THE curtain came down on the United States elections but not before leaving a huge cloud of confusion hanging in the political space. This has left many people wondering if one of the world’s oldest democracies is under threat.
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If Donald Trump, the current president, pushes on with the court challenges on alleged electoral fraud or refuses to leave office, American democracy will be facing one of its daunting moments in recent history.
For the first time in many years, the US experienced a long, contentious and unpleasant election. It pitted two septuagenarians, a regression from the standard set during the Barrack Obama era. The election numbers so far show that Trump, who is 74 years old, has been rejected by the majority and is expected to step down by 20 January next year. He will pave way for Joe Biden who is four years older. Assuming Trump had won the election, it means he would be 79 years by the time he leaves office in January 2025.
If the rumour that Trump may consider running again in 2024, that is if the electoral court challenge fails to materialise in his favour, it means he will be campaigning at 79 with the hope that, if he wins, he would be 83 years by the time he completes that term. That will be over-stretching it by American standards.
On the other hand, on 20 January 2021, the United States will witness the swearing in of Biden who at the age of 78 will become its oldest president in history. By the end of his first term, Biden will be 82 years and a second term will take him to 86 years casting doubt if he will contemplate a second term at that advanced age. This means that Trump and Biden will likely join a long list of former US presidents who served for just one-four year term.
How did America get to this? There are several assumptions but at the centre of them all is racism and misogyny which have triggered growing fears of losing power and control among white supremacist groups. Trump’s tenure in the past four year was marked by a reversal of egalitarianism and strengthening of protectionism. These are the ideas that now underlie the Republican party thinking.
Former President Obama is his new book, The Promised Land, addresses these issues by noting that his historic election in 2008 typified these fears unleashing waves of acrimonious and racially polarising chaos that placed Trump at the helm of the Republican party. Obama noted that: “It was as if my very presence in the White House had triggered a deep-seated panic, a sense that the natural order had been disrupted.”
So, Trump was deployed to address these, mainly to return power to the waning white supremacists. The power and control extends beyond the US borders and includes all its global economic tentacles. In their view, there is a lot to lose if power is allowed to shift to other genders or races. This also explains how Hilary Clinton lost to Trump in 2016 even though she won the majority vote. The white supremacists could not accept a female leader soon after a black president. This is, perhaps, where some of the voices of the 72 million people who voted for Trump are grounded.
But the victory of Biden and Kamala Harris in the 2020 elections is yet another unexpected blow and one that is hard to swallow, hence the arrogance from the Trump and the Republican camp. It is clear that the American political agenda, mainly among the Republicans is now largely driven by a subtle disapproval of race and gender equality and an intention to reverse the gains made on these issues.
The immediate challenge confronting America right now stems from this, mainly that Trump may refuse to leave office on Biden’s inauguration day knowing very well that he has some among the 72 million voters behind him. Some have argued that there are still several steps before the swearing-in ceremony, one of which is the announcement of the final presidential election results in January and that time can be used to negotiate his exist in the interest of serving American democracy. If he refuses to leave office, it is possible that the Secret Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigations who control the White House, will be deployed to handle the matter. However, when it gets to that stage, it means the US will be in a state of crisis.
While Trump’s controversial refusal to concede is of no legal significance other than moralism, his supporters may decide to take to the streets, take matters in their hands and cause mayhem. He is legally not required to make concession though doing so will enable a peaceful transition and allow the voters to heal and move on.
Currently, some of his supporters remain in the trenches cheering him up as he continues to argue that the election was stolen. The danger is that some of his supporters are extremists, Trump is the face of their struggle to retain power and currently their only hope and they are ready to defend him whether he is right or wrong.