America’s losing its lustre as global beacon of democracy

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The silence hovering over the Republican Party into the second week after Donald Trump’s loss may be working in Washington, but in the rest of the world, it is simply exposing the country’s claim to democracy as a sorry charade.

By Sheila Copps
First published in The Hill Times on November 16, 2020.

OTTAWA—America is losing its lustre as the global beacon of democracy.

It could be difficult to promote democratic principles elsewhere when most senior Republican politicians do not respect it at home.

The parody of the Trump-Biden stalled transition started off as a bit of a joke. Most people thought the Republicans were simply willing to give U.S. President Donald Trump a few days to let the defeat sink in.

But his promotion of the notion of a rigged election is shining a light into the inner workings of the Republican Party.

All senior members of the party are backing the president’s bizarre lie about who won the election.

Four years of Trump’s isolationism may have made a negative mark on the world, but it has not affected his popularity at home.

Like president-elect Joe Biden, Trump increased his own vote, and continues to claim that he won the election, but that officials stole the result by refusing to end the count.

The code of silence hovering over his party into the second week after the loss may be working in Washington but in the rest of the world, it is simply exposing the country’s claim to democracy as a sorry charade.

The president’s attack on Fox News and his claim of a stolen election has penetrated his base, with supporters across the country brandishing signs demanding that officials “stop the steal.”

Trump continues to claim illegality in states like Pennsylvania and Georgia even when their Republican officials deny any illegitimacy.

Republican Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt was adamant that there was no skullduggery in his city. He was immediately attacked by name, by the president.

But Schmidt did not back down. Instead he publicly questioned why people would so easily swallow lies about a fraudulent election.

Local Republicans like Schmidt and those who are distant from Washington seem the most likely to throw cold water on Trump’s illegality claims.

Former U.S. president George W. Bush congratulated Biden on his victory shortly after the result was called by several media organizations on Nov. 7.

But the silence on Capitol Hill was deafening. Mitch McConnell led the revisionism charge, claiming that Trump had every reason to refuse to concede as long as the results had not been certified.

But almost two weeks after the vote, courts have found zero evidence of widespread fraud. Last week, the Republican lieutenant-governor of Texas offered a million-dollar reward for any evidence of malfeasance. This is the same politician who said grandparents were willing to die during the pandemic in support of the economy.

The Georgia recount is automatic since the margin of victory is less than 0.5 per cent. But with 99 per cent of the vote in, Biden was ahead on Nov. 12 by 14,005 votes even though the vote differential was only 0.3 per cent.

In my own political life, I underwent a recount in my first provincial election which was lost by 15 votes. In those days, a difference of less than 25 votes resulted in a judicial recount. In the end, I ended up gaining one vote in the recount, legally losing the election by 14 votes.

The chance of turning thousands of votes around in Georgia is virtually impossible.

Back in 2000, the difference in the American presidential vote in Florida was little more than 500 votes. The finalized counting process took more than a month, and ultimately did not displace the initial victor, George W. Bush.

But Trump is not about to let the facts stand in the way of a good lie. And his legion of supporters in the Republican Party are listening.

Polls show that 70 per cent of Republicans now doubt the outcome of the election. That number has doubled since election night. The vast majority of them refuse to concede that the Democratic U.S. president-elect was chosen by the majority of voters and the electoral college.

The truth may be starting to set in. At press time, only four Senators from the Republican Party had broken with the majority by tweeting their congratulations to president-elect Biden. They included independent-minded Susan Collins and Trump enemy Mitt Romney.

Within the White House, some are already speculating about the pardon process, which is one of the last acts of an outgoing president.

Trump is allegedly considering a list of pardons, including one for Jared Kushner’s father, a billionaire convicted of witness tampering, illegal election contributions and tax evasion. Trump is also considering an unprecedented self-pardon.

That should not surprise.

Nothing about the Trump presidency has followed precedent.

Sheila Copps is a former Jean Chrétien-era cabinet minister and a former deputy prime minister. Follow her on Twitter at @Sheila_Copps.