Authoritarian turn: On Trump’s false statements

Trump seems hopeful of getting the Supreme Court to rule in his favour

November 05, 2020 12:15 am | Updated 11:43 am IST

The mammoth task of vote counting is still under way in the 2020 U.S. presidential election , leaving the final outcome uncertain in the contest between incumbent Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger and former Vice President Joe Biden. There have been no major shocks on the solidly “red” and “blue” States, which have a history of voting for only one party and are nearly impossible to flip. Among the swing States, whose electoral college votes are up for grabs, the performance of the two candidates has been mixed. At the latest count, a Trump victory appears certain in Florida, Ohio and Iowa and he is holding on to a lead, perhaps provisionally, in the critical States of Georgia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, with several mail ballots yet to be tallied. Meanwhile, Mr. Biden has consolidated his position by racing to victory in Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Virginia, while holding on to counting leads in Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin and Michigan — States that should give him a path to 270 electoral votes if he holds on to the leads. But with his leads being narrow, his victory is not certain and Mr. Trump continues to perform well in the Rust Belt States as he did in 2016.

Stepping back from the results, the big win for American democracy as such was that no major outbreak of violence or voter suppression occurred throughout the final phases of polling. Perhaps the absence of civil unrest was a testament to the spirit of a nation seeking to move past hateful ethnic, racial and religious divisions of its recent past. It was ironic, then, that a relatively peaceful election exercise in the world’s oldest democracy was overshadowed by Mr. Trump himself , who took a distinctly authoritarian turn when he claimed falsely that he had already defeated Mr. Biden, particularly that he had won the Rust Belt States, which in reality are still counting millions of votes, likely the surge in mail-in ballots. He went on to complain that the 2020 election was being stolen from him through a major fraud, reiterating his vow to take the matter expediently to the Supreme Court. There are three broad observations regarding this turn of events. First, it is unclear why Mr. Trump would attack the vote tallying process in the swing States, given that he is leading in some of them anyway. Second, his statement is tantamount to a demand that legally cast ballots shall not to be recorded, which, if true, implies an unprecedented attempt at mass voter suppression. Third, Mr. Trump appears intent upon escalating the matter to the Supreme Court, perhaps a strategy based on the idea of getting the conservative majority on that court, including his recent nominee Amy Coney Barrett, to rule in his favour. Such a course of action would set an ominous tone for what could be another four years of the Trump administration.

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