There are no limits to the absurd attempt by America’s 45th President to stay in the White House, writes Sean Ledwith
Donald Trump is ending his presidency with the same divisive and poisonous politics that marked its beginning four years ago. Today the US Senate is conducting what is usually the formality of confirming the winner of last year’s presidential election. In normal circumstances the event passes off virtually unnoticed by most Americans. The Vice-President oversees the constitutional ritual on the floor of the Senate in which congressional representatives from each of the 50 states confirm which of the candidates their voters have backed.
Considering Joe Biden’s victory in November by seven million votes in the popular count and by 306 against 232 in the electoral college, there should be no question that he will become America’s 46th President later this month. However, such is Trump’s deluded and insatiable lust for power, he has called on Mike Pence, his robotically obedient Vice President, to abuse his position as chair of the Senate and to fix it that Biden is denied. At a rally in Georgia on Monday Trump called on Pence to overturn constitutional precedent and throw the electoral process back into chaos: "I hope Mike Pence comes through for us, I have to tell you….of course, if he doesn't come through, I won't like him as much."
Pence’s slavish instincts were probably to go along with the unhinged whims of his boss, but he also has eyes on his own presidential bid in 2024 and will know that such a provocative move could fatally undermine his credibility. At a heated White House meeting last night, Pence apparently finally turned on Trump and pointed out the constitutional reality to him. The relationship between the two men is likely to end in bitter recrimination - as do all Trump’s political connections.
Going down ranting
As if ripping up constitutional conventions was not enough, Trump has also summoned a rally of America’s far right fringe in the national capital to ramp up the atmosphere of intimidation and tension that inevitably is characterising the twilight of his presidency. His supporters have now laid siege on the Capitol forcing the building into lockdown, Pence to be evacuated and the Senate proceedings recessed.
Addressing this unsavoury assortment of Neo-Nazis, anti-lockdown protesters and pro-gun fanatics outside the White House earlier, Trump openly called on them to challenge the foundations of the US constitutional system in the name of his authoritarian, misogynistic and racist agenda. Without a shred of evidence, he ranted: "We will never concede. You don’t concede when there’s theft. This year, they rigged an election. They rigged it like they’ve never rigged an election before."
Never in US history has a defeated President refused to concede to his successor. It is impossible to imagine Trump even attending Biden’s inauguration in two weeks. Of course, Trump is still technically head of state till January 20th and probably thinks he is entitled to invoke the 1807 Insurrection Act as a prelude to martial law. This is deluded nonsense but also the inevitable outcome of his dangerous flirtation with quasi-fascistic militia such as the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer.
Georgia on their minds
Trump and the far right are likely to be further inflamed by the outcome of this week’s crucial Senate run-off contest in Georgia. Raphael Warnock has today become the first black Senator elected in a state that was once synonymous with the most egregious forms of Jim Crow racism in the segregation era. His success represents a triumphant vindication for grassroots African American activists such as Stacy Abrams who have been inspired by the Black Lives Matters protests last year. If fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff also defeats the incumbent Senator David Perdue that would give Biden a narrow majority in the upper house of Congress, thanks to the casting vote of his Vice President Kamala Harris. This would be a huge morale boost for the anti-racist movement in the US.
The dark forces applauding Trump in the twilight of his Presidency, however, are a sobering reminder that the battle to overcome his toxic legacy for American politics will have to be won in streets and workplaces, not in the rarefied chambers of Congress.
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