Since November 3, the two contenders in the American election and the media have been on high alert. The refusal by Donald Trump to concede defeat in the U.S. presidential election has prompted paroxysms of rage in the media, and the implication by some that Trump is planning an unconstitutional coup to remain in power.
In fact, the presidential election process under the United States Constitution is a three-stage process: first the election on a state-by-state basis was held on November 3; second the Electoral College of each state will meet on December 14 to declare and certify the election results of each state.
Third, following that, on January 6, 2021, a Joint Session of the U.S. Congress is held to tally the votes, determine the outcome of disputed votes, and then declare the successful President and Vice-President. The Democrats will have the numbers at a Joint Session, despite losing seats in the House of Representatives in the recent election.
As can be seen from this, only the first stage of this process – the actual voting – has been completed, and when the outcome of the popular vote is clear, the process set down in the U.S. Constitution means that the Electoral College will meet in mid-December, and the formal appointment of the new President will be determined by a Joint Session of the U.S. Congress on January 6, 2021.
Two weeks later, on January 20, 2021, the new President will be inaugurated.
This is quite different from the process in Australia, which has an independent body to conduct federal elections, the Commonwealth Electoral Commission, where the outcome of an election is usually known within days of a general election, and the incoming government takes office immediately.
At the time of writing, the counting of postal votes in the United States was continuing, and still-President Donald Trump’s legal team was challenging the results in a number of states, including Michigan and Pennsylvania. Also at that time, Joe Biden led Trump in Michigan by more than 148,000 votes and in Pennsylvania by more than 46,000 votes.
Legal challenges have also been mounted in Nevada, Georgia and Arizona, alleging in some cases that people who were ineligible had voted.
The problem for Trump is that a successful challenge needs to prove not only that irregularities occurred but that they affected a sufficient number of votes to change the result.
At the time of writing, although the courts had decided some legal points in favour of the President, in no state had the result been overturned. To win the election, Donald Trump will have to overturn the count in several states.
If elected, Joe Biden has promised on his first day in office to reverse a number of Donald Trump’s key decisions, including his withdrawal from the World Health Organisation and the Paris Climate Change Agreement. However, the great challenge he will face is the spread of covid19, which has hit an infection rate of 120,000 a day in the United States, and is overwhelming hospital services in a number of states.
By inauguration day, the number is likely to be 200,000 a day.
Arguably, Trump’s failure to take the pandemic seriously with mixed messaging, a refusal to follow the advice of the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr Anthony Fauci, in relation to social distancing, mask wearing and contact tracing, will be seen as the single most important cause of his probable defeat.
To give due credit, Trump recognised early that the only long-term solution was the discovery of vaccines to counter the pandemic, and committed billions of dollars to assist drug companies to develop them. But he made unrealistic promises that a vaccine would be available by election day and, when this did not happen, he was punished by voters.
One of the ironies of this is that Joe Biden may be the beneficiary of Trump’s vaccine initiative.
In the meantime, however, Biden has put forward nothing different from what has been tried and failed in Europe to rein in the pandemic.
With winter coming on, many countries in Western Europe, facing surging numbers of covid19 hospital admissions, are reintroducing lockdowns to curb the spread of the virus.
Early in November, French President Emmanuel Macron introduced a second lockdown; Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced a four-week stay-at-home order; Italy reported 28,000 new cases in a single day; and Angela Merkel introduced a partial lockdown to deal with Germany’s surge in cases.
Belgium, whose hospitals are overwhelmed, has had to send patients across into Germany for treatment.
With lockdown fatigue across the Continent and winter still to come, 2021 is not looking good in either Europe or the United States.
Patrick J. Byrne is national president of the National Civic Council.
Peter Westmore is immediate past national president of the NCC.
Trump vs. Biden: What is at stake in the U.S. Presidential Election? by Patrick Byrne.
Trump’s Covid19 diagnosis changes campaign dynamics by Peter Westmore.
Trump impeachment will end with a whimper by Peter Westmore.