The turmoil in the US after the recent Presidential elections may shock many people, but a simple Google search will help you understand that this is par for the course after almost every election. There are recounts, protests, lawsuits and fraud complaints every time. Recall the almost weeklong protests in major US cities after Trump’s shock election in 2016. Usually, this is all loser’s dramatics and peters out after a short time. But there is a difference this time – it is being personally fueled by the sitting President himself by tweeting and spreading brazen lies about widespread election fraud without providing an iota of evidence or proof. That too is par for the course given Trump’s love for falsehood and hyperbole. Even his reaction was expected to a certain extent because first and foremost, he hates losing and second, he hates losing to a person he calls Sleepy Joe! He also knows that the outside world is waiting for him and members of his family, and a host of lawsuits have been readied, calibrated and primed to descend on them the moment they step out of the White House. In a way, he is not only fighting to stay in the Presidency but also to stay out of jail.
But what is surprising is that Republicans on the whole are not only supporting his false accusations but helping to enforce and spread the lies and fake allegations of election fraud. It would seem that these veteran Congressmen with long and often sterling reputations have suddenly lost their spine and moral rectitude to a man who has none of those qualities himself.
But it is not so simple.
I think the first thing to remember is that Trump – despite his mismanagement of Covid and his constant lying about it, his impeachment by the House, his anti-minority and anti-immigrant rhetoric, his misogyny, his history of womanizing, his racism and support to white supremacists – has won more than an astonishing 71 million votes. While many of those may have been driven by party loyalty and the performance of the economy under him, a substantial percentage of those votes went straight to the Trump persona. There are many who think he walks on water, worship the very ground he walks on and as a corollary, accept his every word as Gospel truth. He can do no wrong, he can utter no lie. There is not a word they will believe against him. His one word can make a life, another word can destroy a career. An endorsement from him is a guarantee of election to many Republicans, a lifeline to the ones who are struggling.
And that is precisely the reason why so many Republicans are scared to defy him. It is almost certain that Trump will run again in 2024. He has tasted the good life. It will be very difficult to keep him away. Prominent Republicans with ambition will aim to stay on his right side in case that happens. There will be openings for them to fill. If he doesn’t run in 2024, the same Republicans will run, but the shadow of Trump will always be orbiting around them. His influence in the party is tremendous. He is not known for holding back. A word of praise in the next four years will boost their chances, a few choice tweets will char them beyond recognition.
As far as the current imbroglio about conceding is concerned, I think Trump will hang around till the two Georgia runoff elections are done with on January 5th. That election will decide which party will gain a majority in the Senate. His presence and support as President is absolutely crucial to the Republican candidates there. At least till that time, the Republicans will not want him to concede. In fact, Trump may well have boxed himself into the dark world of conspiracy theories and fraud. He has drummed up so much resistance to the Biden win within his supporters, that quitting now may well look like a betrayal to them. Trump and his propaganda team will therefore keep the accusations of wholesale fraud going so that their support base in Georgia remains all ginned up to vote.
That election too will come and go but the Trump effect is here to stay, for a long, long time.