Four days after the US Presidential election was called in favour of Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, it is become increasingly clear that President Donald Trump is not ready to let go of the White House. To the mortification of Americans who love to preach how a democracy should conduct itself, Mr Trump appears to be spiralling into a rage that may have so blurred his vision that he cannot see how his country and he are being viewed globally.
Mr Trump and his supporters may like to believe that they are victims of an electoral swindle, and while they are entitled to take their grievances about fraud to appropriate courts, it could not have escaped their attention that a difference overall of more than five million votes between the two candidates could not only have been conjured up through deceit.
In the days after the election was called, Mr Trump has sacked his Defence Secretary through a tweet; got his attorney-general to authorise investigations into vote fraud; refused to give the Biden team access to transition offices, and commenced preparations for a Budget as if he will present it. While Mr Biden has termed Mr Trump’s actions an “embarrassment”, even a person as mercurial as the President must have a reason for what he is doing. Two possibilities present themselves.
The first is that Mr Trump nurtures a fragile hope of somehow being able to overturn the result. But there seems to be consensus that this is very unlikely. The other possibility is that Mr Trump is seeking to build a narrative that explains his loss and keeps him politically relevant. As one commentator has pointed out, he appears to be “seeding a narrative that could endure for years” ~ to the effect that he had an election stolen from him. Already, there is evidence that his Republican supporters believe him, and one poll suggests as many 70 per cent of them think it was not a free and fair election.
Even as an overwhelming majority of world leaders have congratulated the Biden-Harris team for their success, just a handful of Republicans have publicly accepted the outcome. There may be several reasons for this. One, of course, is the possibility that the Presidential race having been so close, Mr Trump remains a potent force and may be the front-runner for the nomination in 2024, when he will be as old as Mr Biden today is.
The next is that his support will be vital in ensuring victories in crucial Senate races in the weeks ahead. The third may be the realisation that the ideological divide between the two country’s main political parties, which was hitherto nuanced on either side of the centre, has now been taken so far to the right by Mr Trump that it is the template every Republican must abide by.