The State of The Union- Widening political division prompts record-breaking election
From the moment Donald J. Trump was pronounced the 45th president of the United States, liberals across the country have rallied around a single call to action: vote him out. During this same time, conservatives across the nation have rejoiced at the prospect of a booming economy and an America-first policy agenda. These diametrically opposed perceptions of the Trump administration and the resentment they created had largely become accepted as unchangeable, and had therefore faded to the background of the national dialogue.
That is, until 2020. As the general election kicked into gear, the COVID-19 pandemic created an insurmountable health crisis for the Trump administration. Three years of nearly continuous GDP and jobs growth crumbled in the wake of lockdowns, layoffs, and bankruptcies. Despite his repeated insistence that the virus is under control, the president’s superspreader rallies created distinct case surges that the Biden campaign capitalized on to champion their science-based approach to the virus.
Regardless, both Trump and Biden face criticism towards their approaches. Where some see a national mask mandate as an overreach of federal power, others see it as necessary to ease pressure on hospital systems that have continued to struggle with a severe shortage of ICU beds; where some see lockdowns as a threat to the economic vitality of American small businesses across the country, others tout it as the only foolproof control on the virus.
The election was further shrouded in controversy surrounding the future of the Supreme Court. Following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, many voters were enraged at the hypocrisy of the Republican-led Senate, who refused to confirm Barack Obama’s appointee Merrick Garland on the grounds that it was too close to the election and have yet to pass a stimulus package. Under the leadership of Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), President Trump’s third appointee, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, was confirmed in near perfect accordance with party lines. The finalization of Barrett’s seat in the nation’s highest court marks the third-fastest confirmation in Supreme Court history.
The 2020 presidential race will likely join the ranks of America’s most notable elections. Concerns over the pandemic spurred an expansion of voting by mail, and in the months leading up to November 3 and the contentious days after, Americans held their breaths as the vote counts slowly rose. All eyes were glued to patchwork maps of the country that were broadcast on news channels everywhere. When the president-elect Joe Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris were declared the presumptive winners, history was made not once, but twice. Although the final votes are yet to be tallied, their ticket will be the most voted for in American history, while Harris is set to become the first woman, as well as the first person of color, to occupy the office of the vice president. Not to be overlooked, Donald Trump also overtook Barack Obama’s vote counts, becoming the second most voted for candidate.
Despite initial celebrations by the Biden team, an element of suspense remains until electors in the Electoral College casts their final votes on December 14, 2020. Given the relatively high number of faithless electors, or electors who vote differently than the results of the popular vote in their state, in 2016, nothing is certain. In the meantime, the Trump campaign has pushed forward numerous lawsuits. The effort to recount votes in Georgia was successful, though judges in other states, such as Michigan, have blocked the president’s requests.
A growing number of Republican officials, including Governor Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) have denounced the president’s refusal to concede. While Trump is not legally required to concede, it is a tradition that has historically signaled the close to the election season. Without Trump’s approval to share classified information with the transition team, Biden plowed ahead, assembling coronavirus and national security task forces to advise the president-elect and vice-president-elect.
Though the string of lawsuits and unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud issued by the Trump campaign have cast doubt on the results of the election, it is important to note that Trump remains within his legal rights. Had the president remained clear in his message, his legal efforts may have been interpreted as an attempt to ensure a free and fair election. However, his calls to stop the vote count in states such as Pennsylvania, where he had been leading on election night, and continue the vote count in Arizona, where he was closing the gap, paint a different picture.
Experts recognize that wide scale voter fraud is nearly impossible, due to Article I, Section IV of the Constitution, which grants electoral authority to individual state legislatures. As a result, voting systems in each of the 50 states vary considerably. The Brooking
Institution, a prominent non-partisan think tank, analyzed sample data from various sources and has falsified President Trump’s claims that mail-in ballots have higher rates of fraud. While the Institute does have a tendency to lean slightly left of center, it is critical to keep in mind that many of the states where Trump has claimed fraud have Republican-run elections, and that these officials have denounced such ideas of fraud.
Two weeks after election day, Trump took to Twitter to fire Christopher Krebs of the Department of Homeland Security. His termination comes shortly after the security official published a report stating that claims of cyber security breaches were not supported by evidence. Even if judges across the country were to rule in Trump’s favor, the results of the popular vote are statistically unlikely to change, leaving his primary viable avenue to a second term through the Electoral College.
As the United States grapples with the results of a nail-biting election, statistics continue to change as mail-in ballots trickle in, litigation efforts persist, and votes are meticulously recounted by hand. Until then, public faith in our democracy hangs in the balance.
| Sejal Goud