Questionable arguments about the Biden victory

Sottotitolo: 
Susan Rice's dubious views on the election outcome, the defeat of Trump and the the victory of Joe Biden.

The trouble with most of my U.S. friends and acquaintances - of, around or moderately against the liberal establishment - is that, having wone the elections by rightly demonizing Trump, they learnt little or nothing from the experience.

I shall use Susan L. Rice, a person with the right credentials, both intellectual and political, as an example of the dangers in ignoring the pitfalls of the present electoral system, an essential part of any democracy. As revealed by the very actions of the sitting president, an unvoluntary service to everything he opposes! Sheer denunciation of the electorally unsuccessful malfeasance of the person about to be ousted from the White House should not become an alibi for ignoring or not understanding, if not changing electoral procedures that brought him to win the elections in 2016 and convince 70% of his present electorate that, in 2020, the outcome was stolen from them. An enduring wound to U.S. democracy, if not squarely faced.

Let me comment Rice's arguments ("The N.Y. Times", Dec. 3, p.1) point by point.
1. SR: "The Trump campaign labored (largely in vain) to concoct conspiracy theories to discredit Mr. Biden by falsely smearing his son Hunter."
GGM: A half-truth. Hunter was making 50.000$ a month on the board of a corrupt Ukrainian company, ostensibly for the only reason that his father was the Vice President of the United States, all the more with a mandate to pressure the Ukrainian government to fight...corruption. Luckily (for the political outcome of the argument), Trump and his henchman, Rudy Giuliani, was caught red-handed trying blackmail in order to enlist the Ukrainian government in its efforts to discredit Mr. Biden rather than focusing on the real issue: the Vice President placed in a position of objective conflict of interest by accepting to deal with an issue, on behalf of the Obama administration (internal corruption of another sovereign state) that, if at all, could and should have been handled through customary, diplomatic channels (I hate to think what the Ukrainians must have thought, or learnt, from both sides of the U.S. political spectrum).
A possible inuendo  (mind the choice of word): that the hapless impeachment procedure, initiated by the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, was silently and immediately strangled in  its cradle  by an otherwise unthinkable, bipartisan swope in the Senate: no Hunter, no Bolton! A cynical Italian statesman, Giulio Andreotti, used to say: "Suspicions are sinful, but tend to be well founded".

SR: "Trump supporters worked assiduously to suppress the vote by denigrating the legitimacy of mail-in ballots during a pandemic...manipulating the postal system to delay ballot delivery".
GGM: Absolutely true. Yet, why do other Western democracies exclude absentee voting by mail? The only major exception I can think of is the Italian mail-in vote of emigrants, with disastrous effects in terms of secrecy, ballot counting and timing. Would second thoughts not be in order, based on the havoc raised in these recent elections?

SR: "...limiting access to ballot drop boxes and polling stations, flooding with messaging to dampen minority voter turnout, blasting robocalls to deceive voters about where and when to vote..."
GGM: Present electoral regulations in the U. S. are patently absurd. Ostensibly based on federalist principle that ought to be limited to local elections, it makes no sense to have different rules and procedures at state and even county level to elect federal officers, whether presidential or congressional. The choice of a single working day, insufficient polling stations, long kews, complicated and diversified registration rules are different ways, whether or not consciously conceived, of discouraging turnout, in particular of the culturally and socially underprivileged.

3. SR: "Some of Mr. Trump's most ardent supporters intimidated voters at the polls. Heeding calls to 'stand by' and 'go into the polls and watch very carefully'...".
GGM: But is not such objectively abject behaviour, if not encouraged, at least made possible by lack of clearly established universal rules that, in other democratic countries, ensure public order at and around the polling stations, the secrecy both of the vote and orderly ballot counting under the supervision of observers appointed by the parties?

