The triumph of Trumpism

After more than 100 hours of the polls closing, several states in the United States are still counting votes in the Presidential Election 2020. Just yesterday, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr., was declared as the presumptive ‘President-elect’ by most television networks. However, this result is still ‘presumptive’ for now. Counting continues in some of the key battleground states. And President Trump has already approached the courts to protect what he claims to be his victory, if “legal votes” alone are counted.
Importantly, even though Joe Biden has delivered his ‘President-elect’ speech, President Trump has not conceded. Taking to Twitter on Friday night, Trump announced that he had “71,000,000 Legal Votes. The most EVER for a sitting President!”. By the way, this statement is true. He did get almost 71 million votes—despite himself. And they are the ‘most ever’ votes cast in favour of a sitting US President. In the circumstances, again through Twitter, Trump announced, “I WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT!” (The caps, I assume, meant that he wanted to scream these words at the top of his lungs).
Specifically, Donald Trump’s argument (to be adjudicated by Courts) is as follows: 1) He ‘won’ the election in terms of the votes cast on the November 3; 2) Mail-in Ballots are susceptible to “fraud”; 3) No votes should be counted that were “illegally received after 8 P.M.” on election night; 4) “Legal Observers were refused admittance to count rooms”, where “BAD THINGS HAPPENED INSIDE. BIG CHANGES TOOK PLACE!”; and 5) therefore, “Joe Biden should not wrongfully claim the office of the President. I could make that claim also. Legal proceedings are just now beginning!”
In the days to come, the courts in the United States will be asked to, inter alia, adjudicate a few questions that strike at the root of American democracy: 1) Were the ‘Mail-in Ballots’ sent, stored and counted in a manner that meets the necessary threshold of electoral integrity? 2) Can votes, received after 8:00 p.m. on election day, be counted towards the final result? And 3) In the absence of ‘legal observers’, can the counting of votes be deemed to be truthful?
This is unprecedented waters for the United States—a country that is quick to instruct others about democratic norms and integrity. Currently, it has a man (Joe Biden) who claims to have won the presidency. And the incumbent (Donald Trump) who also claims to have won “BY A LOT”. Importantly, there has been no concession speech; no talk of transfer of power; no strategy for healing a broken society; no mechanism for moving forward on national issues; and no talk of dissipating the anger on the streets of America.
So, what will happen next? If the matter is finally brought to the United States Supreme Court, the Court can rule in two ways: 1) in favor of ‘counting every vote’, regardless of when they were received, which will mean that Joe Biden has won; and 2) of counting only the votes cast till 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, which will probably give Trump a (slim) victory. Importantly, of the nine (09) judges of the United States Court, three—Justice Gorsuch, Justice Kavanaugh, and Justice Barrett—were appointed by Donald Trump. These three, along with Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Thomas, and Justice Alito, were appointed by Republican Presidents. This means that 6 out of 9 US Supreme Court Judges are ‘republican’ in character. And this, in the final analysis, may cause considerable problems for the Biden campaign.
Away from the Presidency, last week’s US elections also returned a Republic majority Senate, along with a Democratic majority Congress. In the circumstances, even if Trump yields the presidency to Joe Biden, the new President will have trouble enacting his legislative agenda or introducing reform, since the Senate will necessarily play a pivotal role in any such eventuality.
But all that is for later. For now let us pause and consider, just for a moment, what exactly has happened in this US Presidential election. What does it say about the (pluralistic) American society? What does it mean for the American democratic model? And what does it entail for the future of America-led “free-world”?
Regardless of whether President Trump’s claims find resonance in the Courts, one thing cannot be denied: 70 million Americans (almost 48 percent of the total votes cast), voted for Donald Trump. Not on some hunch, or as a social experiment—an excuse presented to justify Donald Trump’s election in 2016. No. More than 70 million Americans purposefully voted for Trump and his ideology, with full knowledge of all the racism, patriarchy, elitism, white supremacy, isolationism, and sexual harassment that it entails. Better yet, they voted for him despite the fact that all major news networks (except Fox News) and social media were ‘against’ him. Despite the fact that authentic sources, like the Washington Post, reported that Trump has made “more than 20,000 false or misleading claims” during his Presidency. In other words, that is how many times he has lied to the American people. But none of that mattered to the 70 million Americans who voted for him. Even if it did, their disdain for ‘liberal hypocrisy’ was enough to ignore all of Trump’s shenanigans.
This will matter a great deal in the months and years to come. The myth of American pluralistic democracy—inclusive of its varied ideologies—is teetering. And in its place, powered by 70 million Trumpism followers, ‘America First’ has taken roots in the heartland. Even though Trump may have lost, Trumpism has triumphed in elections. This ideology, along with the anger that it breeds, will likely continue to cause rifts in the American society. And, any society that has hatred within, cannot lead an increasingly divided world.
As America attempts to grapple with the rise of Trumpism, it will have to yield space on the international stage. And in its stead, other nations—in particular China and Russia—will reassert their growing influence.
History bears witness to the fact that each time a global superpower turns inwards, withdrawing from the international stage, its ‘system’ also loses currency in the world. The Triumph of Trumpism in the 2020 elections means that the era of ‘global’ American influence is now over. The only question now is: who will replace it?

The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore. He has a Masters in Constitutional Law from Harvard Law School. He can be contacted at Follow him on Twitter

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