Ben Roback is Head of Trade and International Policy at Cicero Group.
The Electoral College has spoken. When will Trump listen?
For a man who loves to win, a check in on the President’s attempts to overturn the outcome of the November election makes dismal reading.
Recounts prompted by Donald Trump and his merry band of legal advisers have confirmed repeatedly that Joe Biden was the winner in the key swing states that shaped the election. The President urged the Supreme Court last week to set aside 62 electoral votes for Mr Biden in four states, which may have thrown the outcome into doubt. The justices rejected the effort.
Trump has urged his Republican colleagues to continue to question the outcome and validity of the election. It had been working on Capitol Hill, where only a handful of Republicans had acknowledged Biden as the President-elect.
That sense of lingering doubt has spread through to the American people. In a poll this month, only 61 per cent of Americans said they trusted the results of the election. Unsurprisingly, given the President’s ongoing campaign and the loyalty of the Republican base, 72 per cent of Republicans polled do not trust the results.
The president is running out of ways to deny the election outcome
The Electoral College met yesterday, rubber-stamping Joe Biden’s victory through formal votes in state capitals around the country. Electors gave Biden and Kamala Harris their votes in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — the six battleground states that Biden won and which Trump contested.
Senior Republicans have long insisted that the President had a right to contest close results, and pointed to the Electoral College as a key moment in that effort. Now that the Electoral College has formally ratified the election results, a change has been prompted amongst Republican leadership on Capitol Hill, whicj now acknowledges for the first time the resolution of the election.
Mitch McConnell yesterday said: “The electoral college has spoken. So today I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden”. The two men are by no means political allies, but ahave shared experience after accruing decades in the Senate together. Both have referred to each other as “friends” and the Senate Majority Leader was the only Senate Republican to attend Beau Biden’s funeral. They will need to work together in the coming weeks if Congress is to pass another Covid relief package, and a government funding bill to avert a December shutdown.
McConnell’s calculated statement gave Republicans permission to acknowledge the election outcome. Lindsey Graham, whose Trump journey has taken him from mocking sceptic to reliable ally, said he had a “warm” phone call with Biden. More are expected to follow in the coming days.
Despite the change in tone from Republican Congressional leadership, there has been no concession from the White House. On Twitter, the President continues to allege mass voter fraud owing to corrupt voting machines. Intriguingly, Trump retweeted a Breitbart news article whose headline included: ‘May God bless him, Melania, and their family, as God leads him to the next chapter in his life.’
McConnell has reportedly urged his GOP colleagues not to object when Congress formally certifies the Electoral College count on 6 January, in what is surely to be Mr Trump’s final throw of the dice. Trump allies in the House of Representatives, led by Rep Mo Brooks of Alabama, have pledged to object to the Electoral College count.
In order to successfully force a debate and vote on the objection, at least one Republican Senator would need to support it. There is currently no indication that will happen. For historic context, a lawmaker has never been able to succeed in throwing out a state’s results.
There is a prevailing sense that the inevitable outcome – Biden entering the White House as the 46th President of the United States – is being delayed in the minds of the Trump team. That is not enough to change the political reality shaped by the constitution.
The President-elect continues to shape his Cabinet and advisory team at pace. It was announced yesterday that Pete Buttigieg, an initial rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, will be nominated as Transportation Secretary. If approved by the Senate, he would become the first openly gay member of the Cabinet in US history.
As Coronavirus runs riot and reaps havoc across America, getting to grips with the vaccine rollout will the biggest challenge from day one for the incoming administration. The FDA has granted emergency authorisation to an over-the-counter, at-home Covid test, a new weapon in the government’s arsenal. Coronavirus has now killed over 300,000 Americans (CDC). It is high time the White House takes this crisis seriously, which Trump has so far failed to do.
When Congress meets in the new year, it will only be a fortnight before the inauguration. Traditionally, the sitting President attends as a visible symbol of the peaceful transfer of power. If Trump’s form thus far is anything to go by, you wouldn’t bet much on him acknowledging Biden’s victory in a statement let alone in person.