US election: Donald Trump will soon be history but dangerous conspiracy theorists are heading to Congress – Henry McLeish
A tumultuous period in US politics is nearly over as President Donald Trump embarks on his “last stand against the truth”.
Sir Walter Scott, writing in 1808, captured Trump’s despairing plight when he said, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice, to deceive.”
Trump is History. His hysterical outbursts about stealing elections, illegal voting, rampant fraud, and ballot-rigging are the last humiliating gasps of a “loser”. There is no evidence to back up these claims. There is, however, a degree of irony, contradiction, and hypocrisy in Trump’s allegations about the voting process.
Joe Biden, in view of the killer Covid-19, encouraged voters to use their “mail-in vote”, but the President discouraged Americans and especially his own voters from doing so. He now describes these votes as “illegal”.
Another reason for voting early was the desire to avoid standing in line at the polling stations – in some cases for up to 11 hours – a situation deliberately created by the Republican Party, to suppress the votes of minorities by reducing the number of polling stations.
Even more damaging to Trump’s claims of being cheated is the fact that the Republican Party did well in Senate, House of Representatives and state legislature races throughout America. Why didn’t this alleged widespread fraud and corruption not damage other Republican candidates?
Disappointing results for Democrats
But despite Biden’s victory, America, although stepping back from the brink, is still a decaying democracy, a bitterly divided and disunited country with an incendiary atmosphere where deep-seated cultural wars risk becoming much more sinister and violent. This is the most worrying aspects of Trump’s post-election behaviour. The outgoing President is fanning the flames of civil unrest and widening a deep racial divide.
Going into these elections, Democratic Party expectations were high but, overall, the results were disappointing. The Hispanic vote was mixed. Defeats for Biden in Florida and, to a lesser extent, in Texas are a reminder that the Republicans were able to hold their ground. Despite demographic changes that will benefit the Democratic Party over the next decade, Latino men were influenced by Trump’s economic policies, and should not be taken for granted. More encouraging for Biden was the Democratic performance in Arizona and Nevada where changing demographics, reflecting a higher Hispanic vote, made a real difference.
Notwithstanding his remarkable victory, there are issues to be tackled.
In US politics, populism is still a major force. Over 70 million Americans voted for Trump in this election. The small margins of victory in the “rust belt” states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin speak volumes about the so-called “disconnected” who, after being betrayed by Trump, are still looking for a better life and recognition, with identity, pride and dignity politics replacing traditional class differences as the key to winning their support in the future. A great deal of criticism was aimed at Hillary Clinton in 2016 for being out of touch and disrespectful, but despite Biden’s “working class” origins and local ties, it was still a struggle to win those states.
Obsession with conspiracy
Populism is far from defeated and those engaged in the forthcoming policy battles between right and left in his party must bear this in mind. Coalitions of interest dominate US politics, as they do in most countries, but Democratic Party politics in the future must not exclude those who Trump captured by his transactional politics.
Of continuing concern is America’s obsession with conspiracy theories, a kind of voodoo politics which is dangerous and gaining traction. QAnon, which gained notoriety after accusing the Clintons of running a paedophile ring from a Washington pizza parlour, now has two supporters elected to the House of Representatives as members of the Republican party. The Atlantic magazine said this organisation “is not just on the internet anymore: it is in the US Capitol” and “not just a conspiracy theory; it’s a voting bloc”.
Another problem for Biden is that the Senate may remain controlled by the Republicans. This would be a serious obstacle in pursuing a progressive agenda and obtaining confirmation of presidential nominees for various cabinet and government appointments.
There is a glimmer of hope in that two run-off ballots will take place in January to fill two Senate seats in Georgia where none of the candidates were able to win more than 50 per cent of the vote. Although a long shot, victory for the Democrats would ensure a 50/50 spit in the Senate with newly elected Vice-President Kamala Harris having the casting vote.
Republican ‘Never Trumpers’
At a time when Trump is questioning the legitimacy of the opposition, the integrity of the election itself and the importance of the role of government, Biden will need to rebuild some semblance of consensus on Capitol Hill and reach over the aisle to a section of the Republican party, free from the threats and bullying behaviour of Trump.
There are many “Never Trumpers” in the Republican party, who might want to revive a moribund Congress and rediscover an interest in bipartisanship.
As the equivalent of a political grim reaper stalks the West Wing of the White House, there is a very outside chance that the President will accept that his fate is sealed and that no amount of temper tantrums and bad behaviour will reverse history. Even Rupert Murdoch’s news and media outlets and some senior Republicans are suggesting that the President should acknowledge defeat and move out with a measure of dignity.
Amidst the seemingly endless ballot counting, let us celebrate the fact that history is being made. The US has its first woman and person of colour as Vice President in 244 years, and America will re-join the Paris Climate Accord and be in Glasgow in 2021.
No one ever thought Trump would go quietly. Joe Biden’s inauguration as the 46th President will take place in Washington in 70 days. Mr Trump, for you and your country, you should be there!
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