It is now two weeks since the “first Tuesday after the first Monday of November”, and America is still grappling with the results of the election.
It’s surprising to witness the “confusion”. After all… if America, as the patron of democracy can’t keep its own house in order, what message does that send to the rest of the world?
In my previous entry, I discussed a possible outcome of the November 3rd election, postulating that President Trump’s victory could be dependent on whether he kept the Democrat-leaning states he flipped in 2016.
I was partially correct.
At the time of writing, the preliminary results are that those states were won by his opponent. But Trump’s apparent defeat is further compounded by the loss of a few Republican-leaning states as well; ironically, it mirrors the results of the 2016 election.
However, because of the uniqueness of America’s electoral process, the results can be misleading. As we saw in 2016 and 2000, a presidential candidate can lose the popular vote but still win an election. Likewise, because of the winner take all system, the winner in a state takes all its electoral votes, even if it’s by a slim margin.
It’s a hotly debated topic for American voters. Critics of the Electoral College believe it should be abolished and the winner be chosen by the popular vote as it reflects the will of the majority. Its proponents, on the other hand, argue that it prevents candidates from focusing only on the states with the highest populations while ignoring the rest of the country. Although it does create a sense of balance, it can also result in a tyranny of the minority, as the culmination of electoral votes from these more-numerous, less-populated states gives those voters, and by extension the candidate of their choice, an unfair advantage.
For all its pros and cons, the Electoral College works the way it was intended to. And despite the accusations of fraud in this election, both the voting process and the counting of the votes have been properly and legally executed. If there’s any failure here, it lies with President Trump, as he is (once again) wilfully defying a tradition of America’s democracy, which is the magnanimity of its candidates in accepting defeat.
For months he’s repudiated the use of mail-in ballots, pushing the unfounded conspiracy theory that his opponent and agents of the “deep state” would use them to steal the election. He even went so far as to insist that only ballots received by or cast on Election Day should be accepted and promised to challenge the legality of counting the late arrivals. For the record – there has been no credible evidence of any electoral malfeasance. Furthermore, the prolonged count and the sudden surge in votes are both easily explained.
Firstly, this election had a record-breaking voter turnout – more votes meant more time was needed to count them. Secondly, this isn’t just one large election, but 50 small ones. Each state has its own rules and laws that determine how the election is conducted, including the cut-off dates for the receiving of mail-in ballots. Thirdly, each candidate advocated a different method for voting: President Trump urged his supporters to vote on the day of the election, while his opponent, as a precaution during the pandemic, emphasised mail-in and early voting. This last point is especially relevant because, in most states, the votes cast on Election Day are counted FIRST… then the rest. This explains why the initial results favoured Trump, and why that lead then gradually diminished.
Nothing about this election is out of the ordinary, but the President has made it appear that way. Then again, we shouldn’t be surprised. Donald Trump has a well-established habit of making claims without providing any proof. And his presidency has been replete with lies and exaggerations. If any voting irregularities are discovered then they will be investigated by the relevant authorities and adjudicated by the courts. But what he’s doing in the meantime is grossly irresponsible, if not dangerous. He’s not only inciting his supporters but he’s fermenting distrust in the country’s democratic process. And that’s damage that can’t be easily undone.
One of the hallmark of a properly functioning democracy is the peaceful transition of power following an election. It’s one of the reasons why America stands as an example for the rest of the world, developing countries especially. That’s also why what’s happening now is so disturbing. But it isn’t a failure of its democratic process, but of one man. President Trump’s actions thus far shows that he lacks the patriotic altruism to put the country before his own ambitions. To him, not being seen as a loser is more important than American democracy being hailed as the winner.