Alex Jones and Haydn Roberts outline that, while Joe Biden has won the most votes of any presidential candidate, the fact America has not rejected Trump outright means that the beckoning normality looks far more fragile than it did before.
The word ‘unprecedented’ has been used a lot to describe 2020 so using it once again to describe the US Election seems a little unoriginal. However, when the President of the United States makes a formal statement from the White House Briefing Room, baselessly alleging widespread suppression, fraud and corruption because he is losing an election, and then is cut off by the majority of networks broadcasting it, very few other words spring to mind. Indeed, when the man who has taken a solemn oath to defend the US Constitution gets up and attempts to take a sledgehammer to the values embodied by it in front of the nation; unprecedented is very much the word.
President Trump was never going to leave the White House quietly and this is borne out in the events unfolding before us now. And as Republicans across the US distance themselves from the President, as his loss in this election appears more imminent, the immediate future of the United States appears to be in doubt – In a legal, social, and political sense. Litigation following an election is nothing new – anyone with a vague memory of American politics can cast their mind back to 2000 when the result was not known for five long weeks while legal challenges surrounding a recount in the state of Florida worked their way up to the Supreme Court. But the promise of fighting this result in the courts, as the President is entitled to do, suggests more division and polarisation across the United States and the tension and uncertainty caused by this election will only be extended – but it is sad to see that those legal challenges are not being made in the best interests of the American people and are in fact a last ditch attempt by the loser to buy time in power. None of them are likely to result in a major change to the results. The one exception is a case in Pennsylvania surrounding the deadline for mail-in ballots, but this challenge is looking increasingly less significant as Mr Biden pulls further ahead in other states. President Trump’s increasing reliance on unfounded conspiracy theories looks unlikely to play well with the judiciary and his likelihood of success in these cases is fading.
Joe Biden’s message is, unsurprisingly, very different from President Trump’s. He calls for patience, for the counting of every legally cast vote and for unity under him as an American President, rather than a partisan one. President Trump’s disregard for facts or reality, and his supporters’ continuation of that means that unification in the US is not going to occur overnight. The harsh reality is, that as 68 million Americans cast their vote for President Trump, the path to unity is going to be rocky and uncertain. Just as the first female, black, single parent Congresswoman-elect was elected from the first Congressional District in Missouri to the House of Representatives, so was a believer in the pro-Trump, baseless, QAnon conspiracy theory from Georgia. The QAnon conspiracy theory alleges that President Trump is single-handedly fighting a deep state cabal of Satanic paedophiles. The division in America is nowhere near as apparent as those two women will sit in the American legislature with real representative power.
Indeed, while this is a loss for President Trump and Trumpism, it is not the complete repudiation that many had hoped for. While the popular vote is not as close as the electoral college projections may suggest, predictions from some observers suggest that 47% of those that turned out still support their candidate who stands for anti-immigration policies, the rejection of the urban elite, the rejection of a globalised economy, and the rejection of truth, honesty and integrity. While some of those qualities may be President Trump’s own as reflected in his populist rhetoric, and while some of those voters would have voted for the Party rather than the man, it suggests the frustation felt in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis have not gone away. What this means for populism in the US remains to be seen.
Although the rejection of President Trump was not absolute, one must not forget that the popular support for Mr Biden is massive – over 73.5 million as of Friday morning, and that has continued rising ever since. A more familiar and less chaotic direction beckons. A President Biden will rejoin the Paris agreement, will not exit the WHO, will be keener to put America back in a leading role on the world stage and provide a more stable government – important both at home and abroad. However, if the Democrats fail to take the Senate (as it looks like they may have done) there is the risk that the next administration, like many of its recent predecessors becomes unproductive and inconstant in what it can realistically and securely achieve. Furthermore, President Trump, one of his family members, or someone who shares his ideology could stand for election in 2024, and undo any progress made over the previous four years. This risk of instability and an unpredictable future may in turn affect how the rest of the world chooses to interact with America going forwards.
The election of Joe Biden to the Presidency may give some comfort that in a surreal year, there is a return to normality: the sad truth is, in the US, normality will not be reached for some time yet. When it does arrive we will now recognise its fragility and the ease with which it can slip away.
Image Credit: Adam Schultz/Joe Biden Flickr