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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

Carlos Alberto Montaner: How Trump Lost the Election
Latin American genius Carlos Alberto Montaner analyzes where Trump failed and whether he will bring the Republican Party and democratic institutions down with him.

By Carlos Alberto Montaner

Joe Biden has won the election. Or, rather, Trump has lost it since the election was a plebiscite on him. Biden has won the popular vote by more than four million votes and the electoral college with more than 270 votes, the magic figure that opens the doors of the White House. He’ll probably get around 306, the same number of votes with which Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in 2016, even though Hillary had gotten nearly three million more votes than her rival. It is already known that in the American elections’ complicated arithmetic there are 50 elections, one per each state, and it is possible to win the presidency and, nevertheless, lose the popular vote. After all, America is a republic guided by law and not exactly a democracy. This phenomenon has happened five times in history.

Trump, as we all know, lost the election, but he wants to remain in the White House at any cost. He has asked for the vote count to be stopped, but fortunately neither Republicans nor Democrats have listened to him. They have continued imperturbably counting ballots, while the television networks, Fox included, gave the news of the electoral turnaround. One of Trump’s sons has warned that there are already “traitors” to his father in the Republican ranks. He was probably referring to Vice President Mike Pence, who distanced himself from Trump since the night of November 4, proclaiming that all votes must be counted, and all rules followed. Or Senator Marco Rubio, who is also in favor of an exhaustive recount. Hadn’t we agreed that the United States was a republic that had produced a rule of law?
Trump has in his memory what happened in Florida in 2000, although he does not say it. Several weeks after the end of the elections, the U.S. Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, ruled that the vote count should be stopped in Florida, which made George W. Bush Jr. President and retired Al Gore, the Democratic candidate, from politics.

But there was an objective reason to act as the Supreme Court did. In a few thousand cases they had invalidated the ballots voting for two presidents, Al Gore and Pat Buchanan – it happened in Palm Beach, where the ballot was designed without bad faith, with the approval of Republicans and Democrats – while in some electoral precincts the old voting machines using perforated ballots failed to complete their work.

In other words, the will of the elector had to be interpreted, which was always debatable. And the judges are not there to interpret anything, but to comply with electoral laws. If a confused voter votes for two presidents, the ballot is voided. If there are several machines that fail to complete the perforations and, therefore, the ballots are not “read” by the machines, they are also voided. That’s what the rules dictate. Objectively, George W. Bush had won by 537 votes.

But that precedent does not serve as an alibi for Donald Trump – it condemns him. Especially under the legal eye of Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative “originalist” and a newcomer to the Supreme Court, driven by the President, who proclaims that judges should not do politics, but abide by the law and this is very clear. The role of the courts is not to decide who won or lost the elections, but whether or not the rules of the elections have been complied with.

On the other hand, Trump’s accusation of fraud and “conspiracy” is ridiculous.

First, the electoral authorities of thousands of counties, Republican and Democrat, would have to agree to take victory away from the president, an impossible task to carry out.

Second, Republicans retained the Senate and won some seats in the House of Representatives, so the fraud charge does not stand.

Third, Donald Trump alleges that the “legitimate” votes, the ones cast in person at the electoral precinct, are the ones that gave him the victory, and the “illegitimate” ones, mainly the vote by mail and the absentee ballots, favor Biden. However, Trump also voted by mail and there are many states that support him where this mode of voting was present.

Obviously, there was no fraud or conspiracy.

Why does Donald Trump insist on making these absurd accusations that harm the United States so much?

Analyst Víctor Hernández Huerta, from the Center for Economic Teaching and Research of Mexico, believes that we are in front of a clear case of “blackmail” in his “Theory of Disputed Elections”. He studies 178 presidential elections in democracies from 1974 to 2012, and finds that in 21%, that is, 38, the results were contested, “causing violent reactions, constitutional crises and even civil wars.” Why do they do it? Here comes the hypothesis of blackmail; they change the post-electoral stability for “positions in the cabinet, parliamentary leadership or that the legislative priorities of the defeated party are fulfilled.”

I don’t think so in this case. Trump has no ideology. He doesn’t care about the fate of the Republican Party structure. If he didn’t hesitate to deprive his nephew, affected by “cerebral palsy,” of his health insurance because of a legal fight with his father, what can his fellow party members expect?

Trump must be studied, as did his niece Mary L. Trump, from deep psychology (Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man. Simon and Schuster, 2020). Mary has a PhD in psychology from the prestigious Adelphi University in New York.

It is true that there is personal resentment in the book, but that does not mean that she is not right. Trump’s logic is that of Samson in the temple of the Philistines: “I go down, but the United States and the republican traitors are going down with me.” I hope that the institutions resist, and he cannot achieve his purpose. ©Firmas Press

Carlos Alberto Montaner is a journalist and writer. Born in 1943 in Cuba and exiled, Montaner is known for his more than 25 books and thousands of articles. PODER magazine estimates that more than six million readers have access to his weekly columns throughout Latin America. He is also a political analyst for CNN en Espanol. In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine named Montaner as one of the fifty most influential intellectuals in the Ibero-American world. His latest novel is A Time for Scoundrels. His latest essay is "The President: A Handbook for Voters and the Elected." His latest book is Sin ir más lejos (Memories), published by Debate, a label of Penguin-Random House.


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