United States: Turbulent Start of Year as Election Drama Plays Extra Time, Coronavirus Still Rampaging

On Wednesday, January 6, Members of the US Congress will meet in session to tally and finalize the certification of electoral votes from the various states, in what is considered the final stage of the Presidential Election. The move, usually seen as ceremonial, confirms the tallies from the states and certifies the President-elect as the winner of the poll, paving the way for his inauguration on January 20.

This year, however, the atmosphere is one of electricity in the federal capital, Washington D.C at the approach of Wednesday, as Incumbent President, Donald J. Trump has yet to concede defeat to former Vice President, now President-elect, Joe Biden. Rather, President Trump and his allies in the Republican party plan to oppose the certification of Mr. Biden as the winner, in an attempt, to overturn the results of the election in some key battleground states where he lost. The President continues to claim that he won the election, but there was concerted effort in states like Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan to rid him of a victory that would have guaranteed him a second term.

President Trump’s efforts at overturning the results of the election took a new twist Saturday, January 2, when he called the Georgian Secretary of State, Bradford Jay Raffensperger and his lawyer, Ryan Germany to pressure the official to revise the election figures in the state and make him the winner there. In a leaked audio recording released Sunday, January 3, of an over one-hour exchange between the two and the President, Mr. Trump is heard saying “…All I want to do is this, I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state”.

Analysts on major US news outlets have interpreted the exchanges as threats from the President on the Secretary of State because he is also Republican, to skew the election results in his favour. The pundits posit that President Trump even goes as far as proposing to the state official that he would justify the new figures by stating that there was a recount. The leaked audios which are being sent out by the Washington Post in trickles are likely to add to the already existing tension.

Rep Mo Brooks of Alabama is the Initiator of the move to oppose electoral vote Certification (C) New York Magazine

In the build-up to Wednesday’s joint session of the US Senate and House of Representatives, some 140 Republican Congressmen and women made known their intentions to support a move spearheaded by Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama to object to the certification of the results. The Republicans planning to object are reportedly requesting a 10-day emergency audit of the election results in some states, though the Trump campaign lost all of its election lawsuits,  the Justice Department found no evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome.

Despite an outcry from some Republican party officials opposing such moves, the initiative has gained traction even in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell who tried to caution his caucus against joining the move from the Lower House, has seen his efforts dashed. About twelve Senators, including some four Senators-elect have made clear they would support Rep. Mo Brooks’ initiative.

Both a House member and senator are required to mount an objection when Congress counts the votes. With Senator Ted Cruz and eleven others set to back the effort, the objection has become inevitable, although experts say with the current composition of the House, the effort to object could delay the certification of the results, but it will not change the election results in any US state.

This development has set the Republican party against itself with statements streaming in from various quarters either condemning or applauding the effort. Republican Sens. Mitt Romney, Pat Toomey, and Lisa Murkowski have said they will oppose an effort by their colleagues to challenge the election results.

Sen Mitt Romney of Utah (C) Boston Herald

In a statement Saturday, Senator Romney said the effort “may enhance the political ambition of some, but dangerously threatens our Democratic Republic… The egregious ploy to reject electors may enhance the political ambition of some, but dangerously threatens our Democratic Republic”. He added “I could never have imagined seeing these things in the greatest democracy in the world”.

Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, one of the states under scrutiny noted in a series of tweets Saturday that “A fundamental, defining feature of a democratic republic is the right of the people to elect their own leaders," adding that the attempt by Cruz and others to overturn the election results “directly undermines this right”. He went further to say the “allegations of fraud by a losing campaign cannot justify overturning an election,” emphasizing that judges across the US have determined the allegations of fraud were not supported by evidence.

Sen Lisa Murkowski (C) Anchorage Daily News

Sen. Lisa Murkowski also said in a statement Saturday that she will vote to affirm the Electoral College results and urged senators of both parties to do the same. “The courts and state legislatures have all honoured their duty to hear legal allegations and have found nothing to warrant overturning the results,” she said. 

In defence of his intention to object the electoral vote tally, Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri in an email to GOP (Good old Party) senators Saturday night, called the recent comments “shameless personal attacks…We should avoid putting words into each other's mouths and making unfounded claims about the intentions of our fellow senators…I never claim to speak for another senator, but I do speak for my constituents when they raise legitimate concerns about issues as important as the fairness of our elections,” according to Politico.

In an interview with Timescape Magazine, Colbert Fulai Gwain, a defender of freedom of speech and of the press and principles of democracy in Cameroon said, “I must say what is happening in the United States is a display of how a functional democracy works, however, I think it is worrisome to find out that the element of fair play usually seen when a vanquished candidate concedes to the victor is totally absent”.

“I fear that the message this sends to struggling democracies like those in many African countries is not a good one. Our people usually go for bad examples to justify their anti-democratic attitudes marked by election rigging to hang on to power forever,” he added.

This view is not shared entirely by Dr. Enselm Ebode, a political scientist and critic based in Paris, France.

“What we are seeing is a demonstration of how strong and operational US democratic institutions are. We have seen judges appointed by President Trump rule against his campaign’s fraud allegations, we have seen Supreme Court judges appointed by the President refused to get involved in matters of election which are not clear on at least two occasions, we have seen Republican governors and secretaries of state refuse to be manipulated, even when their party’s candidate is in difficulties. This is the beauty of democracy in display, we should be copying this,” he told Timescape Magazine.

The ongoing wrangling over the certification of the Electoral Votes is likely to have a bearing the senatorial election runoff in Georgia which comes up Tuesday, January 5. Republican incumbents locked in a battle of their lives against democratic challengers appear caught in the crossfire of attacks between President Trump and their party executives are the helm of Georgia.

Residents of Washington, D.C have expressed fears that violence could erupt in the capital city Wednesday when Congress meets in a joint session. The fears follow persistent calls by President Trump on his supporters to converge in Washington for yet another protest the outcome of the November 3, 2020, Presidential Election.

President-elect Joe Biden won the election by receiving 306 electoral votes compared to President Donald Trump's 232. The results have been certified in every state, and presidential electors cast their votes last month.

In a related development, the homes of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi were attacked over the weekend by yet-to-be-identified individuals protesting the non-approval of a $2000 stimulus direct check to needy American hit by the rampaging Coronavirus pandemic.

While the political scene is getting hotter by the day, the Coronavirus pandemic is continuing to ravage the population. At the time of publishing this article, almost 360,000 Americans were reported to have so far died from the pandemic, according to the site, www.worldometers.info/coronavirus. Despite approving a vaccine and intensifying efforts to make it available, the virus has continued to spread in a geometric progression, with over 20 million US citizens infected as of January 3, 2021.