Protesters demonstrate after Trump announced Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat. Reuters
Following the death of celebrated, liberal Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the already heated US general election campaign has become frenetic. Instead of observing a decent pause to respect the passing of the country’s first “rock star” justice, Donald Trump promptly announced that he would replace her with a woman as soon as possible and, within a week of her death, proposed Amy Coney Barrett, a controversial ultra-conservative.
If Senate Republican loyalists can force her confirmation before the November 3rd presidential and Congressional elections, Trump could count on the Court, where the Republicans would have a six seats to the Democrats’ three, to decide in his favour if Democratic rival Joe Biden wins the presidential election by a narrow margin. Republicans are set to argue that Democrats increased their votes by rigging the election.
Barton Gellman writing in November edition of The Atlantic in an article entitled, “ The Election That Could Break America,” argued, “Donald Trump...will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum (the post-election period until the inauguration of the winner) and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.”
Trump himself has confirmed this contention by saying, “There won’t be a transfer (of power to a winning Biden), Frankly, there will be a continuation.”
Trump also believes Barrett’s nomination, whether or not she is confirmed before the election, will win support for his bid for re-election from conservative Catholics as well as evangelical protestants. She is presumed to back their problematic agendas on abortion, gender equality, immigration, the right to vote, and climate change. On domestic issues, she could contribute to the reversal of progressive laws adopted over the past four decades. On the most important issue for the globe, climate change, she could join fellow conservatives in weakening US legislation regulating greenhouse gas emissions, a major cause of global warming.
Democrats are also gearing up to aggressively contest the election in the courts and the court of public opinion. They have ample reason to do so.
Barrett’s nomination has topped a wide range of moves by the Trump administration to undermine and skew the election. Since his victory in 2016, he has harped constantly on the possibility that the 2020 election will be rigged by the Democrats although it is his Republicans who hold the levers of power and are deeply involved in rigging.
After the advent of COVID-19 and spreading infection across the US, partly due to his lying about its dangers and lack of action, he has claimed postal voting can be subverted. And an effort to subvert it has been launched by the Republican postmaster general appointed by Trump. Claiming the need to cut costs, the postmaster has removed sorting machines and post boxes at a time they are needed most and banned overtime for employees required to sort postal ballots which could amount to 50 per cent of those cast this year. Trump has good reason to fear the postal vote as 69 per cent of voters casting ballots for his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, have told pollsters they will vote by mail while only 19 per cent of Trump backers will. Despite his avowed distrust of postal ballots, Trump and his wife Melania, residents of Florida rather than Washington, vote by mail.
Trump could attempt to strong-arm voters. He has said he will deploy federal marshals, national guardsmen, and officials to supervise voting at polling stations. In Republican-dominated states, this could lead to intimidation of voters likely to cast ballots for Democrats. His supporters — some free to carry arms — could also go to polling stations in Democrat-leaning areas and threaten voters.
Trump has used verbal abuse by rubbishing protests against police killings of Black men and women, calling demonstrators, leftists, anarchists, and violent criminals. He has again raised the menace of Hispanic migrants.
Trump lies flagrantly about his “fantastic” performance. Although 90 per cent of US citizens remain vulnerable to infection by COVID-19, Trump continues to downplay the risks posed by the virus. He adopted this policy as early as Feburary, when, if he had called for lockdown, social distancing, and masking, the US might not now have seven million infections and more than 200,000 deaths from COVID-19. By refusing to act, he is responsible for the suffering and deaths of tens of thousands of fellow citizens.
Faced with this terrible toll, Trump has politicised the failed US fight against the virus by refusing to wear a mask and holding mass campaign rallies of unmasked supporters who risk infection, long-term damage to their health, and death. He has also urged schools to reopen despite the danger of contagion and promised an early vaccine although firms continue to conduct trials.
He has even exerted pressure on the Food and Drugs Administration to approve vaccines before they are deemed effective and safe.
His scientific advisers, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, have warned against such a course of action because if an untested vaccine sickens or fails, the public will not trust any vaccines. This would constitute a major blow to the battle against Covid-19 in the world’s most infected country.
Trump’s handling of the pandemic has impacted US standing in the world. According to a Pew Research Centre public opinion survey, people in 13 countries, including US-allies France, Britain, Canada, Japan, Australia and Germany, rate the US at its lowest positive assessment since the centre began polling on this issue nearly 20 years ago. The 13-country average of those who have a favourable view of the US was 34 per cent and of those who have a positive view of Trump was 16 per cent.
While favourable opinions of the US began to decline when Trump took office, the pandemic has accelerated this trend so that only an average of 15 per cent thought the US has done a good job in dealing with the pandemic. The highest rating Trump received on Covid was 20 per cent from Spain, the lowest six per cent from South Korea. By comparison, 74 per cent was the average rating these countries were given by their citizens, the World Health Organisation received 64 per cent, the European Union 57 per cent, and China 37 per cent.
Of course, what foreigners think of Trump does not matter to his base of voters who are governed by wilful ignorance even though wilful ignorance kills and maims fellow citizens.