Most likely every journalist or commentator writing a column today will focus on the election in the United States. I doubt however that many, if any, will start off by congratulating Douglas Emhoff for making history yesterday.
If you are scratching your heads, I understand. Not exactly a household name, but he is the man slated to become the first ‘Second Gentleman’ in the history of the U.S., his spouse, Kamala Harris, now being the vice president-elect of our neighbour to the south.
Certainly, it was an election to smash many barriers. The first woman vice president and also one who is of colour and of South Asian descent. As well, the election of Joe Biden as president, who received more votes than any other president in history and who on inauguration day will be the oldest person ever sworn into that office.
What is much more significant, however, are the results of the election that confirmed a badly divided nation, perhaps more divided than any time since the Civil War. President Donald Trump received over 70 million votes last week, more than Hilary Clinton who won the popular vote in 2016 and also more than any other presidential candidate in the history of the United States, other than President-elect Joe Biden.
This was not an election of complacency. It was a contest between sharply different ideologies, priorities, temperaments, and tolerance. There was a high degree of passion on both sides, each clinging fiercely to generational beliefs, many of which are diametrically opposed to each other. None of this has gone away just because a winner of the presidential election has emerged.
For starters, Donald Trump will not go quietly into the night. He will go, but all signs point to a difficult and unpleasant transfer of power. And when he does go, Trump will leave behind a significant movement, his core base, that will not be ignored and will not go quickly away. That is the reality and the major challenge that Joe Biden will face when he becomes the 46th president of the United States of America.
While President-elect Biden clearly was the victor in this election, we will never really know how many people voted for him because they liked him, or rather because they disliked Donald Trump. Clearly, an analysis of the voting pattern shows that many people who voted for Biden also voted down-ballot for Republican candidates for the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will have two main priorities when they take office and, actually, right now as they prepare for that eventuality.
The first of course is some semblance of control of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Signs of that will likely be seen tomorrow with, I predict, Dr. Anthony Fauci having a big role to play in that initiative.
As well, bringing some sense of unity to Americans, a path toward easing tensions and making people believe they are being listened to, must be an immediate priority. Joe Biden is a good negotiator, and he has a number of personal qualities that will make this easier for him than it ever was for President Trump. But that path will nevertheless be difficult without some concessions, some meeting in the middle, and some early signs that Joe Biden means what he says when he promises to reach out to the other side.
As controversial as it may be, one early sign may be (assuming Trump doesn’t beat him to it) for the new president to issue a pardon to the out-going president for all the federal crimes he may have committed and to urge state officials, particularly in New York where Democrats are in power, to be lenient as well.
Now, before you jump all over this, read on.
In 1974, Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace as president of the United States. Shortly afterwards, his successor, Gerald Ford, pardoned Nixon for all criminal activity. He made it clear that he did not do this for Nixon, but rather for the country so it could heal and also would not be put through years of political and legal maneuvering as criminal trials proceeded and a former president was prosecuted. Ford wanted to avoid a media circus and he did.
Similarly, it is in no one’s interest for Donald Trump to be front and centre fighting criminal charges for the next four years. It will not help the United States internationally and it will not help them at home. At best it will be a distraction and at worst a catalyst and a lightning rod for those that want to divide America. Best to get it out of the way. It would also be a gesture to moderate Trump supporters and allow President Biden to get on with his own agenda.
There is some good news for Republicans in this election and one of them may be that Donald Trump is on his way out. The Republican political establishment held a tight leash, particularly a financial one, on incumbent politicians prior to the election. But the election is over now. Republicans increased their presence in the House of Representatives and although not clear yet, will likely hold on to a slim majority in the Senate. Many will be relieved that in the next election they can run against the record of a Biden Administration, rather than having to defend more chaos created by Donald Trump. The same holds for Michael Pence if he decides to run for president in 2024. My bet is you will see some of these folks speaking out soon.
The defeat of Donald Trump as president of the United States is good for them and in spite of remaining differences it will be good for Canada and for the international community.
Nothing exemplifies the futility of Donald Trump’s efforts to hang on better than the press conference called yesterday by his legal team, headed by Rudy Giuliani, in an attempt to legitimize their claims of fraud in the election. They thought they had booked the Four Seasons Hotel. Instead they had booked the Parking lot at a place called Four Seasons Total Landscaping, located between a sex shop and a crematorium. Doesn’t that say it all? Perfect location.
Goodbye, Donald Trump.
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