by Bonnie James
Nov. 13 – Following the long months of campaigning, as the coronavirus surged across the landscape, snaring even the incumbent President and swaths of his White House staff in its jaws; as the economy cratered, and millions of Americans sunk into poverty and hopelessness, at long last, the voters had their say. They voted by the millions, either in person or by mail in the weeks leading up the election November 3. They stood in line to cast their ballots, sometimes for up to 12 hours or more. And then, finally, it was over.
Except it wasn’t.
Ten days after the election, ten weeks before Inauguration Day, attempting to write about the Nov. 3 Presidential election is like attempting to hit a moving target.
At the time of this writing, Biden is the clear winner of the election, with 78 million votes to Trump’s 72 million; 290 electoral votes (270 needed), to Trump’s 217, to be declared the winner by the Electoral College when it meets on Dec. 14. There is no question that, on January 20, 2021, Inauguration Day, Joseph R. Biden, Jr. will place his right hand on the Bible, swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States, and become 46th President of the United States.
Although it is perfectly clear that Joe Biden has won the election, President Trump and his team of lawyers, his Attorney General, and even his Secretary of State continue to flail impotently against that reality. This would be laughably pathetic, except that the actions being taken by this gang of sycophants and self-serving hacks verge on treason.
To wit: Trump has fired the Secretary of Defense (his fourth since taking office), and is carrying out a purge of those he deems as insufficiently loyal in the department; his attorneys have swept into the courts in several states charging, without evidence, widespread voter fraud; they have demanded a time-consuming and costly (to the taxpayers) recount in Georgia, where Biden is ahead by 14,000 votes; and perhaps most egregiously, refused to allow the General Services Administration to certify Biden’s election, even provisionally, thereby blocking him and his staff from accessing funds and intelligence necessary to carry out the transition.
Yet, on Thursday (Nov. 12), the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, a broad coalition of top government and industry officials, issued a joint statement that the 2020 election was the “most secure in American history.”
Those are the bare facts following one of the most fraught and divisive election campaigns in American history.
`Meltdowns upon Meltdowns’
According to Eric Segall, professor of law at Georgia State University, Trump remains, following the election, a genuine threat to the constitutional order. “He has been underestimated from the beginning,” Segall told AlterNet.
“I think he learned from Roy Cohn that you never concede, anytime, anywhere. Never concede, never give up, always declare victory, never accept loss. So just as a psychological, personal matter, we know Donald Trump won’t go away quietly.”
Indeed, adding to the appearance of a coup-in-process, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday, at a State Department briefing, set off alarm bells, when he stated in response to a reporter’s question, “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.” Although he later walked back the explosive comment in a Fox News interview, his words hung in the air long after they were uttered.
In response, retired four-star Gen. Barry McCaffrey warned on national television Wednesday (Nov. 11) night, that what we are witnessing is “a slow-moving Trump coup to defy the Biden election and refuse to leave office by diktat. Believe your eyes,” he added. “This will be a test of our institutions.”
Reinforcing this view, Mary Trump, the President’s niece, author of the best-selling book, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man, ( http://www.frontiere.eu/mary-trump-unleashes-the-erinyes-against-her-uncle/ ) was asked to comment on her uncle’s bizarre election night speech, in which he declared himself to be the winner. “It wasn’t just entirely mendacious from beginning to end,” she replied. “It was also deeply dangerous…. This is what Donald’s going to do: He’s not going to concede…. What’s worse, is he’s not going to engage in the normal activities that guarantee a peaceful transition….
“He’ll be having meltdowns upon meltdowns right now. He has never been in a situation like this before…. Donald has never won anything legitimately in his entire life, but because he has been so enabled by people along the way, he has never lost anything either….
“The fact that the Republicans have done better than expected in Congress and the Senate will have made him extraordinarily angry. It means that people were voting against Donald Trump in the election, but not necessarily against his party. That will have added so much salt to his narcissistic wounds.”
