Social media is a great place for editorialising. If you are an avid follower, you will notice that almost all facets of an issue in the news are freely thrashed out --- and trashed. The last couple of days, there has been an incessant to-and-fro traffic on digital platforms about the agonisingly slow counting process in the US presidential poll. This has given a number of Indians something to exult about, at last, something of their own.
The desi Election Commission has drawn fulsome praise for conducting polls in a country with a population four times that of the US, and conduct them smoothly. Even under the baleful pall of Covid-19 virus, the trouble-free Bihar assembly poll is a case in point. As for the outcome, it is made available within hours of the start of the counting. Okay, we know the reasons why the US is saddled with the far more intricate electoral process. But isn’t it time the world’s oldest democracy updated the process for it to be in tune with the ubiquitous availability of modern tools of transport, communications, Internet, secure digital platforms for polling, etc. A more pertinent point is the over two- month waiting period for the president-elect to be installed in office. This allows for hanky-panky by the outgoing incumbent in the lame-duck period, like granting pardon to friends and others convicted of serious crimes.
It is argued the US electoral laws are what they are due to the tremendous autonomy enjoyed by the states. A federalism which adds to public confusion and feuds such as those between the loser Trump and his supporters on the one side and Biden and his supporters on the other would scar the society if the handover of power was not immediate. However, we have to grant that despite brazen attempts by Trump, the US electoral system has worked without any evidence of bias or fraud. Even the Republican Party governors and other officials in the states have conducted themselves with becoming independence and fairness, ignoring cries from the president that the election is rigged in favour of Biden.
Indeed, Trump should feel grateful that despite his rotten record in office, he has bagged millions of more votes than he had in 2016. Maybe it was the rottenness which netted higher support from his largely white non-graduate male supporters. He had revelled in inciting his base against the Black Lives Matter campaign, suggesting that under Biden, the whites would not be secure, that white suburbs would be swamped by poor housing, etc., all from the same playbook which incentivised the white supremacist groups. He made law and order an effective issue in the backdrop of recent incidents of rioting and looting in a few suburbs, following the death of Blacks at the hands of the police. The suggestion that police departments would be de-funded should Biden come to power also paid rich electoral dividends. As did the false charge that the Biden-Harris ticket represented 'socialism',a pejorative term in the lexicon of a consumer-capitalist society. Meanwhile, never before was the White House tenanted by a man who was so undeserving of this august office, which had all along symbolised great authority and power globally. Trump was a gadfly who challenged the long-established precedents and conventions of presidential behaviour.
If something good emerged from his ill-spoken words and whimsical actions, it was unintended. Like his attack on NATO. His insistence that the member-states contribute two per cent of their GDP towards common defence made them realise the need to organise their own collective defence since the US could no longer be relied upon. The EU members were now conscious of stepping up military budgets to bolster common defence.
Another salutary contribution of Trump was to make the world at large realise the immense threat China posed to global peace and security. After the US had invested so much money and energy in empowering China in the mistaken belief that an economically strong China would embrace democracy and human rights, it was left to Trump to frontally warn the world that the Communist giant posed a greater challenge than even the former Soviet Union. If there was one thing on which Trump and Biden were on the same page, it was on the need to stop China before it was too late. The Biden administration will not ease pressure on China, though its actions might be nuanced and well-targeted. On its part, India has no cause for worry since her relations with the US are not only on an even keel but under Biden, the closer cooperation in defence and other areas would get further fillip. Washington might occasionally make some noises about alleged human rights violations and related issues but commonality of interests will only see the Indo-US ties grow stronger.
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