Three weeks after Election Day and over half a month since Joe Biden was widely recognized – within the US, as well as worldwide - as the winner of the 2020 US Presidential Elections – President Trump refuses to concede his defeat, based largely on unsubstantiated allegations of massive voter fraud. His misguided confidence is boosted by the quasi-legal chicanery attempted by his legal team at various level and across numerous pivotal states, as well as on vociferous groups of supporters, from violent street protesters to members of the Republican establishment – in Congress as well as at the state level. At this point in time Trump’s obstruction of America’s democratic process has become tantamount to a scorched earth post-campaign rearguard battle waged out of spite and with the only goal of hurting Biden’s chances to begin his presidency with an intact government machinery, and with an international posture that would allow it to handle the multiple looming crises and security challenges that 2021 is sure to bring upon us both within the US and globally.
The workings of the US government apparatus have already been seriously disrupted after four years of Trump’s abrupt firing and denigrating of anyone competent especially in the foreign and policy and security spheres, by his partisan appointments of loyalists and sycophants, and by his chaotic decision-making style that disregards all tradition and expertise. This line of irresponsible actions has now intensified with a frantic pace, with a number of executive decisions that have no rationale than Trump’s simply “throwing wrenches” into the delicate US government machinery in order to completely block it. His desperate hope is to be able to hamper the incoming administration in its first most critical 100 days, and then blame all subsequent trouble on it, likely with the goal of returning, Putin-style, for another term or two in 2025. Trump’s last chance is to try to stop the vote from being rubber-stamped by the state elections commissions before the 15thDecember deadline when the Electoral College will gather to cast their vote on the winner of the presidential race. Trump’s list of his legal options, however, is growing thin, as more and more judges step in and oppose his domestic lawfare attempts. Another sign of his eroding support is the fact many Republican law-makers in Congress are losing patience with his zero-sum game actions that threaten to throw the US political system into chaos.
Needless to say, the greatest winners of this potential domestic chaos at home and inevitable turbulence abroad will be America’s Great and regional power rivals, such as Russia, China, Iran as well as radical groups across the entire spectrum. The potential failure of America’s democratic process at its core – the peaceful transition of power – that has exemplified it for almost a quarter of a millennium already – will translate into a moral, but also tangible victory for the autocracies and illiberal democracies around the globe. Some astute observers of international politics, such as Anne Applebaum, have already expressed their concerns that “the world is never going back to normal” after four years of Trump, and that Biden might not be able to “restore the pre-Trump status quo”. Others discussing domestic US developments surmise that even with Trump gone, Trumpism will stay to haunt America and poison its political system for years to come. This is, of course, the worst, catastrophic scenario, desired by Trump and the world’s autocrats that he so openly admires and embraces. Thankfully, this global meltdown it is not upon us yet and it can still be undone. The American democratic system has been designed and built intentionally to be resilient and sturdy, but also flexible and adaptable, and it has proven its vitality over the two-and-a quarter centuries of its existence.
In the foreign policy realm, the most recent news of Biden’s appointment of Antony Blinken as his future Secretary of State is a positive sign that signals that the new administration’s is eager to return to a foreign policy based on respecting US traditional alliances after four years of Trump’s absurd attempts at an isolationist retrenchment dubbed “America First”.
Maybe the biggest lesson of the ongoing political crisis in America is that democracy should never be taken for granted even in a republic as old and successful as the United States. The US body politic as a whole, the US voters and establishment figures, including in the Republican Party itself, must reject Trumpism, its reactionary tenets and its disruptive practices, in order to begin healing the damage. These efforts can be boosted by Joe Biden’s promising bipartisan approach of reaching across the political aisles to include all American patriots on the Left and Right - those who are dedicated to preserving the US democratic system, and with it – global stability and prosperity – for the coming decade and beyond.
Mark Voyger, Senior Fellow, Transatlantic Security Program, Center for European Policy Analysis