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OP-ED: Biden stands before a gale of conflict

  • Published at 08:00 pm January 14th, 2021
Joe Biden
File photo of US President Joe Biden REUTERS

The conflicts that Trump personifies will only amplify

Donald Trump faced Joe Biden in the November elections. The counting of the votes resulted in Biden winning the election. Winning here means an established news organization declares the winner, state by state, based on reported vote counts. Official announcements come later.

Trump never accepted the loss of the election, continuing to argue that there was widespread fraud that caused him to lose. While he has denied the results, the steady progress through the formal steps of each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia certifying the outcome, sending these certifications to the Congress, and the opening of the results and tabulation of the outcome were completed over the evenings of January 6-7, meaning Biden officially became the elected president.

Immediately after the election, Trump launched a campaign claiming fraud. No detailed evidence was presented. In numerous court cases, Trump lawyers were careful never to say that there was actual fraud.

Both the Republicans and the Democrats have become increasingly hysterical in their claims and accusations. No one listens to the other side. It appears that neither side is interested in discovering the truth, believing that they have the true picture. Most of the conflicts revolve around adjustments in voting rules meant to improve participation in the election at the time of the Covid-19 pandemic.

As January 6 approached, Trump called on his supporters to come to Washington to demonstrate and stop the final approval of the election results. In a frenzy of words, the president, close family members, and closest associates directed a mob to Congress, which was engaged in the process of recording the votes reported by the states. The mob entered the Capitol building and held many members of Congress in lockdown.

I am no expert on coup d’etats but I have lived through more than most people, experiencing such in Thailand, Lebanon, Bangladesh, Kenya, Tanzania, and Nigeria. Some failed, some succeeded. Trump’s efforts were an amateurish attempt. The plan was: Occupy the Capitol, hold the members of Congress captive, use the US military to clear out rioters, and place the US under martial law.

Use this pretext for obtaining legislatures in a few key states to issue new election results based on the alleged fraud, all resulting in Trump becoming president and the military deployed to maintain peace. 

This would allow investigations into voter fraud that would justify Trump remaining president. Other voting frauds would be uncovered to ensure that the two houses of Congress were both in the hands of the Republicans.

Trump did not understand the basic logistics and key steps towards a successful revolt. The argument for the coup was clear enough, but the execution lacked detail and skilled implementation. However, this effort could have been successful if managed by someone with experience in these matters.

The US today has begun to realize the consequences of the failure to govern. The income distribution shifted in favour of the rich. Low income groups, including most of the black and Hispanic minorities along with large numbers of white people, found themselves with more difficult lives while the top 20% of households ranked by income were living better and better. The Covid-19 pandemic exposed this, although the steady development of this phenomena began long ago.

Paying for a politician

Corruption is found in every society; its forms differ. In the US, the ability of the very rich to fund their preferred politician is now perfectly legal. In modern democracies, money for elections is so important that representatives of the people become representatives of the rich. Greed is universal, and will continue to be a powerful motivating factor.

Technological change and science-based knowledge are growing rapidly and changing both our physical and relationship environments. It is unpredictable and its consequences frightening. The US remains the centre of real technological change and a leader in new science-based knowledge. The consequences for all of us are profound. The fact that this driving force is centred in the US results in three things:

Enormous wealth creation in the US to otherwise ordinary people. 

Tremendous changes in American society in response to such new opportunities, showing the world what will happen. We can never understand in advance the consequences.

The mobilization of such technologies for political purposes, making it possible for administrative states that make use of the technologies to control and shape the society in ways that are not understood. The US has lagged seriously in adoption of technology, undermining governance.

Biden will have little or no control over how the US changes over the next four years. 

The dreams that Americans have of a better deal for minorities, health care, and education systems that are more equal; a fairer distribution of the fruits of progress -- are just that, dreams.

The popular support for Trump is not going to vanish. Despite the mismanagement of his coup attempt, Trump retains the confidence and support of a large number of people. He will seek a path to run for the presidency in 2024. He has a reasonable chance of success. The slow burning revolution in America does not come from the “liberal socialists.” It is the 45% of the people who have supported Trump. 

Biden is a decent man. He is 79 years old and standing before a gale of conflict. Our political leaders know nothing of science and technology. The political battle will not go back to the time of compromise and negotiate. Rather we will continue and amplify the conflicts Trump personifies.

Forrest Cookson is an economist who has served as the first president of AmCham and has been a consultant for the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.

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