OPD Nov 4 2020
Edited by Patricia Simoni, proofing in progress
The scenario that many have been dreading is unfolding before our very eyes: The United States is on the brink of fracturing, and American democracy is in danger. By proclaiming well before all the votes had been counted that he had won, that the Democrats were going to “steal the election” and that he would not hesitate to go to the Supreme Court (which he himself just reorganized) to prove it, Donald Trump is behaving like the president of an authoritarian regime, no better than Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus or Alassane Ouattara in the Ivory Coast. Scorning all the rules and, worse yet, kindling the elation of his supporters at the risk of provoking violent reactions, this irresponsible behavior is not worthy of his office.
It’s true that the American voting system, with its Electoral College, is already a complicated process. We saw it in 2000 and 2016 when Democrats Al Gore and Hillary Clinton were declared losers despite having received the majority of the popular vote. But at least they acknowledged defeat in the end. On Wednesday evening Joe Biden seemed to be inching toward victory. Donald Trump had not yet lost but already showed himself ready to attempt a power play, the vote count being very close.
One of the lessons of this election is that the office of the president is more resilient than anticipated. One would have thought that the ravages of the pandemic, which he has consistently denied from the start, thus boosting the sudden rise in cases, would alienate some of his voters, especially those who are older. It did not happen, or at least happened, but only at the margins. There again, as in a number of authoritarian regimes, Trump is the object of a true cult of personality, provoking irrational and blind reactions.
What will follow is worrying but it will have the merit of showing if the democratic system is resilient or not. If Trump wins in the end, there will still be doubts about the legitimacy of this election. If Biden wins, Trump will pull out all the stops to hold onto power. Will the Republicans, who seem to have lost all their morals and ethics in the last few years, let this man discredit not only the party but the system that supports them? And the institutions? It is a sad spectacle and a lesson for Europe: Democracy is a precious and fragile thing.
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