WORLD Post-election chaos erupts in US, a divided country awaits next govt


Post-election chaos erupts in US, a divided country awaits next govt

Global Times

23:02, November 05, 2020

National Guard soldiers patrol the streets the morning after Americans voted in the presidential election on Wednesday in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo: AFP)

Anxiety, suspicion and civil unrest in cities across the US are seemingly pushing the only superpower in the world to chaos and turmoil, as the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, one of the most bruising races in modern times, remains unsettled a day after polls closed.

The National Guard was activated in Portland, protesters who oppose Donald Trump gathered at the Black Lives Matter Plaza, Trump supporters protested ballot counts, and Minneapolis and New York City police made arrests and confiscated the weapons of some protesters… all in the past 24 hours amid the tight race.

Following relatively peaceful demonstrations at the start, tensions started running high into the night as the situation went beyond the expectations of most mainstream media outlets, polling institutes, commentators and observers in the US and the rest of the world, who believed Democratic challenger Joe Biden would win by a landslide.

Supporters of Trump and Biden are in a high state of anxiety and confrontation. Trump's declaration of victory in the early hours of Wednesday roiled Biden supporters. But Trump is now facing a tough battle as Biden needs to win just one of four contested states, prompting Trump's backers to demand that the count be stopped.

More results are expected in the coming hours in the battleground states including Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania, which could determine the outcome.

Chinese experts said no matter how many votes Trump eventually gets, if he loses, his supporters will not easily accept it, and social unrest or chaos cannot be avoided.

Trump's campaign is considering taking legal action in Arizona and Nevada as votes are still being counted, two sources told CNN. The campaign has launched legal battles in several battleground states, and called for a recount in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia.

Several states have opposed the lawsuits, calling them "meritless," "an attempt to confuse and obfuscate what actually is a very transparent, secure process," "seeking to intervene in an ongoing Supreme Court case involving the deadline for receiving mail-in ballots," and "buying time to slow the counting."

Legal action will begin in federal courts before working its way up to the Supreme Court. It is up to each state to decide whether the votes are recounted, said Lü Xiang, a research fellow on US studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing.

Suspicions are mounting as the current Supreme Court is dominated by conservative justices. If Trump is able to take the fight there, it will be likely for the court to rule that the mail-in ballots in key swing states are invalid, bringing a different election outcome.

However, Lü believes Trump will not be able to take it to the Supreme Court, as current data shows it is highly probable that Trump will lose in Pennsylvania, Lü said.

Even if he does take it to the Supreme Court, there is little chance he will win his lawsuit. "The Supreme Court will not reject an apparent election result, nor will those judges who favor Republicans choose to harm their own reputation to fight for Trump's reelection," he said.

Xin Qiang, deputy director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, also believes that as long as Trump lacks adequate evidence to demonstrate election fraud, the lawsuit will end quickly, despite the fact that six of the justices on the Supreme Court are conservative-leaning.

Chinese analysts said the Supreme Court will not get involved in the vote count, but can only judge on constitutional issues like the legitimacy and validity of the votes or voters. If Trump wants to launch massive lawsuits, he needs huge amounts of money and a team of legal professionals to help him. But if most people believe Trump's campaign is hopeless, then he would be unable to receive the resources needed for a massive legal campaign.

In the next few days, allies and politicians with close connections with Trump will keep a distance from him, and his radical supporters will be of less help, as the more illegal acts they commit, the more people would want Trump to leave as soon as possible, Lü said.

A US President Donald Trump supporter (left) clashes with a demonstrator at Black Lives Matter plaza across from the White House on election day in Washington, DC on November 3, 2020. (Photo: AFP)

Divided nation

There is a precedent in American history for an election result to be appealed at the Supreme Court. The race between George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000 finally came down to Florida, where the vote was unusually close. The two sides took the case to a Florida court. A state court ruled in Gore's favor, but the Supreme Court later overturned that decision, which sent Bush to the White House.

The scenario this year is different, since the margin between the votes in 2000 was very close.

A recount of the votes can be triggered when the margin of victory is no more than 0.5 percent. But the current gap in most states is greater than that. This means that Trump can only file a lawsuit against the result if he possesses adequate evidence of malpractice in the collection of votes, Lü said.

If Trump loses, it remains uncertain whether he will be willing to hand over power peacefully. Chinese experts fear that the US could be plunged into a political and even constitutional crisis.

Trump would use any excuse to reject the results of the election, which could end up with a protracted lawsuit, Xin of Fudan University, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Conflicts between Republican and Democratic supporters will be inevitable, Xin believes. "No matter how many votes Trump eventually gets, if he loses, his supporters will not easily accept it. Social unrest or chaos cannot be avoided," he said.

Experts predict that as divisions have been the norm in the US since 2008, the divergence between different groups will turn to hostility, and Biden will face unprecedented difficulties in dealing with a divided US if he is elected.

"The COVID-19 pandemic will be the first thing for Biden to handle. The economy is waiting to recover, and deep-rooted ethnic conflicts need to be resolved," Lü said.

Another challenge for the new government and Democrats is that the far-left and pro-establishment Democrats who united to beat Trump will split up and struggle for political power within Congress, said Chinese observers, noting that Nancy Pelosi, a leading representative of the pro-establishment camp, might be challenged by the young and far-left Democrats who follow Bernie Sanders.

Chinese attentions

The ongoing chaotic and confusing situation in the US has attracted much attention from curious Chinese netizens.

However, instead of bridging division, the election has generated violence and anger in the US, while in China, many people see it as an entertainment, a sneak-peek into the US and its chaotic society. Some find an unusual inspiration from the event for working hard, since two men in their 70s are still fighting for a job.

Topics related to the US election have been trending on China's most popular social media platform Sina Weibo for days, with "#US Presidential election" attracting around 6.77 billion reads. Its more recent developments, such as Trump's reported plan to file lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia, garnered more than 100 million reads in one hour.

In the past, some voices about how advanced US democracy was or what China could learn from the US political system might be heard among Chinese during US election season. But this time, the US elections are ridiculed heavily, as most Chinese netizens find the US political system not attractive at all.

A netizen summarized his feelings on Sina Weibo: "US democracy is failing, because it can't solve problems; it divides society and creates conflicts; science and rationality are useless in this system, but radicalism and anti-intellectualism could work; and they will have 10 million confirmed COVID-19 cases soon. "What kind of people would want this? I feel bad for Americans, truly."

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