U.S. Presidential Election: Democracy Being Tested

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Americans may have cast their ballot in the November 2020 Presidential election, but the for the two contenders for the White House, it may not be over until President-elect Joe R. Biden gets sworn in as the 46th President of the United States of America, come January 20, 2021. Like Nigerian Politicians, President Donald Trump has refused to concede defeat, despite the fact that he lost both in popular and electoral votes; instead, Trump has chosen to grasp at straws, citing electoral malpractice. The questions on the lips of many are: ‘Are Trump’s allegations of multiple electoral fraud against Biden’s Democratic Party true? Why has Trump refused to concede? Why have some world leaders refused to congratulate Biden, despite his clear lead in the election?’ Dr Gbenga Oduntan, Jefferson Uwoghiren, Dr Folus Ejele, Dr Anthony Ediae and Dr Kede Aihie dissect the complex issues in the just concluded Presidential election of the United States of America, in this Discourse

The Bizarre Story of the 2020 U.S. Presidential Contest
Dr Gbenga Oduntan

The story of the 2020 US Presidential election, is actually a very simple one.

Donald John Trump, the incumbent and 45th President of the country faced off with Joseph Robinette Biden Jr., representing the Republican and Democratic parties respectively. Both men are Septuagenarians, and widely known public figures at home and abroad. The facts are that, Mr Biden has been victorious at the election — receiving five million more votes as of Friday’s count, and with a commanding and ever increasing showing at the Electoral College. Mr Biden’s total is now 306 Electoral College votes, with Mr Trump at 232.

Yet, the elections are far from over in a normal sense, and many balls are still up in the air. This is mainly due to spirited protestations and contestations of the sitting President, Donald Trump, who infamously self-declared victory on the night of the election.

Then he began a series of spectacular reshuffling, at the very top echelons of the Pentagon. On November 9, President Trump inserted a new National Counter-Terrorism Centre Director, Chris Miller, as the Acting Secretary of Defence. There were three sudden departures by resignation in the Pentagon, and serious controversy as to why drastic staffing changes are being made in his last few weeks. No one knows for sure, but the reasons adduced have ranged from the sinister talk of a possible coup, to attempts at hitting back at the so called ‘deep state’ probably not as sinister as some fear.

At the heart of the problems with current, US politics are the twin malaise of conspiracy and disinformation. Over the past one year, at least if not from the beginning of the Trump administration, conservative blogosphere particularly has been set ablaze with literally hundreds of conspiracy theories. Video editing was used to make it appear that Biden blatantly admitted to leading “the most extensive and inclusive voter fraud organisation”. That received over 20 million views on Twitter alone.

Alleged Voting Fraud

It has never seemed truer that we all now inhabit a planet that is in a post truth stage of existence. An influential study by the Brennan Centre for Justice, in 2017, established that the rate of voting fraud overall in the US is between 0.00004% and 0.0009%. Yet, the sheer ferocity of claims of ‘voter fraud’ and rigging from the Republican party chiefly trumpeted by President Trump himself, is simply unprecedented, not only in the USA but in that of all modern Western democracies put together. Trump indeed, began these accusations from the election he won in 2016, as he sought to explain how he lost the popular vote with the then widest deficit in history. In a sense, it is not surprising that he would make protestations that are more vociferous in this year’s election where he has lost with an even wider margin than the last time, in addition to losing the Electoral College. His case is certainly not helped by the statements emanating from official coordinating bodies like the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) who have stated “The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history. Right now, across the country, election officials are reviewing and double-checking the entire election process prior to finalising the result.”

Indeed, it will be hard not to be transfixed upon the prospects that the daughter of an Indian mother and Black Jamaican father, may surf on the winds of fate to become the first female President of the United States of America. This can happen if for any reason Biden does not finish his term. Section 1, of the 25th Amendment clarifies unequivocally that the Vice President is the direct successor of the President, and becomes President if the incumbent dies, resigns or is removed from office. While Biden is the oldest to start off the block at 77 years of age, American Presidents over the last century share a remarkable trait of long life in good health. Six Presidents have thrived well into their 90s. The oldest living president is Jimmy Carter, who is 96 years old, and the youngest living President at 59 years is Barack Obama.

Thus, more likely than not, Vice President Harris would have to take advantage of her visibility and popularity to either contest for the top job either at the 2024 or 2028 elections. Her legend is certainly kicking off, and one may just wonder whether she is, the woman prophetically depicted striding confidently towards the table of lounging US Presidents in the intriguing painting by Andy Thomas.

If one does look long, enough at the painting it might just be possible to convince oneself that the striking figure and the dress sense of this prophetic figure is that of Kamala Harris. No mention of this must however be made to Donald Trump, as he seems to reserve the most heartfelt slurs for the incoming Vice President. For foreign connoisseurs of American political life, constitutional law and foreign policy, the evolving future can only be more vibrant and interesting to watch.

The Inauguration

The spectacle of the US electoral democracy, is at its finest on Inauguration Day.

This takes place every four years on January 20 (or January 21 if January 20 falls on a Sunday) at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, DC. This year it falls nicely on a Wednesday, allowing the new President to stride into the huge responsibilities of piloting the affairs of the most militarily powerful nation on earth, with the most complicated international diplomatic and strategic arrangements. The fact that the country is in the middle of perhaps, its worst pandemic experience and had its finances already crumbled largely due to damage from the Covid-19 Pandemic, only serves to spice things up for the oldest person to assume the Presidency. What is the Presidential Oath of Office? A highly intelligent Vice President who is the first female to occupy that exalted office, will of course assist him during his tenure. It will of course, be interesting to watch the dynamics of the first mixed Presidency in US history.

The Vice President-elect is first to be sworn in around noon, the President-elect would recite his oath in accordance with Article II, Section I of the U.S. Constitution:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Dr. Gbenga Oduntan, Reader (Associate Professor), International Commercial Law, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK
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