Sunday, 29 November, 2020
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OPINION

US Presidential Election And Outcome



Anand Aditya

Even as the election for the US President draws to its close, declaring the winner of the White House in Washington, D.C., individually the 40th President to occupy the seat, the polls open a whole flurry of queries and suspense: Will Joe Biden and his running co-winner Kamala Harris be able to keep the deeply divided electorate united? Are the wounds going to be healed? Will the United States stand more united on issues at stake and agenda that kept it divided during President Trump's tenure? Will the House acquire a different shape this time? Can the new leadership restore the grip it had been losing on global politics?
And how does it impact the Indo-Pacific region, China and North Korea, Central Asia, the Middle East, and Europe among the issues that are likely to grow hotter, not cool down, in the post-Trump era? Also, given his stubborn refusal to concede a peaceful withdrawal, and given the division, distrust, and disappointment that prevail and pervade, is Donald Trump likely to stage a comeback?
Given also that Trump's past victory was more than just a fluke reflected in over 70 million plus votes as also the majority in almost half of the total states of the country captured by him, can such a possibility be ruled out altogether?

Electoral paradox
The first republic and the world political map, if the second largest democracy of the day (after India), retains features unique to its body politic that lend it the flavour that is distinctly American. The counting of the votes there is still on, but the winner is already known. Winning the popular vote does not ensure victory here; it only may help the candidate in winning.
The clue to victory lies in the Electoral College which Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., regards as a vermiform appendix that distorts the popular vote, claiming that many Americans don't understand and support it. Many others including quite a few agencies and institutions of repute, too are not for it, and believe it to be useless, unpredictable, and a possible centre of inflammation.
Yet, if it survives and remains the decisive factor in electing the President as well as the Vice-President, one should not forget that political parties were not part of the original plan created by the Founding Fathers and the Electoral College adds the delegatory dimension to the electoral mechanism in choosing the most powerful figure in a republican democracy. This may be helping to retain a certain balance to secure people's genuine mandate by combining the majority in the popular vote obtained earlier with the votes of the delegates elected to the Electoral College as a cautious compromise between the choice of the public at large and the selection done by the political elite.
In all likelihood, this may be one smart mechanism to separate the truly popular vote from the 'populist' vote that often wreaks havoc in a nascent republic particularly in the third world where the exercise of mass voting has ended up catapulting, demagogues, even dictators in power. Can one forget that in the 2016 polls, despite the millions of popular votes that Hillary Clinton was able to put Trump on the president's throne?
For many observers of the scene, E-day in the USA came as a surprise few were prepared for. Proving deeper, however, it turns out to be a case apart, a sui generis of sorts. Embarrassing mode of the debate launched by the two candidates, the high voter turnout in the midst of COVID-19 crisis, the refusal of the loser to concede a peaceful defeat combined with his threats on litigation sans a shred of culpable evidence, have made this election distinctly different from all the preceding events.
The series of claims trumped up by President Trump, the oldest president elected to the White House, the rule the early and mail both played this time, the expenditure the polls have cost (the highest in history) the enormous bets put on the game, and the doubt and distrust a sitting president has sown over the American democracy and electrical system, are equally dismaying.
The deep division of the electorate - substantiated by both the Pew Research Centre and Gallup Poll, guns torus running out of ammunition have also made the election distinct and different in an unprecedented way. Add to that the election of the female vice president with the background of both black and South Asian blood and it turns out to be really colourful.

Puzzling part
But the most puzzling part of the whole exercise was what few have bothered to explain and what Allan Lichtman prophesied - the possibility of impeachment of a president who appeared to behave more like Don Tramp rather than Donald Trump if one is to take seriously the charges that the professor enumerates in his well-illustrated volume: he never spared a chance to tromp on everyone he disliked yet escaped the noose.
Trump the maverick, thus will remain a genuine conundrum in the history of American presidency and if there is a Trump syndrome at work in American body politique, that offers enough food for thought for future researchers to explain.

(Aditya is a scholar.)

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