It will be no surprise to anyone that Trump was the first to announce to the world “frankly, we did win this election” in a speech made on Wednesday 4th November. What may be a surprise to some is the fact that not all of the ballots had been counted by then. Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nevada and Georgia were all eventually awarded to Biden. So what is the reasoning behind such a move? It is no secret that Trump suffers from a degree of self-delusion, such as the time when he proposed to buy Greenland. Remember that particular bout of insanity? If such a course of action was plausible in Trump’s mind then, there can be no doubt he may believe himself to be the victor even in spite of the overwhelming amount of evidence against him.
Crippling self-doubt could be to blame just as much as over-confidence.
Trump has made his distrust of postal votes very clear in the past, to the point of refusing to provide extra funding to cope with the surge in post. He also has a dedicated following who believe his word to be gospel. What do you get when you combine the two? A group willing to believe Trump has won and would protest the counting of the ballots which may yet prove him wrong. There are already protests underway to “Stop the Count” in Michigan and $8 million in donations for legal fees have already been amassed by the Trump campaign. Even if he does lose, he will still have a volatile base of support who will follow him until the end. Will they be successful? We can only wait and see (which also seems to be the unofficial motto of the year).
The legal cases opened by the Trump campaign under baseless accusations of 'widespread' voter fraud have done little to settle his supporters. Even as a string of court rulings have begun to debunk his claims, conspiracy theories remain in circulation on the darkest edges of Twitter.
Biden, too, was guilty of prematurely hinting at his own victory.
Trump’s premature declaration of victory can be excused and explained, but why did Biden do the same? Whilst not outright calling it a win for his campaign, he stated in a speech on Thursday 5th November that he “had no doubt….we will be declared the winners”. The newly-created Biden-Harris transition website also speaks volumes of this faith in their victory. I would take this confidence with a pinch of salt however since Biden also remarked in the same speech that the US has a “system of governance that has been the envy of the world” – he must be joking surely? Systems of governance aside, statistics could be the reason he is overly optimistic. It was first suggested during the postal ballot debacle that Democrats were so outraged at the removal of post boxes since they were more likely to use postal ballots than Republicans. This trend has proven itself true with the BBC estimating that 75% of all mail-in ballots were for Biden. Taking into account the fact that each state is too close to call and, even on 20th November we are waiting for the recounts to be finalised, it could be argued we are merely waiting for each state to confirm Biden’s victory.
Can it be as simple as that? I have my doubts.
We all know from the Presidential debates that Biden is not immune to Trump’s barbs. The first debate was a night of chaos, interruption and memorable quotes. Who can forget Biden’s outburst of “will you shut up man?” Is his announcement meant to be payback since, unlike Trump, he currently has the lead in the popular and electoral college vote? We can only hypothesise. We cannot blame him if he is feeling gleeful but as the old proverb goes, it is not wise to count your chickens before they have hatched…
It would be ridiculous if other countries were not as invested in the election of their new figurehead as US citizens are.
Both sides declaring victory have certainly not relived people’s anxieties regarding the election. If anything the partisanship in the US seems more polarised than ever. There are some examples of foreign leaders who also were perhaps too quick on the trigger, notably Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa who tweeted congratulations to Trump and Pence after their victory was “pretty clear”. Such an expression of support is unsurprising considering Melania Trump hails from Slovenia. One may be surprised that many of these commentators for the US election are not US nationals. We may not like to admit it, but the US does wield a significant amount of power on the world stage: it would be ridiculous if other countries were not as invested in the election of their new figurehead as US citizens are.
What is clear-cut and widely agreed (unlike the results) is that this election will have ramifications on the rest of the world. As the US and the world sets in for a gruelling wait, it feels appropriate to recall a quote from one of the US’ best-loved exports in recent years, the musical Hamilton, to ponder as the tense and never-ending wait for results continues: “History has its eyes on you”.
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