he would not attend the inauguration on 20th January.
Donald Trump’s whole attitude is worrying. How could a man with his power and responsibility incite a mob? How can Americans accept such behaviour from their leader? How could they let a man like him have his finger on the nuclear trigger? He is a man who not only questioned the democratic processes of the “World’s Greatest Democracy”, but he also encouraged a mob to disrupt its legal duties. This behaviour has brought criticism from all quarters, including stalwart members of his own administration, who have resigned in droves. His closest ally, Vice President Mike Pence, is among his critics.
Moves to remove him for office are being made, either by impeachment or by declaring him unfit to hold office (the 25th Amendment). Many say why bother when he is leaving in just over a week. But there is good reason. If he is forced to leave, he will not be able to stand again, which he could do in four years’ time.
Many questions have to be asked. Firstly, why did the authorities not protect the Capitol in the same manner as they protected Washington a few months earlier for the Black Lives Matter demonstrations? Will Trump quietly disappear or will he use his core “red neck” support to incite more hatred during Biden’s reign? Has he incited a white supremacy campaign, as most of his supporters appear to be white? Even if he takes a back seat, will the mob he has created continue their destructive campaign alone? How quickly will America recover from the divisive, destructive and unrealistic epoch of Donald Trump? And more worrying for the UK, will he retire to his vast golf estate in Scotland? I could go on.
His charm fooled many. British Prime Minister, Theresa May rushed to see him after his election and, it is no secret that, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage were two of his biggest fans. Will they now change their minds?
Whether you like him and his policies or not, it is very difficult to imagine that the leader of the free world could act in the way he did. Not like the mature adult he should be, but more like a spoilt baby throwing his toys out of his pram when he knows he can’t get his own way.