It’s no surprise that Donald Trump is resorting to litigation and demanding a recount in key swing states. For months now he has been laying the groundwork for contesting the general election by repeatedly talking up massive mail-in voter fraud (contrary to no historical evidence) and telling his supporters that the only way Biden wins would be by cheating.
Repeating a lie over and over from which he can benefit from – in this case to challenge the validity of a close election – is something Trump has always done in business. He’s a marketer and astute at public manipulation.
Remember what Trump recently told reporter Lesley Stahl of 60 minutes about attacking the press, he said, “You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.”
Like the media, Trump’s purpose of discrediting our elections process was always strategic and self-serving. Over the course of four years, Trump has managed to drag the media and now our elections process (two highly valued and essential parts of any democracy) through his mud of lies.
Also like clockwork and predictable, Trump on the night of election at 2 a.m. brazenly claimed he had already won the election. Even more absurd, he had insisted that votes stop being counted. Remember that due to the pandemic, many states have transitioned to or offered as an option mail-in voting.
So it was expected that this election would take longer than normal to process. When Trump claimed victory that night, millions of Americans did not have their ballots counted. It was too early. Some battle ground states had counted less than 50 percent of votes.
He added, “we’ll be going to the US Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop.” – which by the way, was a typical scenario he’s also mentioned at his rallies on occasion.
Trump very well knew, and practically all political strategists have been mentioning, that Democrats traditionally are better represented in absentee voting and was expected to have a large mailin voting turnout. His demand to stop counting made no sense – it’s completely unheard of and why would voting stop just because a candidate is ahead.
Later the next day when voting hasn’t stopped (of course it wouldn’t) Trump found himself behind in key states, then was suddenly demanding that all votes now be counted.
This attempt to cut the elections process short was not only reckless, but was really an attempt to hijack the election.
And no Trump ally agreed with this premature call of victory. Not Senator Mitch McConnell (who said the election process will continue until all votes have been counted). Not Fox news. No one.
No clear mandate
The result of the 2020 presidential race is razor thin and reflects what we’ve already known, that we are a nation bitterly and deeply divided. Leading into the general, it was hoped for that a convincing win by either side would have helped to bring greater clarity as to what the soul of our country is and in which direction we should be going. Instead, the closeness of the results just showed that there is no clear mandate, no overwhelming majority
Trumpism gets approval even if Trump is booted from office
Polls forecasted a more convincing win for Biden. But that wasn’t the case. If a landslide had happened, it could have been interpreted as a rejection of Trumpism – Trump’s political brand of dishonesty, division, and nativism. In absence of a landslide, there really was no repudiation of Trumpism. But the closeness of the election suggests two things: 1) a big swath of Americans are ok with Trumpism; and 2) it leaves the door open for other Republican candidates to run on Trumpism.
The fact that Trump was impeached. The economy has tanked. The nation is struggling to deal with the deadly coronavirus. And yet, Trump still managed to capture as many votes as he had. This is remarkable and rare. Clearly he is not being held accountable. This election almost proves that Trump is a bona fide cult of personality in politics. His most ardent base will let him get away with just about anything.
Electoral system is unfair
It’s true that the election result is razor-thin under our electoral system. But if the US presidential election ran by the same standard as all other elections from national and county races — based on a popular vote system — Joe Biden would have already been declared the 46th President of the United States far sooner than the four days it took.
The election could also have been characterized as a blowout as Biden is poised to win the popular vote by more than four million. Democrats have won the popular vote 7 of 8 times in the span of almost 30 years. The electoral system clearly has favored Republicans.
Healing and calm
In the next weeks until the election process is completely wrapped up, Americans should try as best possible to keep calm. And whoever is sworn into office in January must work on bringing about healing in our country. All Americans on both sides must also work at healing. It doesn’t mean forfeiting our values or not being critical. But we can be less caustic and more understanding.
We’ll need to focus our energy on beating this virus next year; and it helps if our political environment was less toxic and more cooperative.