WASHINGTON: Joe Biden said Monday that US democracy proved “resilient” against Donald Trump’s “abuse of power” after the Electoral College confirmed him as the next president, shutting the door further on unprecedented efforts to overturn the results. In his first extended attack on Trump since the election, Biden said in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, that the president and his allies “refused to respect the will of the people, refused to respect the rule of law, and refused to honor our constitution.”
Biden was referring to a Republican lawsuit, supported by Trump, that sought to overturn the results in several key states, before it was rejected unanimously by the Supreme Court last Friday. Biden praised voters for casting ballots in record numbers on November 3 despite fears of Covid-19 and “enormous political pressure, verbal abuse and even threats of physical violence” against those running the election.
“The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago. And we now know nothing, not even a pandemic or an abuse of power can extinguish that,” Biden said. “Our democracy – pushed, tested, threatened – proved to be resilient, true and strong.” Biden said that Trump has had full opportunity to contest the results in court and “in every case no cause or evidence was found to reverse or question or dispute”.
With the Electoral College having formalized his victory just hours earlier, Biden told the bitterly divided country: “It’s time to turn the page.” “I’m convinced we can work together for the good of the nation,” he said. Trump continues to maintain that he was cheated of victory, even if his lawyers have not persuaded one court that they have a case. On Monday he announced that Attorney General Bill Barr, who contradicted his fraud claims, would leave his post next week. “Bill will be leaving just before Christmas to spend the holidays with his family,” Trump tweeted.
The Electoral College vote, a formality confirming the will of voters expressed at the polls, is usually ignored by all but hardcore politics buffs. This year, the somewhat arcane procedure took center stage as the US election system withstood weeks of assaults from the powerful president and much of his party.
Biden only needed 270 of the 538 Electoral College votes, which are divided up among the 50 states and he was headed for a total of 306 against Trump’s 232. Counting was underway all day and when it got to California, the Democrat went over the minimum amount, making him officially the president-elect from that point on. California’s electors burst into applause as the presiding officer read out the tally. Biden, Barack Obama’s former vice president, will be sworn in as the 46th president on Jan 20.
Disinformation spearheaded by the president and spread by popular commentators on Fox News and new conspiracy theory-mongering outlets like Newsmax means many Americans have all but given up faith in their own institutions. Thousands of Trump supporters, including members of far-right groups, protested in Washington at the weekend, brawling with counter-protesters, while in Georgia footage showed armed activists in camouflage parading at the state Capitol to support Trump’s claims.
Polls show as few as one in four Republican voters accept the election results. Trump maintained his stream of threats and unsubstantiated claims on Twitter Monday, citing “massive VOTER FRAUD” and declaring that certifying election results would be “a severely punishable crime”. The legal Electoral College vote, however, puts an official stamp on what voters already decided on Nov 3.
“Although I supported President Trump, the Electoral College vote today makes clear that Joe Biden is now President-Elect,” tweeted a Republican senator, Rob Portman, signaling the changing tide. In another shift, the staunchly Trump-supporting editorial board of The Wall Street Journal told Trump that his time is up. “President Trump’s legal challenges have run their course, and he and the rest of the Republican Party can help the country and themselves by acknowledging the result and moving on,” it said. Ahead of Biden’s inauguration, one major formality remains, when Congress, presided over by Vice President Mike Pence, opens up and counts the electoral votes on Jan 6. – AFP