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After the Election – What Now?

After the Election – What Now?

Thursday, 12 November, 2020 - 04:45
Robert Ford
Robert Ford is a former US ambassador to Syria and Algeria and a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute for Near East Policy in Washington

Please remember that legally Biden did not officially win the election yet. On December 14 the Electoral College will formally cast their ballots for him. It appears that Biden will have at least 279 votes in the Electoral College, more than the 270 needed for official election. And Biden might have more than 279 because he possibly won the majority of votes in Georgia which has another 16 electoral votes and which has not yet announced its final election results.

As we expected, President Trump refuses to acknowledge his defeat. His campaign announced on Saturday that they would open lawsuits in five states where they claim there was significant fraud in the election process. Two points are very important. First, the Republicans have not yet shown the judges concrete evidence of fraud in any municipality. Some judges have closed Republican Party lawsuits. Second, and most important, even if the Republican Party wins all its cases, the cases of fraud until now are small and in a few localities only. They might affect a few thousand votes in Pennsylvania and Nevada, but Biden’s vote count lead in Pennsylvania and Nevada is more than 35,000 votes in each state so a few thousand votes in each state won’t change his 279 electoral college votes. Therefore, some Trump campaign officials acknowledge off the record that the lawsuits’ primary goal is to encourage Trump to accept final defeat. The good news here is that because there is no good evidence of election fraud, the rightist militias haven’t mobilized a violent response to Trump’s defeat yet. Washington municipality on Saturday asked shops to take down the sheets of wood covering their windows.

Despite his defeat, Trump and his movement remain on the political stage. No Republican Party leader has urged Trump to give up, and one prominent senator told Fox Network on Sunday that the President should not concede defeat. The Trump campaign may organize new political rallies in contested states, and it is asking its supporters for more money donations for the campaign even though the election is finished! The frustration in the Trump campaign is easy to understand: Trump received 71 million votes, the most any presidential candidate ever received except for Joe Biden who received over 75 million votes. There is no person in the Republican Party with the combination of charisma and determination to match Donald Trump; the President is strong politician. Senator Mitt Romney who was the Republican candidate in 2012 and who acknowledged Biden’s victory, told NBC network on Sunday that Trump is still the “most influential voice in the Republican Party.”

We should expect to see rallies by the Trump campaign in Georgia to help the two Republican candidates for the final Senate elections there on January 5. If one of the two Republican candidates wins, the Republicans will control the Senate and there will be a repeat of the confrontation between Barak Obama and the Senate that blocked every important Obama initiative between 2014 and 2016. Biden, a more experienced and flexible politician than Obama, will try to compromise with the Republican Senate. However, some Republican senators will enter the 2024 presidential election, and they will have no incentive to compromise with Biden and face anger from the Trump faction in the Republican Party. Therefore, it is hard to see how Washington will achieve major health sector reform or big immigration law reform or big reforms to the economy and tax system. (That is why Wall Street is happy with the 2020 election result.)

In addition, if the Republicans win the January 5 Senate elections in Georgia, then a Senate under Republican Party control will limit Biden’s ability to undertake major foreign policy initiatives. It will be hard to finance a big, long-term military operation without Senate approval, for example. And Biden cannot have a major new international treaty that becomes permanent American law without Senate approval. This will influence Biden’s approach to nuclear arms negotiations with Russia and China and to new negotiations about climate change. It would also affect how Biden would look at the Iran nuclear issue. He might prefer to achieve a new nuclear agreement with Iran, but like Obama it will be difficult for Biden to secure Senate approval of a formal treaty that only limits Iran’s nuclear program. It is reasonable to remember that there are examples in the past of a Democratic President convincing a Republican Senate to make big changes in US policy. Harry Truman, like Biden a former Democratic Party senator, convinced the Republicans to approve the Atlantic Alliance in 1949, the first formal American alliance in its history. But the Republican Party, and America, in 2020 are not the same as they were in 1949.

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