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A Divided States of America in 2024?

Authoritarian leadership has been on the upswing in Asia and Europe in the last decade with leaders claiming that when society is misguided, they can only set it right as long as individual rights are secondary to State power. In his 2016 winning appeal, Donald Trump said, “Only I can fix it.”

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By Kenneth Tiven

Lawyers on both sides of the election controversies in the USA will be busy for the next several years. The result of their efforts will determine if American Democracy survives in its current 233-year-old form or becomes an authoritarian state run by a minority political party. 

Authoritarian leadership has been on the upswing in Asia and Europe in the last decade with leaders claiming that when society is misguided, they can only set it right as long as individual rights are secondary to State power. In his 2016 winning appeal, Donald Trump said, “Only I can fix it.” 

Consistent failures in American courts at every level have failed to dim enthusiasm for the Stop the Steal mantra of voters who want the defeated former president returned to the White House in 2024. Polling results from a responsible non-partisan organization showed, “We have found that 47 million American adults – nearly 1 in 5 – agree with the statement that “the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump and Joe Biden is an illegitimate president.” 

Republicans in Congress behave like a boa constrictor, doing everything they can to strangle Biden’s legislative agenda and keep the anti-vaccination movement alive as if Covid-19 was merely a mythological beast.  

“You could look at 2020 as the nadir of American democratic processes, or you could look at it as a dress rehearsal,” says Rick Hasen, an expert of election law, who is a professor of law at University of California at Irvine.  

He points out that this is the first time in 59 US Presidential elections where the loser refused to concede. Was he dismissed as a sore loser? No, with a startling number of Americans following him down the conspiratorial rabbit hole. 

In the past week, a five-month “audit” of voters in an Arizona county by a partisan group organized by Republicans agreed Biden won. The vote count actually increased for Biden, but the Cyber Ninja team that ran it criticized issues it did not understand to provide grist for the “Steal faction to keep on believing.” 

Also Read: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Republicans in Congress seem to agree, at least in public, doing everything possible to stonewall any probe into the Capitol Building insurrection on January 6. A House of Representatives committee is aggressively trying to discover if it was organized by the former President, or merely encouraged by him. Nearly 700 of the people who trashed the building have been arrested and trials are underway. 

Hasen and other elections experts warn of a three-alarm fire, wondering why Democrats in Washington seem to lack the same sense of urgency and focus. 

Meanwhile, Republican controlled state legislatures pass voting regulations that claim to support “fair” elections but are—in their  actual language—restrictive regarding whom Republicans think should not vote. Many of the voting safeguards that have existed for decades are crumbling when it comes to the administration of elections. 

All US elections, including the presidential contest, are organized and managed by state and local authorities. The Election Commission of India is an autonomous constitutional agency responsible for elections with 800 million voters. The US, in contrast, has 50 different sets of election law which apply to who can vote.

The safeguards that existed when Trump left office last January may be crumbling, but his fund raising effort based on the “Big Lie” is relentless.

I know. I’m on their mailing list. 

In another election, the officials who certified the counts may no longer be in place. if Republicans take majority control of Congress, a compliant House Speaker could easily decide it’s simply not in his interest to let the party’s leader lose. This has already been hinted by Kevin McCarthy, the current GOP speaker. Remember, he criticized Trump’s role on the day of the attack but then got his head straightened out during a visit to Mar-A -Lago to cheer up Trump.  

Also Read: Calcutta High Court imposes Rs 10,000 cost on Sourav Ganguly, Rs 50,000 on West Bengal govt for out-of-turn plot allotment

Hasen has been an election guru for quite some time. He notes,

“In 2020, there was a massive shift to absentee balloting; Donald Trump did denigrate absentee balloting despite using it himself and despite having his own ballot harvested for the primary; he lost the election but claimed he actually won; he made hundreds of false statements calling the election results into question; he’s convinced millions of people that the election has been stolen from him, and he is continuing to not only push the lie that the election was stolen, but also to cause changes in both elected officials and election officials that will make it easier for him to potentially manipulate an election outcome unfairly next time.”

Nearly half of all members of the US Congress have a law degree. A recent meme made this point:” If you help a criminal before the crime, you are an accomplice. If you help afterwards, you’re a lawyer.”

The step from subversion to revolution does not always require an armed uprising. If 2024 is a more successful repeat of what happened in 2020, then India and the world will have to adjust to a different America, less a United States than a Divided States of America.

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