On Monday in the United States, the Electoral College members will cast their votes for president, duly electing Joe Biden without any further interruption or challenge after the US Supreme Court dismissed on Friday a lawsuit brought by Texas that challenged Biden's win in four other states.
Even though we in Australia are pining for it, the United States does not have direct election of the president; the founders were wary of the raw exercise of popular will and so instead adopted the Electoral College model, where basically, the presidential candidate who carries each state receives the electoral votes for that state.
On Thursday night, before the United States Supreme Court completed its rout of Donald Trump, the President's press secretary, Kayleigh Mcenany, who attended Harvard Law School, told Fox News that it would be a "no brainer" for the court to take up the Texas lawsuit and overturn millions of votes cast in the November 3 presidential election. She miscounted the nine brains who voted against her boss.
Hours before the Supreme Court ruled, Trump tweeted his plea: "If the Supreme Court shows great Wisdom and Courage, the American People will win perhaps the most important case in history, and our Electoral Process will be respected again!"
Trump worked this very hard. Through his pressure, 17 states joined the Texas pleading. More significantly, two-thirds of the Republican members of the House of Representatives joined the lawsuit. Trump himself filed a personal brief urging the election be overturned.
The Texas case hoovered up all the alleged frauds that were conjured by Trump’s legal team into an incredulous, highly strung rap sheet of what went wrong when Trump failed to win Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia.
There was only one problem: each and every allegation of the election being stolen had been dismissed by courts in all those states and by several federal courts. As a Pennsylvania judge wrote, "free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy. Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof." There was none. Even Attorney-General William Barr broke with Trump and said there was no fraud in the election.
Pennsylvania called what Texas was doing "a seditious abuse of the judicial process". How outrageous an assault on democracy has this been? Imagine, if after Australia’s 2019 election, Bill Shorten had tried to enlist the support of Labor premiers in Victoria and West Australia to implore the High Court to throw out the Queensland vote, declare Labor the winner in key seats there and deliver government to Labor. How would that go over?
Last week, the Supreme Court uttered one-sentence affirming Pennsylvania. On Friday, with three more sentences, Trump’s legal efforts to nullify the result of the presidential election were utterly quashed. SCOTUS rudely dissed POTUS, with none of Trump’s court appointees on his side.
After Monday’s vote, a real moment of truth will arrive for Trump and the Republican leadership. It seems the only way Trump can reconcile his defeat – because he cannot accept losing – is to say that he won, and that the election was stolen from him. He now repeatedly declares, "We won the election." Trump will go to his grave believing that.
Today, 70 per cent of the Republican Party, a majority of elected Republicans in Congress and 30 per cent of the country believe that Biden is an illegitimate president.
Trump will not attend the inauguration because he cannot countenance being present at the constitutional ceremony that legitimises Biden’s presidency.
This presents a real issue of governance in Washington. When Joe Biden is duly elected president by the Electoral College, will the Republican leaders – Vice-President Mike Pence, Senate leader Mitch McConnell, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows – finally tell Trump that it is time to step aside and complete the peaceful transfer of power for the good of the country?
The second test is the future of the Republican party itself. Trump has strongly signalled he will declare his re-election campaign on inauguration day. Trump will not retire from the field but become the de facto opposition leader – vaulting over the Republicans in Congress.
Trump was an abnormal president. Why not be an abnormal ex-president? Unlike every other former president, Trump will open a running commentary on everything Biden does. This will have two immediate effects. Firstly, it will force a continued alignment of Republicans in Congress with Trump. He will pre-empt their agenda and force them to make his agenda theirs. And secondly, in media terms, every minute Trump gets coverage is a minute Biden does not get coverage.
Trump being so dominant – driven by the fear he induces throughout the party – means that other ambitious Republicans cannot come into their own, frustrating their ambitions.
By Tuesday, the emperor will have no clothes, even as he seeks a restoration. The onus is now on the Republicans to call out his naked loss of power.
Benjamin Franklin, on leaving the Constitutional Convention in 1787, was asked: "Well, Doctor, what have we got - a republic or a monarchy?" A republic, if you can keep it,” he said. The Electoral College will work its will. The American people just kept their republic.