The news has a gift for exaggeration. You’d be forgiven for expecting the world to collapse every other weekend. But perhaps we’ve finally had a sequence of events that justified the outrage. For many months prior to the US election in November, incumbent President Donald Trump claimed that it would be rigged due to mail-in ballots, despite the election later being found by Homeland Security to be the ‘most secure in American history’.

A misleading ‘victory’ for the Democrats

It is easy to understand why someone may not trust Trump’s accusations, considering his track record, so this was a non-existent scandal. Worrying, certainly, but surely yet another instance of melodrama over nothing, right?

Not exactly. Joe Biden did not achieve the landslide some polls anticipated, which made the threat of the election being overturned that much more real. On the surface, Joe Biden’s record-breaking number of votes — about 81.2 million — tells a story of knocking the election out of the park. But this must come with two important distinctions: a) the record was also broken by Donald Trump, despite losing, and b) gauging the safety of an election off a popular vote does not translate well in America. Remember that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote and yet her defeat of 306-232 mirrored this election.

In fact, the Democrats did not perform well at the election. The loss of seats in the House of Representatives remains a shock, a loss so substantial the Democrats, even with their impressive 81.2 million votes cast for Biden, are only four seats over the minimum required for a majority in the House. Whilst there were dissident Republican representatives that voiced opposition to questioning the validity of the election, there no doubt would have been greater reason for concern had the Republicans won the House. Similarly, victories in the Georgia Senate run-offs were applauded, but let it be understood that these were surprises. The stock market treated the runoff races with a kind of certainty that Republicans would win at least one of the races.

Even after winning both races, the Democrats only have a ‘majority’ because of Kamala Harris’ position as Vice-President, should tiebreakers occur. Irrespective, the passing of legislation relies on complete party unity, a difficult task in a two-party political system that places people like Bernie Sanders — who advocates a free at the point of service healthcare system — and John Hickenlooper — who believes the insured should be left to enjoy their ‘marketplace-based insurance’ — in the same party. This issue extends also to the House, with the Democrats’ sordid majority of four. It is safer than the Senate, but by no means safe and still relies on voting on party lines.

Republicans’ refusal to accept the result

Republicans, meanwhile, have been busy. One hundred and twenty-one Republican representatives objected to the verification of Arizona’s electoral college votes, with 83 voting against the objection. It would be insufficient, therefore, to think doubting the election is a minority position, because that would be untrue. In a two-party system, it is now the majority position of the losing party that Joe Biden may be a fraudulent President.

Another story from Georgia arose when Trump phoned the Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, and ‘repeatedly urged him to alter the outcome of the presidential vote in the state’. Moreover, within the past few days, evidence of another phone call, this time to a chief election investigator in the state, has emerged. In this latest phone call, Trump asked the official to ‘find the fraud’. It is unprecedented for an incumbent to attempt to persuade officials to change the outcome of an election, and gives the world worrying reminiscence to Watergate and Richard Nixon. Concerns have been voiced that, had the pressure been applied to someone on a lower rung, or applied to someone sympathetic to Trump’s cause, the request might have been fulfilled. Yet another instance of how reliant on chance the safety of this election has been.

Heart rates were doubtless high, also, when the Texas v Pennsylvania lawsuit was filed to the United States Supreme Court. Many feared the judges, three of which had been chosen by the incumbent and had pro-conservative leanings, would favour the incumbent. One hundred and twenty-five Republicans supported this lawsuit, further expanding the majority of elected officials who wish to challenge the validity of the election. It must have been another sigh of relief, therefore, when the Supreme Court dismissed the case due to a lack of standing from Texas, a sufficient justification for dismissal but not nearly scathing enough in light of what the lawsuit intended to achieve.

And whilst we at home might have criticized Trump’s allegations of fraud, it clearly stuck with many people. In December, protesters chanting ‘Stop the Steal’ gathered in Washington, D.C., resulting in at least four stabbings. Then of course came the storming of the capitol building, when rioters entered with zip-ties, seemingly intended to take hostages, and when, in the aftermath, authorities found makeshift molotovs, bombs and several guns. Already people fear a repeat attack nearer to Biden’s inauguration, with extremists on the Parler app promising to return for ‘round 2’.

It is terrifying to think that scepticism towards the validity of the election is not a fringe position of a few hundred people, but one promulgated by hundreds of Republican representatives, the incumbent himself, and attorneys and state officials across the country. Come Biden’s inauguration, he will find himself having to face a problem of division unlike anything seen before. Presidents have been unpopular before. But how many have had to convince millions of people that they did indeed win the election, especially when a good portion have no intention of listening?

There is palpable irony here, if not reason to be a little morose. America, whose propaganda touts the nation as the world’s defender of freedom, was micrometers away from overruling its own election result; a catastrophe avoided only by a fateful sequence of chance events.

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