Monday, November 9, 2020

WHEN WINNING IS LOSING AND LOSING IS WINNING

 




The unhinged mental state of the US commander in chief remains a clear and present danger and of global concern, even as he goes kicking and screaming in what is supposed to be a peaceful transition period. Let’s us not forget that this unreasonable man fired his Defense Secretary, Mark Esper, for opposing the deployment of US troops against US citizens. In his stead, he has appointed Christopher Miller, a counter-intelligence special operations man, skipping over the next in line, the Deputy Secretary of Defense.

 

Is it possible that Trump still has access to the “nuclear football?”

Is it sensible to allow a man so inherently unstable and intemperate retain tactical control of the world’s deadliest arsenal?

 

The aftermath of a US presidential election is, in normal times, a moment to muse about possible new policy directions of the candidate who prevailed at the polling booth. But these are not normal times and instead the world watches with bated breath as the US shows signs of cracking up from within.

 

China has yet to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden, perhaps wary of Trump’s ability to wreak havoc in the two months remaining in his term, since China is a frequent target of his wrath. Russia is watching on standby as well.

 

Meanwhile, nations with traditionally close relationships with the United States, including England, Canada and Japan have already offered the ritual congratulations as expected in the aftermath of a presidential election. Even hard-core Republicans close to Donald Trump have urged him to recognize, grudgingly if not graciously, Biden’s victory at the polls, as officially announced on November 7, 2020

 

But Trump instead, is proving himself a loser. He somehow manages to ruin everything he touches, even democracy itself.

 

The vain leader’s unwillingness to yield in the face of facts not to his liking has put his nation on cliff’s edge, dangerously in abeyance. A catastrophe waiting to happen. Shell-shocked Americans await with bated breath, while an underwhelmed world looks on with bemused puzzlement, derision and fear.

 

What happened?

 

Why wasn’t the man who lies, cheats and steals as a matter of course, the man who routinely polarizes, incites violence, and spews intolerance not been clearly repudiated at the polls.

Why was he not swept away in a massive landslide?

 

How can such a venal politician still have millions of supporters in a supposedly advanced nation with a vigorous free press and a robust democratic tradition?

 

Historians will ponder this painful paradox for years to come.

 

By all indications, Joe Biden is beyond any shadow of doubt the winner of the popular vote, and if the popular vote was all that counted, it might well be over now.

 

Due to historic peculiarities of the American “democratic” system, the difference of a few thousand votes at the state level can flip an election, even with one candidate way ahead of the other nationally. 

 

The Electoral College makes it possible for winners to lose and losers to win. It’s happened twice in recent times, in the Bush versus Gore contest of 2000, and the Trump versus Hillary contest of 2016. This system is deeply flawed, and when the contest is a close one, it is downright infuriating.  

 

The unsettling prospect of both sides claiming victory, one by the polls, the other by spurious claims and trumped up legal challenges is due in no small part to the fecklessness of the sore-loser in the White House who goads his followers to believe that his loss is their loss and that losing is not an option.

 

Already Trump supporters are being prepped by incendiary tweets, and cheerleading from Trump-friendly media to alternately declare victory or cry foul in a way that screams, “losing is not an option!”

 

If losing is not an option, it’s not democracy. If one side concocts a false win, it’s authoritarianism.

 

Recounts have been demanded. Court challenges and lawsuits are already being put in play because even a hopeless lawsuit takes time and drags things out for a loser who doesn’t want to accept the inevitable.

 

Once Pennsylvania showed an early Trump lead, the president tweeted, “Stop the Vote” yet perversely pressed for more vote-counting in states where he was behind. This is characteristic of his hypocritical character.

 

As if the conflict between the slam-dunk popular vote and a power-drunk incumbent is not bad enough, red and blue America, badly in need of bridging differences, are instead being triggered to continue on the road to civil war.  The way Trump seems to look at it, if he doesn’t win, nobody does. 

 

After a joyous day of dancing in the streets and sighing a collective relief about the madness of the erratic Trump administration coming to an end, conflict is being stoked again by partisan political operatives and pro-Trump media outlets, pitting the slanted worldview of one against the world.

 

It’s not just opinions that differ, in the red and blue precincts of America; even basic facts can’t be agreed upon. Whether it’s about Covid, climate change or counting votes, consensus remains elusive. There’s scant comfort in the neutrality of math and legal checks and balances when lies have as much currency as truth.

 

What a tragic mess.

 

America was never the beacon on the hill it pretended to be, but it did enjoy global popularity and prestige after World War Two. Yet over time, imperial self-regard and a culture of violence at home and abroad has worked to erode much of the moral ground it once possessed. But only in this most recent election cycle, has the very democratic system of the world’s “leading democracy” come into question.

 

Observers look on with horror and amazement as the US President, a powerful world leader promise to take the country down if he doesn’t get his way. His willingness to cheat, lie and steal his way to get what he wants is legendary. He offends common courtesy, common sense and common decency by tweet-blasting petty complaints, documentable lies, intemperate takes, confused facts.

 

Two days after election day, a pouting, whining, truculent Trump went on TV, using the bully pulpit of the White House, to claim he had been cheated, even though a win was not statistical viable at that point. Spouting lies and betraying a weak grasp of reality, he cast aspersions on Detroit and Philadelphia, known for large minority populations, and proceeded to incite his followers to protest any result not in his favor.

 

The clownish petulance would be funny, worthy of a late-night comedy sketch, or the theatre of the absurd, were the stakes were not so high.

 

 

Trump is unlikely to make any progress on the legal front because he has no case. But he can make trouble, delay transition and perhaps even provoke a crisis to increase his emergency powers.  

 

Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin has observed that the US has not been so divided since the 1850’s, a period which was prelude to the Civil War. The sense of a shared national project and respect for fellow citizens across the political divide is at a nadir

 

Both warring tribes tend to see the other as the enemy, fueled by the echo chambers of two parallel media ecosystems, one red, the other blue.

 

The election of 2020 has become the Schrodinger’s Cat of elections.

 

The candidacy of the loser is simultaneously dead and alive.

 

But the counter-intuitive patterns of particle physics are not sustainable in the political arena. The cognitive dissonance is mind-cracking. If the losing side does not concede defeat, the whole system will break down.

 

Political collapse of the world’s most powerful country is not out of the question, and if it should crash and burn, it will be the most dangerous country as well.

 

Even if nothing apocalyptic happens, the leadership vacuum of a prolonged impasse will have unintended consequences around the world.

                                                                                                                       

Come what will, the bitter fruits of the election of 2020 will muddle US politics, and the way American power plays out in the global arena, for many years to come.