The Polls Close
Approximately 36 hours after the polls closed across the country, the nation found itself enmired in one of the most fraught and anxiety-inducing presidential election contests since the Civil War. And while, unlike Lincoln in 1860, neither candidate in this election faces the threat – so far – of assassination, before arriving in Washington for inauguration, nor have several states yet seceded from the Union, the apprehension of violence and mayhem in this deeply polarized nation is palpable.
Then, in Philadelphia, on Saturday morning, as election officials and vote counters were bent over their tables earnestly tallying thousands of votes, President Trump’s lawyers were gearing for battle with spurious claims of vote fraud and election tampering. Led by Trump’s personal attorney, the loud-mouthed and mentally unstable Rudy Giuliani, swept in with hordes of MAGAnauts posing as “election observers” who massed outside polling places, attempting to intimidate poll workers. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenny advised them: Trump “should put his big-boy pants on and concede.”
Even the reliably pro-Trump New York Post editorialized Nov. 7, “The math is looking near-impossible for President Trump to win re-election,” advising that to preserve his “legacy,” he quit “the conspiracy-addled talk of a `stolen’ election.”
That evening, President-elect Biden spoke briefly from Wilmington, Delaware, urging his supporters and all Americans to remain calm while every vote was counted. He appealed to them to pull together following the bitter and divisive campaign, and assured them that, when all the votes had been counted and certified, he expected to be declared the winner. He pledged to be the president of all Americans, not just those who voted for him. Evoking Abraham Lincoln’s words in his Second Inaugural, Biden added, “Our nation is shaped by the constant battle between our better angels and our darkest impulses, and what presidents say in this battle matters. It’s time for our better angels to prevail tonight.”
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, the daughter of a Jamaican father and an Indian mother, who will become the first woman to hold that office, spoke as well, quoting the recently deceased civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis: “Democracy is not a state. It is an act.” “What he meant,” she explained, “was that America’s democracy is not guaranteed. It is only as strong as our willingness to fight for it, to guard it and never take it for granted,” thus echoing Benjamin Franklin’s famous (if apocryphal) admonition following the drafting of the US Constitution in 1787: “It’s a republic … if you can keep it.”
Exuberant celebrations broke out across the country, with delirious American citizens pouring into the streets of Philadelphia, New York, Detroit, and many other cities, including in Washington, D.C., outside the heavily fortified White House itself, where demonstrators held up signs saying to the occupant, “You’re fired!”
In fact, the voter turnout in 2020 was the largest in a U.S. presidential election in history. Two-thirds of eligible voters cast their ballots: 160 million out of 240 million eligible voters. The voters’ message was clear: It’s time for Trump to go!
Nonetheless, beyond all reason, Trump, in his strange, hostile, fantasy world, is clinging to the illusion that legal challenges in several states—Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, and Georgia—will somehow overturn the outcome. No one—not even Trump—believes that lie, but top Republicans, including Secretary of State Pompeo, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and a gaggle of GOP Senators, out of fear of offending their constituents, or arousing the ire of the beast in the White House, are going along.
In one of the most baldly cynical scenarios of the post-election, Trump and his coterie are eyeing the Jan. 5 runoff election in Georgia, in which two coveted Senate seats are in play. As of now, the Republicans hold 50 seats, and the Democrats 48. Were the Dems to win the two outstanding seats in Georgia – a long shot to be sure – the Senate would be tied, and the Vice President – Kamala Harris – would cast the tie-breaking vote.
What’s at Stake
The stakes in this election could not be higher. The United States is facing three interconnected crises, each of which has markedly intensified over the course of 2020: The Covid-19 pandemic, which is now spiraling out of control – 150,000 cases a day – and more than 10 million total; the severe economic downturn, affecting tens of millions of Americans; and the racial injustice that has given rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.
All of these factors played a role in the unprecedented turnout this year. Despite heavy-handed efforts by Trump/GOP actors to suppress the Democratic vote by, among other things, insisting that mail-in ballots were, by definition, fraudulent, Americans of both political parties came out in historically unprecedented numbers to vote. Trump voters, who had been whipped into a frenzy, as thousands turned out at campaign rallies in the weeks leading up to the election, with mobs chanting threats against Trump’s political adversaries, suggesting nothing so much as a Nuremberg circa 1934 rally (see Leni Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will,” 1935). Things went so far, that, in early October, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a frequent target of Trump’s rage because sof her insistence on imposing strict measure to contain the pandemic, was the victim of an attempted kidnapping/murder plot by alleged Trump supporters.
