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Thursday, February 15, 2024

Will US democracy survive Trump’s election fraud allegations?

The pushback coming from a group of Trump loyalists against the dubious tactics being suggested by a fringe group is adequate confirmation that the system works. The real watershed for democracy was accentuated by three conservative SC justices appointed by Trump displaying their sense of fair play and justice as they rejected his claims and democracy in the US came out stronger, not weaker.

Four years ago Trump was an outsider, nobody believed he would get enough votes to win. Hillary Clinton seemed a sure winner being a member of the inner circle of US democracy, not really taken as a challenge, Trump was allowed to run undisturbed without the detailed scrutiny every candidate for high office gets.

Touching a particular nerve among red neck Americans belonging to the many factories and the vast rural farmlands of the Midwest which the US politicians only gave lip-service to. Donald Trump built on the strong base that the Republican Party always had there, adding the deep south as the so-called “Reagan Democrats” country. Manufacturing facilities of US origin migrated abroad because of lower labour costs. With mass migration of workers from other countries prepared to work for much lower wages, red blood Americans, mainly of the mid-west, became jobless by the millions. Instead of investing in the aging domestic infra-structure and modernisation of manufacturing facilities, US generously gave aid and grants to uplift the lives of the masses in the developing world. The US failed their own poverty-stricken, including those in the inner cities of the major urban areas which are actually Democrat Party strongholds. Millions of Americans saw their job security handed down to them over generations vanish. The blue collar workers simple lifestyle had centred around working during the weekdays and socialising with each other on the weekends while congregating for Church on Sundays. A holdover from the American civil war 150 years ago, a small but significant part of the American population is racist. Aggravated by joblessness, extremism has again reared its ugly head. With their lifestyle evaporating, their worst fears of being actually dominated by a non-white population were exacerbated very intelligently by Trump. By the time the Democratic Party and the Establishment realised their blunder, it was too late.

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Did Trump come as a saviour for the jobless Americans?

Trump stayed on course in office with what he had promised. Almost all the agreements were revised in US favour through tough negotiations. Moreover, he started cajoling trade and/or coercing US companies to manufacture their products at home. He imposed countervailing duties and taxes on China, Europe, etc, to lessen the US burden he made US’ NATO partners pay more share of the NATO budget. Job creation and extensive tax cuts improved the lives of millions of people, giving them jobs while adding riches to the rich. This heralded booming economy and decreasing unemployment figures have now been reversed because of the pandemic. Because of the protest against police excesses on coloured people, the “Black Lives Matter” movement spread through the country.

A summer of discontent saw African Americans along with young white protestors rallying against police excesses. The liberal campaign to de-fund the police alarmed moderate Americans who saw the deterioration of law and order as an existential threat. Even the black population voiced fear that this was going out of hand. Trump’s pledge to end the seemingly endless war in Afghanistan and bring troops home from Iraq, Syria, etc and even NATO struck a chord among a war-weary population.

This has eaten up the money needed to foster economic growth at home. Opposing elements joined together to fight Trump this time as a common enemy to ensure he would not be re-elected. With the pandemic coming handy, Biden came up as the compromise candidate among a field in which he was only one of many Democratic contenders. Bernie Sanders was persuaded to give up his promising electoral campaign in the common cause to oust Trump.

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Trump’s insecurity with Putin

Despite his real achievements, Trump’s erratic behaviour gave his enemies support – his erratic pronouncements through ill-conceived tweets and the mishandling of Corona pandemic. The development of the vaccines through Operation “Warp Speed” to fight the pandemic is a medical and logistical miracle, the irony is that trying to maintain his “tough guy” image that attracts his supporters, Trump side-lined his greatest achievement. Russia’s interference in the elections on his behalf through the social media, etc was certainly in Moscow’s interest, to have someone in the White House who was not a committed anti-Russia. Trump even refuses to recognize that the recent massive hacks of many key US institutions were engineered by Russia. Taking 5th generation warfare to a new level, and why not? As a leader of his country, Putin has every right to use all the means and tools available. Prima-facie it seems Trump is afraid of something Putin has on him.