4. SR: "In the run-up to Election Day, Mr. Trump dispatched an army of litigants to enlist the courts in curtailing access to the polls.".
GGM: Such initiatives are frequent in quasi-dictatorships as means for dissident minorities to oppose widely and plausibly expected manipulations of those in power. In the case in point, such not only preemptive litigation is made possible by unclear and locally diversified rules and rulings concerning the right to vote and the decisive enforcement of results by the electoral college.
While it can be argued that the allocation of electoral votes, state by state, is part of a federal compromise, even at the price of the election of a president with lesser national votes than his opponent, the diversified powers of single states to reverse the certified result within its own boundaries is clearly perverse.
The proof of the pudding is the fight over the Supreme Court. The "extrema ratio" nomination of Amy Coney Barrett - forcing the Republican majority to remiss any moral coherence after its successful opposition to president Obama not so belated nomination of Garrick Garland - conceived a judicial rather than ballot counting outcome of the elections.

Point number 5. concerns a capital omission in SR's argument: the bipartisan role, indeed the rule of money in U.S. elections.
 According to universally accepted calculations, the recent presidential and congressional elections cost around 14 billion dollars. According to an educated guess, both parties will spend nearly one billion before the bi-elections in Georgia are over. Huge sums for political parties, but a pittance out the pockets of the gigantic financial and corporate interests - the infamous 1% - that aim at ever-increasing control of Washington institutions. It is not surprising that the Republican party has nothing to offer in terms of criticism of this state of affairs and exhibits a transparency equivalent to that of their leader's tax statements.

As for the Democrats, they have rightly campaigned against a fairly recent free for all ruling by the Supreme Court, while their presidential candidate abided by transparency principles that, by the way, show a substantial representation of corporate donors. Some Democrats - to a large extent the Obama campaign; above all, some progressive candidates, inspired by Bernie Sanders - have made it their rule to accept only limited, rank-and-file contributions. But with the paradoxical result that income raised by each candidate has degenerated into a race parallel to polling in order to predict the outcome of an election.

Let me close my argument with a personal anecdote. In the late Nineties we received as our guest a delegation of U.S. senators. As customary on these occasions, they asked us what legislation we were discussing at the time of their visit. As we told our colleagues that we were about to pass a law that prohibits political TV commercials during electoral campaigns, Barbara Boxer, the very distinguished senator from California, told me (I still remember her very words): "Be sure to pass that law! It will save some of the quality of your democracy. In order to be re-elected as senator, I have to raise an average of 52.000$ a day!".

Knowing her reputation of integrity, I asked Senator Boxer how she could escape the diktats of such lobbyists. Her answer was: "I have to balance the money I receive to preserve my freedom. Grant access to all contributors, but yield to no request that go against my convictions". But how many elected officials follow senator Boxer's advice? What it comes back to is the surge of political expense that increases the moral and political vulnerability of office holders.

A counter argument can be expected. The 2020 elections are a unicum, a sort of stress test that will be successfully concluded when Jopseph Biden is sworn in as the 46th President of the United States.
When Giuseppe Conte, prime minister of Italy, like most of his colleagues, acknowledged Mr. Biden as the elected president, he also rightly congratulated "the people and the institutions of the United States" for the result, under admittedly difficult circumstances.

Yet, the otherwise all too normal election round in year 2000 was brought to end by the Supreme Court that seated George W. Bush as president, at the expense of Al Gore. Without even a recount, in the decisive state of Florida, presided over by Governor Jeb Bush, brother of the so-called President Elect. Maybe, Susan Rice and all of us, supporters of Joe Biden, should show some gratitude for the certified, double checked election of our candidate!

This is the concern off all of us, as part of the global population. Once more, Bernie Sanders put his finger on the right spot when he told Secretary Pompeo that, in refusing to accept the result of free elections, he was hardly credible when lecturing other nations on democracy and the rule of law. A bipartisan truth that, if well learnt, should at the least be traced back to the otherwise great FDR, defining Mussolini "That admirable Italian gentleman" and Somoza as "a s.o.b, but our s.o.b.". To quote Le Carré's George Smiley: "If you use the same means as your enemy to achieve your ends, you become like your enemy".

Gian Giacomo Migone

President, Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate, Republic of Italy, 1994-2001; former professor of U.S. History, University of Torino

Insight - Free thinking for global social progress

Free thinking for global social progress