Election day for the US Presidency has been and gone; as it stands it very much appears that former Vice-President Joe Biden has emerged the winner. However, a week after polling day the counts are still not over, and the official results have not yet been announced.
The overwhelming majority of the media has called the Presidency in favour of Biden based on the projected results. This may prove to be premature, but given the lead that Biden is believed to have, it is perhaps a not unreasonable assumption. President Trump still claims that he has won or will be declared the winner. In his favour is the recount in Georgia, the tightening of the count in Arizona and the possibility of success in his court actions.
However, he needs proof. His repeated claims of fraud may continue to fire up his base, but they do him no favours away from his core vote. Everyone understands that he is alleging fraud; what he needs is not constant repetition of the charge but rather definitive proof. He may not have the proof now, and it is a bit unreasonable to expect solid proof immediately, even though he has been insistent in his belief.
We will see whether his claims bear any fruit. Attorney General Bill Barr has authorised probes into the alleged fraud and this should lead to serious investigations by prosecutors. This has led to a DoJ official,who oversees voting crimes investigations, to step down from his position over the change in department policy from investigations moving from post-election to during.
There is little doubt though that the Trump base will continue to support the President in his claims. Republicans should be more concerned about the effect that the predictable negative media focus on the continued unsubstantiated claims will have on shy Trump and soft swing voters.
Nonetheless, it is interesting that the Democrats are unwilling to go to the same efforts this time round that they did over the unfounded Russian influence allegations. Of course, the same point can be made about Trump supporters and Republicans during the Russia investigations but it is still curious how in recent elections both sides do not seem to like, or accept, that they lost an election.
In any case, it is unlikely that fraud on the scale that Trump needs to exist is out there – some undoubtedly has occurred, along with errors – but enough to change the result, even just focusing on the key swing states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin? I remain unconvinced – Trump needs time and evidence to back up his claims.
However, regardless of the Trump court efforts and the outcome of probes into potential voter fraud – there are wider areas that need to be addressed by the Republican Party and lessons learned if this is indeed the end of Trump’s Presidency.
Firstly, Trump has the highest vote on record of any Presidential incumbent – 71m votes as it stands – and in 2016 he swung areas to the Republicans that have never been red before. It is undeniable that he tapped into the mood of the country and opened up a whole swathe of voters to the Republican Party.
Another quirk is the candidate from the Libertarian Party, Jo Jorgensen, stood for election while the Green Party did not participate. While you cannot guarantee that all Libertarian voters would vote Republican – there is a high chance a large percentage would have done – and given that she gained more votes than the margin between Biden and Trump in key swing states we could have been looking at a very different result.
Finally, the Republicans have had a fairly good result in the House and Senate in contrast to the expected result in the Presidential election. Now, they may be different races and not representative of the whole country due to the US system, but it should be of interest and value for the Party to compare turnout and vote count between the Congressional elections and Presidential election. This may allow the Republicans to have some hard data on the Trump effect compared to previous cycles and the difference between Congressional turnout to Presidential turnout – as well as other areas of interest, including the President’s allegations.
We cannot fully know what will come and although it does seem most likely that Biden will be President next year, it is simply not possible to say with 100 per cent certainty that this will happen.