By Kenneth Tiven in the US
After a four-year presidency that most resembles a farcical cliffhanger television series, the Trump Show is all but over, with the inauguration of Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. as the 46th president of the United States of America just weeks away.
Yesterday the Electoral College voted to confirm what the state’s had decided five weeks ago–Biden-Harris have 306 votes to President Donald Trump’s 232. This reflects Biden’s landslide popular vote margin. President Trump was ungracious in the face of a reality he has denied for more than a month: his White House occupancy is over. A pandemic death toll exceeding 300,000 people shattered a nation’s illusion that he was a smart businessman and thus, would be a smart politician. His tweets for the past weeks stressed his continuing claim that a “stolen” election had denied 70 million voters what they deserved.
This obsession has replaced talking about virus or the vaccines, which were rolled out this week in the USA. His attention span–notably short–seems fixated on reversing the course of history. The electors of the Electoral College represent the popular vote in terms of each state’s Congressional delegation size. While historically a handful of what are termed “faithless electors” has defected, none ever changed the outcome.
Vermont started it off at 10 AM eastern time in the morning with three for Biden and California came in at 5:27PM eastern time with 55 electoral votes to carry him over the threshold of 270 to win. Hawaii’s four votes come in late because it is so far west of the continental USA. Biden told the nation, “the flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago. And we now know that nothing — not even a pandemic —or an abuse of power — can extinguish that flame.” Biden has made clear for months that controlling the pandemic is the critical first step to economic recovery. It is “time to turn the page” he said.
He repeated his campaign promise to “work just as hard for those of you who didn’t vote for me, as I will for those who did.”
While the threat of violence was considered in many states, none were more worried than Michigan, which closed the state capitol building to all but security, and the 16 electors pledged to Biden by virtue of a 154,000-vote margin in that industrial state. State police turned away a group of Republican electors challenging the vote. “Michigan’s Democratic slate of electors should be able to proceed with their duty, free from threats of violence and intimidation,” said Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, a Republican who had rebuffed Trump’s personal request to interfere on his behalf. “Biden and Harris won Michigan’s presidential election,” said Shirkey, rather pointedly illustrating the absurd behavior of so many Republican politicians.
Trump had accused his Democratic rivals – and even some elected Republican officials – of conspiring to commit a traitorous coup.
“I’m anxious because there are people out there who are crazy,” said Van Johnson, the Democratic mayor of Savannah, Ga., and one of the state’s electors. “The safety of everyone has to be considered and kept in the forefront of our minds as we take on this process.”
As Trump’s lawyers, led by Rudy Giuliani, a former prosecutor and mayor in New York City, flouted judicial rules and behavior, the Judges remained unimpressed. They demanded facts, viable proof for a courtroom, not conspiracy theories from the Internet. Theatrics usually found only on a TV program resulted in losing more than 50 cases. Most spectacular was a lawsuit by the state of Texas asking the Supreme Court to intervene directly and toss out millions of other state’s votes. In a curt note the court rejected the idea, saying Texas had no “legal standing” to challenge four other states for their process.
If this embarrassed the 17 state attorney generals or the 126 Congressional Republicans who signed in support of that case, well, they aren’t letting on.
In his post election talk Biden called them out directly as he excoriated–quite calmly–all the efforts of the Trump Administration to steal the election. “It’s a position so extreme we’ve never seen it before,” Biden said. The effort “refused to respect the will of the people, refused to respect the rule of law and refused to respect our Constitution.” Now, he said, “is time to unite.
“There’s urgent work in front of us.”
Any hesitation in this story is intentional because Congress with the vice president presiding counts and certifies the votes that the Electoral College has certified based on what the states certified. Trump hints that his loyal Vice President Mike Pence might have a “problem” in this role.
But why is there not something like the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern solution used in cricket applied when bad faith delays an election decision?
Many of the judges in state courts are either elected or appointed for fixed terms. The political party in power to lifetime terms appoints federal judges. Some have served for decades, while others took the bench only months ago. Trump was expecting “loyalty” from those he or Republican governors appointed. He guessed wrong.
“Voters, not lawyers, choose the President,” declared U.S. Circuit Court Judge Stephanos Bibas, a former prosecutor and law professor appointed in 2017 by Trump, as he rejected an attempt to throw out Pennsylvania’s votes for Biden.
Trump’s attempt to block certification of Biden’s win in Georgia “would breed confusion and potentially disenfranchisement that I find has no basis in fact or in law,” wrote U.S. District Court Judge Steven D. Grimberg, whom Trump named to the bench last year.
“I see no chance of anything meaningful happening,” said Mark Braden, the former chief counsel for the Republican National Committee. “Maybe a few people will try to make some noise. Who knows anymore? But this election is over and it has been for a long time.”
“I don’t think there will be any faithless electors this time around,” said Jerry H. Goldfeder, a veteran elections lawyer and professor at Fordham University Law School in New York. I don’t expect anything but an Electoral College victory with 306 votes for Biden.”
The Congress certifies the Electoral College vote on January 6, 2021. The next president is sworn in on 20 January. Trump as ex-president is likely to be the most active, if not the nosiest in history. To help make that happen the Trump campaign has raised more than $200 million since the election by fundraising off of his voter fraud claims. He is now asking the faithful to give $6 a month for a year to support the ex-presidency. If he got 20% of 70 million voters to do this, he’d raise $1.44 billion dollars the first year. When he ran for president he said he’d make money from being president. However, his performance has seriously damaged his brand and the pandemic has crippled the hospitality industry.
It may be that as an ex-president Trump turns the ‘loser” label into a winner if measured in dollars not votes. He’ll always be the winner to his political faction, cult or tribe, whatever you call it. Usually its noise but it can veer easily into violence. The inability to admit defeat is both a result of his personality and his need to keep his supporters for the next few years, just in case he tries to run again. America’s perception of democracy was about to disappear, not just because of Trump but because the Republican Party did not want to stop him breaking the rules and standards for leadership