Republicans’ concerns over mail-in ballots

Postal ballots have been the source of most significant vote-counting disputes in recent decades, according to Edward Foley, director of the Election Law Program at Ohio State University. From 2003 to 2018, at least 15 local election results were thrown out in tight elections based in part on absentee voting fraud. Till March 2020 Trump had the 2020 US Elections virtually sown up. In May 2020 as he began to realise that he could lose, he began to reiterate his claim that postal voting was highly vulnerable to fraud. In September 2020, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court extended the deadline for accepting mail-in ballots and allowed them to be deposited in drop boxes. Republicans asked the United States Supreme Court to issue a stay against the deadline extension, which the Court denied on October 19. Pennsylvania Republicans then asked the Court to fast-track the request to block the deadline extension, but on October 28 the Court declined to hear the appeal before the election.

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On October 28, the US Supreme Court denied a request from Republicans and the Trump campaign to allow ballots to be received up to three days after election day in North Carolina, rather than the nine-day limit that had been set by the State Board of Elections amidst the pandemic.

Election media reports and opinion polls leaned heavily towards a Democratic victory certainly because of the anti-Trump sentiment of the US media. Trump was really undone by his ‘mishandling’ of the pandemic by his erratic pronouncements through daily early morning tweets. When the election results were announced Trump vowed to challenge these results especially in Texas, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin and Michigan. Having changed the composition of the Supreme Court (SC) to a more conservative bent with their right of center ideological bias, as a businessman he thought they were in his pocket and was confident the SC would always rule in his favour. Being their ideological bent aside, Trump failed to recognise that they are without question upright judges who would, barring ideological issues, always uphold the rule of law without fear or favour. The US Supreme Court rejected a law suit of the state of Texas claiming fraud in the election procedure of those states, ruling that it was for each state to decide with no national binding rule. Trump and his followers lost altogether more than 50 law suits but still are not conceding defeat. On Dec 13, of its 538 members, the Electoral College ratified voted 306 for Biden against 232 vote for Trump. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a close friend of Trump, congratulated Biden.

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Democracy no longer under threat?

While the margin in the US House of Representatives has narrowed, with Republicans making gains, the Republicans majority in the Senate depends upon the Jan 6 elections for the Senate seats in Georgia. Democrats taking both make it a 50-50 split in the Senate with Vice President-elect Harris casting the vote in favour of the govt. For some time it did seem that the US Democratic system was under threat. However with the SC twice rejecting Trump’s lawsuits and the majority of the Republican Senators and Representatives going with the election verdict (in the overall count Biden had a lead of more than 7 million votes) the system has survived, at least uptil now, despite the stress and strain.

Despite Rudy Guiliani and his team waging a virtual disinformation campaign about massive fraud and Trump himself phoning legislators in the “swing states” not a single elector was faithless. What was heartening was that when convicted criminal Lt Gen Michael Flynn, recently given “Presidential pardon” by Trump, certified nutcase Sydney Powell advised overturning the election results and declaring martial law, (Incidentally Pakistan should thank God Flynn remained Trump’s National Security Advisor (NSA) for only a few days. Before he became the NSA, this dubious character had urged the US to bomb Pakistan). Trump’s closest advisors, including his Chief of Staff and senior legal counsel, vehemently repudiated the “martial law” gambit in a stormy meeting in the Oval Office. There is reportedly apprehension in the Pentagon about Trump’s erratic behaviour recently, in particular the trial balloon of declaring martial law. The US Military oath at the time of the individual’s induction states, “I will obey the orders of the President of the United States…”, however the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) Article 90 states that military personnel need to obey the lawful orders of his/her superior. But can the military personnel DISOBEY “unlawful orders” including orders of senior officers, Secretary of Defence and even the President of the United States? The soldier in this situation has a moral and legal obligation to the Constitution and not to obey unlawful orders and those who issue them.

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The pushback coming from a group of Trump loyalists against the dubious tactics being suggested by a fringe group is adequate confirmation that the system works. The real watershed for democracy was accentuated by three conservative SC justices appointed by Trump displaying their sense of fair play and justice as they rejected his claims and democracy in the US came out stronger, not weaker.

Ikram Sehgal, author of “Escape from Oblivion”, is a Pakistani defense analyst and security expert. The article was first published in Daily Times and has been republished with the author’s permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.