Election cliffhanger in America ~ by Olusegun Adeniyi
Almost everything you might expect from a presidential election in any Third World country were on full display in the days preceding Tuesday, November 3. Intimidation and thuggery on the streets of major cities occurred when supporters of the two candidates clashed.
Threats of violence were made by militia groups should the result not conform to their expectations. Fears that the country could descend into chaos after the polls were demonstrated by businesses boarding up windows.
Even ‘stomach infrastructure’ was on offer for prospective voters in some places. And concession in the event of a defeat was not an option for the incumbent president.
In the end, the presidential election in the United States of America could not produce a clear winner by election night. Contention is now focused on legitimate mail-in-ballots in ‘battleground states’ that may tip the balance when all the votes are tallied.
Unsurprisingly, President Donald Trump, who had pledged not to play games with the process, has already declared himself winner and is alleging attempts to rig the polls. “We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election. We will never let them do it. Votes cannot be cast after the polls are closed,” the president tweeted on Tuesday night.
Jen O’Malley Dillion, the campaign manager of former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic party challenger, responded.
“The counting will not stop. It will continue until every duly cast vote is counted. Because that is what our laws – the laws that protect every Americans’ constitutional right to vote – require,” O’Malley Dillon said in a statement that described Trump’s comments as “a naked effort to take away the democratic rights of American citizens.”
I arrived Boston, United States last Thursday and am currently in Washington DC where there is so much uncertainty about who the next president will be.
I have witnessed the past five American presidential elections and given how momentous this particular one promised to be, I was determined not to miss the drama.
It has certainly lived up to its billing. Biden and the mainstream media had made the election a referendum not only on Trump’s stewardship but particularly on his mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic which the president wished would just go away.
But the Republican candidate and his supporters pushed back with the narrative that the contest was between ‘Mask and Jobs’.
They want the economy reopened by discounting COVID-19 and its protocols, including lockdowns and wearing masks, as opposed to the campaign of the Democratic Party on the need to contain the pandemic that has claimed the lives of no fewer than 233,000 Americans.
If there is any lesson America has taught the world over the years, it is that democracy can only grow if people begin to understand that for every election, there must be a winner as well as a loser. And that such contests are a process rather than an event.
This appears lost in the acrimony of the current election in which the only outcome that can guarantee peace is for the incumbent to win.
Although the odds appear against him, President Trump may still win this close contest but by demanding that the process be jettisoned midstream and resorting to self-help, he has done much damage to the American brand across the world.
Democracy is about casting ballots and making the votes count.
As at the time of going to press this morning (Nigerian time), Biden was leading in four critical ‘swing states’ that could hand him the much-needed 270 electoral college seats and the presidency: Wisconsin, Michigan, Arizona and Nevada. Georgia and Pennsylvania were also still in play.
If the former vice president (who has already received the most popular votes in any presidential election in history) eventually wins, the electoral college margin could be so narrow that it may take weeks of litigation before Americans know for certain who their next president is.
President Trump admitted on Tuesday night at his campaign headquarters: “Winning is easy. Losing is never easy. Not for me, it’s not.”
I am well aware that Trump has a large following in Nigeria. It is easy to understand in a society where politics and religion blend so perfectly. Which then explains trending videos of processions in aid of Trump on the streets of a country he considers no better than a ‘shithole’.
He even shared one of such videos on his Twitter page, expressing gratitude to the Nigerians parading the streets, waving his picture and the US flag. But the real issue is that we also have many people with the mindset and bigotry of Trump in our country.
Those who are adept at manipulating differences. Those who fuel fear rather than hope. Those who demonise other people with whom they disagree. And those who have no qualms verbalizing anger, hate and resentment to advance their own careers while dividing people along dangerous fault-lines.
Those are not attributes that align with faith regardless of whatever one may consider the licentiousness of the political party Trump contends against.
It is interesting that people who went to bed on Tuesday thinking that President Trump had won woke up yesterday to realise that the entire equation had changed as early votes were being counted in critical states.
There may still be no official decision on who the next president is in the days ahead. But most Americans have faith in the capacity of their institutions to deal with the electoral fiasco.
If President Trump eventually loses, I don’t see how he can play Laurent Gbagbo by remaining in the White House beyond his tenure. Ultimately, the rule of law will prevail.
That precisely is the lesson that should not be ignored, regardless of how tempting it may be to mock America for their current political crisis.
You can follow me on my Twitter handle, @Olusegunverdict and on www.olusegunadeniyi.com.