Close the door on your way out, Mr Trump

Close the door on your way out, Mr Trump
Comment: Trump's electoral defeat is just a single blow against the authoritarianism that he represents. Biden's work to defend democracy begins now, writes Sam Hamad.
6 min read
10 Nov, 2020
President Trump is still refusing to concede to Joe Biden [Getty]
It was Thomas Jefferson who said that the best way to defend democracy is to participate in it, and that is exactly what the American people have done in record-breaking numbers in this US presidential election.

Joe Biden received an astonishing 76 million votes in what is a clear victory for the former vice president over the incumbent president Donald Trump. 

But while Biden has won the election, Trumpism has not been fully repudiated. There was no "blue wave" to sweep away America's grubby dalliance with the authoritarian Trump. For he too, set a record, with his 71 million votes - the highest ever for a sitting president.

Trump was never going to concede, that much he made clear. It's not hard to image what was racing through his fevered mind when his loss materialised - the gleeful triumph of his enemies, from the "fake news media", or the saboteurs of the entirely phantasmic "deep state", to the central hate figures of Trumpian ideology, namely Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden himself.

His campaign has said "concession" is not in their vocabulary. Nor indeed, is it in the vocabulary of any movement inclined towards tyranny. So it's of very little surprise that Trump is blindly claiming that Biden did not win at all, but rather that in key swing states, the vote was rigged in Biden's favour. 

It's no strange thing historically for tyrants to attempt to weaken, overthrow or dismantle democracy in the name of its salvation

Today, in a deeply disturbing development, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not only endorsed Trump's vote fraud lie, but demonstrated his faith in its ability to keep Biden from becoming president. When asked if his department would co-operate with the Biden transition, a smirking Pompeo said "there will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration".

These vote rigging claims are absurd and do not require debunking here. And Pompeo's boastful declaration of intent to steal the election comes after the US attorney general Bill Barr, a Trump loyalist, took the dangerously unprecedented step of ordering a federal investigation into this alleged "voter fraud". Surely, Trump must understand his litigation will ultimately be unsuccessful in keeping him in the White House. The consensus seems to be that should the litigation go the full course, it would not be upheld by even the Republican-leaning Supreme Court.

But perhaps that isn't the point at this stage?

Trump's allegations of fraud are not simply a product of the wounded ego of a desperate figure, but rather a calculated attempt to undermine both the legitimacy of Biden and American democracy itself. 

It's no strange thing historically for tyrants to attempt to weaken, overthrow or dismantle democracy in the name of its salvation. In Egypt, the large coalition of coupists that initially backed Abdel Fattah el-Sisi claimed his overthrow of the democratically-elected government of President Mohamed Morsi was actually a move to preserve democracy against what they claimed was shadowy, foreign theocratic threats to Egypt.

Read more: Trump's biggest donors will continue to shape hawkish Republican foreign policy

Similarly, even Hitler's notorious Enabling Act - legislation that created the totalitarian Third Reich - was couched in terms of "protecting German liberty" from manufactured threats. 

Trump, since his arrival on to the US political scene, has always been an insurgent figure, whether it was as a de facto leader of the racist "Birther" movement against Obama, or his general propensity to cast himself as the "non-politician" taking on the establishment.

At every step of his career as a politician, his efforts have been focused on defying the alleged siege against him and his noble "Make America Great Again" agenda, by anti-American dark forces - the non-existent "deep state" that initiated unsuccessful impeachment against him and is now, he claims, attempting to steal the election from him. 

So it makes sense for Trump to use this mythology of a rigged election to serve as a rallying point for his base, who we know tend to believe even more radical and sinister conspiracy theories than Trump himself, such as the fascist QAnon movement which Trump has tacitly endorsed. Trump doesn't have to present a "coherent" conspiracy as to who has rigged the election - his base can fill in the blanks according to their many prejudices.

While it's true Biden got a sizeable mandate to govern from the US electorate, it's also true, to quote Michelle Obama, that tens of millions voted for the Trumpian "status quo" of "lies, hate, chaos and division". 

It's no surprise that accompanying his litigation, Trump is planning a "messaging blitz" to support the vote rigging myth, including campaign-style rallies to amplify his mass disinformation. 

Trump now has the remainder of his term to use the highest office in the US to weaken US democracy by eroding faith in it

Though not every Republican will endorse this mythology, the leadership of the Republican Party, including Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, is already endorsing Trump's fraud claims. Given Republicans will likely control the Senate, this could lead to a major impediment to Biden and Harris' ability to govern and affect change.

On a practical level, this could hamper everything from Biden's cabinet selection to increased federal spending on healthcare, welfare and financial bailouts to combat the necessary measures Biden plans to take in order to mitigate the US' out of control Covid-19 epidemic. 

In his victory speech, Biden spoke of being a president who will "heal" America, but, in politics, healing is a two-way street. The Republican Party continues to be endemically Trumpified and it will thus seek to make America's many wounds deeper and perhaps, in terms of democracy and governance.

Trump now has the remainder of his term to use the highest office in the US to weaken US democracy by eroding faith in it. And along with Pompeo he's doing just that. 

Biden's victory against Trump perhaps represented a significant blow against Trump's easy road to authoritarianism, but it is just one single blow in what many fear will be a long war against that Trump represents. 

US politics is a microcosm for much of the world, where often imperfect centrist democrats face off against illiberal authoritarians for the "soul" of their respective nations.

But this ought to be where Biden finds his strength, for the fact that Biden and his Democratic colleagues managed to bring out a diverse progressive alliance against Trumpism is certainly significant. 

People of colour, particularly Black Americans, voted in huge numbers for a president, and of course the first ever Black and Asian vice-president, who are willing to address the deadly, endemic forces of white supremacy in America that tragically killed George Floyd, and many others.

Almost 70 percent of Muslims have voted against the president who instituted the Muslim ban and has weaponised Islamophobia and racism like no other, with Muslim and Arab American voters flipping the key swing state of Michigan for Biden.

Millions of young people came out to support a president who embraces the reality of the existential threat of climate change and who relies on science over pseudoscience against Covid-19/

Millions of women came out to support a president, and the first ever female vice-president, who will oppose the misogynistic agenda of Trump and stand up for women's reproductive rights against Trump's assault.

In general, millions simply came out to support US democracy and liberty against the clear threat posed to both by Trump.

It's this huge base of organic progress that gave Biden his mandate, and it's this base that must define his politics going forward.

Sam Hamad is an independent Scottish-Egyptian activist and writer.

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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.