The election of the President every four years has a monumental history since 1789 when George Washington was elected. When people go to the polls, as we did on November 3, it appears that the President is elected by direct popular vote but that is not true. The United States uses the Electoral College (EC) system, first used in 1789, as established by the U.S. Constitution. The EC gives all American citizens, over the age of 18, the right to vote for electors, who in turn vote to elect the President and Vice President. Indian readers must note that there is neither EC in India nor we elect the Prime Minister through a nationwide popular vote. On the other hand, electing India’s President has similarities to the EC system in which only the elected representatives vote.
It is my opinion that no matter who finally gets declared “elected” after the counting and anticipated legal challenges are settled, the longstanding U.S. democracy is threatened with a doomsday scenario. President Trump has threatened for months not to recognize the election results if he does not win. It is certainly a good possibility that he may not have the needed 270 ECs because the vote-counting continues. With the continuing uncertain state of elections in the U.S., India and Indians must remain vigilant and ready for the unexpected outcome because the vote count is trending in favor of Biden being elected.
Last night, in the vee hours of November 4, the sitting President Trump falsely declared “victory” while millions of ballots were yet to be counted; threatened to go to the Supreme Court to have “all voting to stop,” This country has never seen a sitting President making such statement in the middle of a legitimate election process which has the potential for a standstill and constitutional crisis. There are certainly precedence and people being used to knowing the elected President on the night of election day but no such constitutional and/or legal mandate.
By most accounts, the 2020 election held in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic is as unprecedented, uncertain, and challenging as the pandemic itself. The historians will reflect and perhaps cite it as the most contentious, chaotic, and controversial in recent times. They may characterize it being full of scorching negative campaign, extremely close contest between the two rivals (Trump and Biden), and the largest ever advance balloting ( over 100 million) before the election day.
This election is getting too close to “call” even for the media and the political pundits who breathe, follow, and analyze the numbers very intimately. For example, the numbers of ECs have hardly moved much in the last 12 hours at the time of writing this. I have seen the U.S. elections for over 40 years and voted in the last 6 but never saw a stalemate of this magnitude. I was dumbfounded that the businesses in many big cities were “boarding up” their stores fearing street fight, vandalism, and unrest. We have heard and seen such chaos in the developing/underdeveloped countries which may now be the new “normal” in the U.S. Fortunately, we have had no such incidences yet but the potential exists once the election results are finally announced.
Undoubtedly, there will be the U.S. President In the end but at what cost? There are far too many questions than answers. Can the country live with unprecedented damage to democracy and divisiveness among people based on their gender, color, origin, political ideologies, etc? Can we anticipate that the people’s will in future elections, the core of our democracy, will be upheld and respected? Can we trust the current President, in the interim if he is not reelected, to manage the public health crisis due to the rising number of coronavirus infections/deaths with his abysmal record in the past? Will there be another stimulus to help the struggling city and state governments, schools, businesses, and individuals because of the prolonged coronavirus? Can the stock market maintain semblance in the continuing environment of uncertainty? Will the legal system including the Supreme Court deliver an unbiased opinion considering that President Trump appointed three justices creating a huge imbalance between the liberal and conservative thinking justices?
The longstanding U.S. democracy has stood the test of time but 2020 may be the beginning of the end of the “democracy” we have known, cherished, and enjoyed. The doomsday scenario also has another side to it. These include but not limited to the rising tension not only between the Whites and Blacks but the Whites and the rest; the widening gap between the haves and have nots from the socio-economic perspective, the emergence or reemergence of movements such as Antifa, Black Lives Matter, White Supremacy, increasing domestic and global terrorism, and an accelerating uncertainty about immigration laws leaving millions of immigrants in limbo. The dysfunctional party politics in Washington appears to drift away from the public policy for the sole benefit of the people at large
Let us end with optimism and hope that our deep-rooted sense of democracy will pull us out of the current chaos, the state of despair, and the doomsday scenario. The next President must embrace “We the People” and rebuild America as it has been and must remain, a shining example of democracy, decency, liberty, mutual respect, and humility. Let us also hope that the U.S.-India will continue to thrive between the world’s oldest and largest democracies, a necessity for the geopolitical balance in the wake of expansionist China.