It was a night when an orange President gave US democracy a red face

Concede gracefully? It’s no longer fashionable

November 05, 2020 12:19

“It is legal because I wish it,” said Louis XIV. There are similarities between the 17th century Sun King and the 21st century Orange President — a tendency to absolutism and fancy palaces. But a major difference is that Donald Trump is subservient to the law.

Conversely, it is also there to protect him and, if he believes he has been robbed of a second term, there is a route back to the White House leading through the courts. This means the American election could be decided by just 5 votes — the majority of the Supreme Court.

Dozens of lawsuits have been filed around the country, some of which have already been thrown out. There are numerous details upon which cases can be made.

For example in Nevada, Mr Trump’s lawyers have demanded access to the Dept of Motor Vehicles in order to check signatures against voters’ ballots. However, most cases boil down to two legal questions: 1. Did the actions of officials to expand ways to vote increase the risk of fraud, and therefore infringe on the rights of other voters? 2. Because the Constitution says only state legislators can set out election rules, were rule changes made by governors, or other officials, unconstitutional?

If over the next few days a court answers “yes”, then it’s possible some of the postal ballot votes could be annulled. If it says “no”, the Trump camp could appeal and go all the way to the Supreme Court where a simple majority of the nine votes decides the case. It currently has six judges deemed to be conservatives but theoretically all nine decide solely on their interpretation of law. 

The court’s Chief Justice, John Roberts, has already ruled that the “different bodies of law” in different states means that a decision about a case begun in one state may not set a precedent for all. 

In 2000 it took 35 days before Al Gore conceded to George W Bush following a Supreme Court ruling for the “unity of the nation”, but these are different times, unity is scarce and conceding is unfashionable. If the court cases drag on, we could come dangerously close to the first constitutional deadline – 14 December. That’s when the Electoral College electors in each state begin to vote.

Those votes must reach the Senate by 23 December and must be in place by the time Congress sits on 6 January, ahead of Inauguration Day — 20 January. 

Mr Trump has tweeted that unchecked voter fraud could “induce violence in the streets”. That’s incendiary language — but he’s right and the law is there to provide a peaceful legal path to either the continuation or exchange of power. All Americans are bound by it — including those who would be “King”.

November 05, 2020 12:19

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