It was almost like a broken record. Until the very end, the incumbent Republican President, Donald J Trump had only one thing to show for: inculcating fear in voters on all the bad and terrible things that are to happen should his opponent Joseph Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris were to win the November 3 election. The selling of America apart, it was in scaring the suburban folks of all the gory that was in store should Democrats seize power. Rally after rally in the last days of the campaign trail especially through the battleground states, Trump had just that message even while pleading with voters to go along with him.
There have been several books and zillions of articles about the Trump Presidency of the last four years; and if there one common denominator in all or most of them it is that the President cared only for one thing dearly: himself. Right through the campaign trail in whatever mess he had dug himself in, he always managed to get out of it, most of the times playing the victim card. Down the years, historians will take the call on how the institution of the Presidency was affected by Trump; but not many would dispute the fact that the self-proclaimed genius had indeed battered several institutions in his tenure that included the intelligence agencies and the Pentagon. Still the professionals would not let their guard down.
One of the things that would stand out in this Presidential election cycle is the clear lack of debate on major issues; and much of this had to do with the fact that the 2020 election was being held in the midst of a pandemic. But if the incumbent President was even in denial of a pandemic, where is the opportunity of a meaningful debate? More than 230,000 Americans have died and some nine million have been infected; the third spike is seriously impacting the whole country with a record of 90,000 cases being detected every day. And here is a President who had not only refused to treat the virus seriously but went on to blame everybody else for the tragedy. The latest scandalous comment was that the high body count on the coronavirus was because of doctors and nurses who stood to gain, a view that professional bodies ripped into. But it is highly unlikely that the President lost any sleep over it.
The frustration with President Trump, particularly in the last few days, is that no matter how he tried, things are not working out. Opinion polls at the national level shows a tightening of the race; but still Biden leads in every one of them including in surveys taken by those friendly to the President and the Republican camp. Right now Biden leads by eight points nationally; down from between nine and 12 points; but the lead has been consistent. In the battleground and competitive states, excepting for Iowa that shows Trump with a lead of seven points, Biden is up anywhere between three and 10 points, especially in the crucial states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Florida. Democrats expect an unlikely upset in Texas, and perhaps in Georgia; and if this happens the former Democratic President can expect a decisive count in the Electoral College vote.
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November 3 is expected to post a record turnout, and the fact that some 90-plus million Americans have opted to vote early or mail their ballots in should speak of the seriousness with which this election is being taken. If in 2016, only some two million youngsters in the age group of 18 to 29 had cast an early vote, this time that figure has apparently surpassed six million. The Democrats are counting on the young and overall early voting statistics plus a perception that a high voter turnout goes against the incumbent. It is too early to call this Presidential election and it could well be a repeat of 2016 where Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million but came away the winner in the electoral college votes which is what that matter. This time, media and political pundits are making the point that Trump must hold on to all of states that he won narrowly the last time if he is going to remain behind the Resolute Desk.
To Trump, former Vice President Biden personifies the Washington politician of 47 years, a person of the “swamp” who has done very little to the people. Biden and his family are supposedly corrupt and are in the payrolls of foreign governments, says Trump who has not provided even an iota of evidence. In spite of all the swipes and cheap shots, Biden still looks at this election as an opportunity for America to redeem the real values and virtues the country is known for. It is not just the way the Trump administration handled the coronavirus; according to Biden it is one of the many in which the Republican President ignored, a list that would include race relations, disparities in income, healthcare, education and the economy in difficult times.
The day of reckoning may have arrived but the larger question is if it is going to pass on a peaceful note. Even before the first ballots had been cast Trump cried of foul play in the mail in votes; and much to his chagrin the United States Supreme Court dealt a blow by saying that all mail in ballots must be counted and accounted for even if it is going to take several days after November 3. The Republicans and their President did not want this to happen as they wanted all votes to be counted on election day itself. One fear is that the announcement of the winner may not be known on the morning of November 4, but may well drag on if it turns out to be a close contest and the haggling over a few thousand votes here and there.
Writing in The New Yorker, Jane Mayer quotes Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen as saying that the President will not concede the election if he loses. “Never, ever, ever… I believe he is going to challenge the validity of the vote in each and every state he loses —claiming ballot fraud, seeking to undermine the process and invalidate it,” Cohen has said. But the bottom line seems to be not just of losing an election; it is in the fear of what follows and the classic example is that of Richard Nixon. While Nixon escaped because of the pardon he received from Gerald Ford, others close to him had to face the music. Or as Mayer points out, ”Twenty-nine individuals closely tied to his (Nixon’s) Administration were subsequently indicted, and several of his top aides and advisers, including his Attorney General, John Mitchell, went to prison”.
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Some make the point that all of Trump’s loud talking about not conceding the election in the event of a loss is nothing but noise minus the signal. The argument is that Trump will leave the scene quietly but at the same time keep his eyes and ears open for any “deals” that would be beneficial to him and his family. At this point of time Americans are anxiously waiting for a peaceful closure to an election that truly turned out to be as loud and obnoxious one could have expected. If it did not happen this way, Trump could not have left his full imprint on American history!
(The writer is a former senior journalist in Washington D.C. covering North America and the United Nations)
(The Federal seeks to present views and opinions from all sides of the spectrum. The information, ideas or opinions in the articles are of the author and do not reflect the views of The Federal)