Nonetheless, Americans, in vast numbers, came out to vote, and they voted overwhelmingly to throw Trump out.
Now that the era of Trump is coming to an end, the question on the table is how will President Biden address the multifold crises that confront the new administration.
On domestic policy, Biden, in a pre-election visit Oct. 27 to Warm Springs, Georgia, alluded to the approach taken in 1932 by President Franklin Roosevelt. It was here that FDR had gone to convalesce from the effects of the polio disease that had wracked his body. Biden was, of course, mindful that the Democrats hoped to take back a state that had not voted for a Democratic Presidential candidate since 1992, when Bill Clinton defeated George H.W. Bush there.
“This place, Warm Springs, is a reminder that though broken, each of us can be healed,” Biden said. “That as a people and a country, we can overcome a devastating virus. That we can heal a suffering world. That yes, we can restore our soul and save our country.”
Biden shares with FDR a belief that government exists to serve the people, to “promote the general welfare,” as the Constitution mandates. Whether Biden will have the courage, the brilliant tactical intelligence, and the determination to innovate, improvise, and deliver for a hurting nation as FDR did, remains to be seen. Given the current intransigence of the Republican majority in the Senate, which is likely hold, the prospects for enacting the kind of One Hundred Days legislation the FDR did are, to say the least, daunting.
Biden’s immediate crisis is the Covid pandemic, which by next week will have taken the lives of a quarter of a million Americans. Hospitals are at full capacity throughout the upper Midwest and West, with no end in sight. With numbers expected to surge throughout the Winter months, it is only going to get worse. As Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said recently, “We’re in for a whole lot of hurt.” Biden is already putting together a team to take on the pandemic, and has announced Ron Klain as his Chief of Staff. Klain, who has been a close friend and collaborator of the President-elect for decades, led the Obama administration’s response to the Ebola outbreak in 2014.
Now, with the promise of a vaccine, or perhaps more than one, to become available for, initially, limited distribution in the weeks ahead—Fauci is optimistic that by April of next year it could become widely available—there is real hope that, combined with medically proven measures, such as mask-wearing and social distancing, and the increasing effectiveness of therapeutics, the coronavirus can be brought under control.
And Biden is determined to address the reality of systemic racism that has been exposed over the past year. His naming of Kamala Harris as his partner in the White House, is a step in that direction; early hints at his Cabinet appointments and other high-level government posts indicate his determination to make his administration look like America, i.e., this will not be a government of old, white men.
Foreign policy is still an area that has not yet come into focus, although Biden has been in contact with allies who have been sidelined by Trump; while Biden has so far been prevented from receiving greetings he has received at the US State Department, he has proceeded to confer with world leaders. He has clearly indicated his intention that the US reestablish ties with the EC and NATO, rejoin the Paris Accord on global warming, reinstate collaboration with the World Health Organization, etc. Will the Biden administration also work to establish cordial relations with China and Russia? It’s too soon to tell, but given Biden’s characteristic openness to dialogue and reason, the signs are hopeful.
Yet, it is worth noting, that as I write this, the Anglo-American Elites (aka the “Deep State”) are preparing to gather for their annual confab in Davos this weekend—virtually, of course—under the auspices of the ubiquitous billionaire Michael Bloomberg. Establishment mouthpiece David Ignatius wrote this morning in the Washington Post about a discussion he had with three of the luminaries who will be attending; in addition to Bloomberg were Henry Kissinger (now age 97!) and Wall Street creature Hank Paulson, who had advice for President-elect Biden: “mobilize great corporations and international organizations to solve big problems,” according to Ignatius.
Biden will, of course, be under intense countervailing pressure from the progressives in the Party on both domestic and international policy. But so far, he seems to have the instincts and character to make the right choices.