Arithmetic and trust, the basis of democracy
On Wednesday, January 6, Vice President Mike Pence will preside over a meeting of the Senate ratifying the election of Joe Biden as the next president of the United States, with 306 electoral votes to Donald Trump’s 232. Until these elections, this meeting was a mere formality on the path between the November 3 vote and the inauguration on January 20. The Trump presidency, however, will not stop being a gripping lesson on the dangers that democracy can face – and its resilience.
On Saturday, Trump phoned the state official responsible for the vote in Georgia and, for an hour, pressed him to “find” the votes that Trump needed to overturn Biden’s win in the state, the Washington Post reported a day later. In addition, on Wednesday, at least 12 Republican senators, following the lead of some members of the House of Representatives, plan to raise objections to the vote in the presidential election in some states. Pence has expressed support for their initiative.
The “objectors” claim that because there are allegations of improper procedures in the voting and counting of ballots, Congress ought to form a 10-day committee to audit the specific states and if necessary have them check their numbers again. However, the allegations stem only from Trump and his team, with courts at the state and federal levels finding them groundless; state officials have checked and re-checked the credibility of the process. If Trump’s supporters do manage to hold up the process, this will mean no more than a 10-day delay, affecting neither the result of the vote nor the inauguration date.
Can Trump really believe that if he “finds” 11,780 votes (one more than the margin by which Biden won Georgia), he will overturn the result of the election? Most likely he is trying to do the same with other states, but even he must know that he cannot amass enough electoral votes to win. His intention, then, must be to undermine the process, to destroy trust in institutions in the wider body of citizens – not only in his diehard fans – to cultivate a permanent state of disruption. He cries “Thief!” while torching the polity.
The danger is that Trump has found accomplices in the senators and members of the House who encourage his mania for destruction. The positive effect of this is that more and more people are becoming aware of the threat that it poses. The latest proof of this is the joint statement by the last 10 secretaries of defense – Republicans and Democrats – calling on Trump to accept his defeat and to keep the military out of his machinations. On the one side are those who place their own interests above the common good; on the other, those who put institutions above party allegiance. If the latter are not in the majority, there can be no democracy.