True to his word, President Donald Trump has nominated Judge Amy Coney Barret to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Upon confirmation of the Senate, Judge Barret will be filling the vacancy caused by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Trump made it clear right away that he was not going to honour the wish of the departed Justice Ginsburg—that her place in the apex court should be filled by the next President after the November 3 elections. Judge Barret’s credentials are impressive indeed and few would quibble with that. Seen as the “female” Antonin Scalia, a former Justice of the apex court who had impeccable conservative philosophy, Judge Barret clerked for Justice Scalia.
In rushing through with the nomination process and in wanting the vacancy filled prior to the January 20 swearing-in of the new President, Trump has made it very clear that he is banking on the 6-3 Conservative break-up of the Supreme Court should the electoral process wind its way up the court’s ladder. In the mindset of Donald Trump, nearly everything to do with the Presidential election has to be either bogus or stacked against him. And the latest by way of setting the stage for the debates starting September 29 in Cleveland, Ohio, is that the host Chris Wallace of Fox News will not be asking the former Vice President and Democratic contender tough questions. And the reasoning according to the self-proclaimed genius is that Wallace “will be controlled by the radical left”, meaning, of course, Biden and Company. In saying something so ludicrous as this Trump is cleverly positioning himself as the underdog going in to a series of three debates after which he can freely toss around meaningless accusations of unfair and difficult questions posed to him.
What else to expect of a man who sees the entire Presidential election process flawed except for the expected announcement that he is the winner? Mail-in voting is a fraud; Democrats are lining up bogus voters; Democrats are planning to prevent Trump supporters from entering polling stations; the entire machinery rigged and what not! But if on the night of November 3, it so happens that Donald Trump comes out victorious, then the entire process had been made flawless because of the efforts of one person: Donald Trump. But by now even his political supporters are getting used to his rants; and his stooges on Capitol Hill are getting more careful with how they respond to what is generally seen as obnoxious or patently silly. Several studies have shown that there have been no major voter frauds in American elections but Trump refuses to buy that line. “You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots. And the ballots are a disaster,” the President recently said at a news conference.
But cutting across the political spectrum well-meaning people including politicians from both sides of the fence are genuinely worried about what is in store for the country should Trump reject the transition should he lose on election day. Till date, the incumbent has refused to say if he will leave the White House in the event of a defeat and his rationale is very simple: the voting process is a fraud and therefore I will be tying it down all the way to the United States Supreme Court; which is why the President and his cronies are rushing to fill in the vacancy caused by the demise of Associate Justice Ginsburg. Nothing is to be left to chance; the 5 to 4 majority in the apex court now has to be moved up to 6 to 3 in favour of the conservatives. That way Trump stays behind the Resolute Desk.
At some point of time, Trump must have wondered why it was that the Founding Fathers of America came up with a Constitution that specified almost anything and everything. If the United States had wandered down the path of a banana republic or a tinpot dictatorship Trump could have easily manoeuvred to hang on permanently as the world is witness to in some areas. Unfortunately, as the system has evolved for a very long time, the transition takes place in America on January 20, 2021, at noon. And the most peaceful of the options that some are seeing is a disgruntled man skipping the swearing-in ceremonies of a new President. Some others see an angry man refusing to leave the White House and, worse, inciting his supporters to violence on the streets of America. That is the most menacing and disturbing aspect that is troubling America. Or as Senator Bernie Sanders recently put it, this election is not between Trump and Biden but between Trump and Democracy.
“The winner of the 3 November election will be inaugurated on 20 January. There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792,” said the Republican Senate Majority leader, Mitch McConnel, a staunch Trump ally from Kentucky. And the House Chairperson of the Republican Conference Liz Cheney said something on similar lines. “The peaceful transition of power is enshrined in our constitution and fundamental to the survival of our Republic. America’s leaders swear an oath to the constitution. We will uphold that oath,” Cheney said in a tweet. But the real anxiety is on hardline Republican law makers who are taking the position that Trump is being forced to concede the election right now by saying that he will abide by the results.
If there is a lot of hand wringing going on what is in store for the country on the night of the election, a lot of it has to do on what is taking place in the ground in the last few days, especially on two fronts. First, nationally, not a single poll is showing Trump in the lead over the challenger; Biden leads in every one of them between five to eight points; and in the battleground states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, it is the former Vice President again leading; Florida is seen as too close to call; and the Democrats are giving it one best shot at states like North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Arizona and Iowa; surveys are suggesting that Democrats might just pull it off.
Second, in the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Democrats appear to have been energized by the undue haste Trump has shown in filling that vacancy. That has not only fired up the traditional bases but has also resulted in an extraordinary amount of cash flow into the Biden-Harris campaign. This infusion of cash for the Democrats is coming at a time when the Trump campaign is seen as having blown away close to US$ One billion; and is suddenly looking weak on the financial front. Coronavirus, health care, economy, education and immigration were enough ingredients on an election plate; and Trump had to make things worse for himself by pushing for a conservative on the Supreme Court even before the funeral of the departed soul.
(The writer was a former senior journalist in Washington D.C. covering North America and the United Nations)