Since Donald Trump arrived at the White House, he began to move his pieces with his eyes always set on re-election. In recent months, with his campaign buffeted by the health and economic crisis of the coronavirus and also as the country experienced the largest protests against racial injustice in decades, the president was intensifying movements to delegitimize the process. The alarms went off and they were justified. In the last two days, with the world still holding its breath in the face of a cumbersome heart attack count that brings Democrat Joe Biden closer to the White House but also demonstrates the strength of his support, Trump has launched the check on democracy that many feared and predicted. And it maintains and intensifies it, showing no signs of being willing to back down, however explosive it may be in a country polarized to the extreme.
One of the theaters of this war is in the courts. There, the president’s lawyers are posing various challenges, ranging from asking to recount the ballots where he has lost by only a few thousand votes to requesting that the legitimate process to count them in places be stopped. where your edge erodes as mail ballots are counted. But there is another theater in which Trump moves with dangerous skill: that of disinformation and that of the agitation of his most radical bases.
This Thursday, less than 48 hours after the polls closed, Trump redoubled his denunciations, without evidence, of electoral fraud, a phenomenon that in the US is anecdotal at best and of which no significant cases have been detected in these elections. He also demanded that an illegality be committed: stopping the counting of the ballots, a laborious process that this year has been further complicated by the flood of vote-by-mail amid pandemic, by rules in some states that did not allow to start processing and counting those ballots until the 3rd day and by the extended calendars in places like Pennsylvania to receive those votes.
Trump launched the harangue first on Twitter, in capital letters that in digital protocol represent screams. Then, and to avoid the misinformation alerts with which the social network is labeling those messages or the false ones in which it claims victory in states where a winner has not been officially determined, reiterated it through a signed statement, also written in capital letters, which distributed his campaign.
From Biden’s “patience” to agitation
While the Democratic candidate Joe Biden asked “patience & rdquor; and assured to feel” good “about his possibilities, that his campaign identifies as an” imminent “victory and that has led them now to launch a website for the transition, Trump’s public message is one of agitation. And it reaches far beyond its 88 million followers on Twitter thanks to the loudspeaker and media attention that the presidency gives it. In an appearance this Thursday night while following the vote count, Biden has requested “calm” and has affirmed that “every ballot must be counted.” “Nobody or anything else elects the president of the United States of America, so each ballot must be counted,” he said from Wilmington (Delaware).
Trump and his closest allies, along with a burgeoning and influential ultra-conservative media machinery and far-right ‘pseudo-media’ are taking it upon themselves to help spread disinformation and conspiracy theories. And as the columnist of ‘The New York Times’ Nick Kristof has recalled, now it is Trump himself, his son Eric or the White House press secretary, Kaleigh McEnany, who they are sowing confusion and mistrust in the US system, which were the causes for which Russian hackers were accused of waging an “information war & rdquor; during the 2016 campaign.
Every message from Trump waving the allegations without basis of fraud and speaking directly of “theft” & rdquor; encourages his most aroused followers, who in some cases have gone now to demonstrate in front of places where vote counts are carried out, where those who defend that all ballots are counted and the democratic process are respected also converge. And for the moment the fears of those who feared that the powder keg would explode, which are the deeply divided and disproportionately armed US, have not been fulfilled, but the tension throbs at the surface.
Those tensions will not be lessened by decisions such as the Justice Department, deeply politicized during Trump’s term thanks to the collaboration of Attorney General William Barr, who distributed a message to prosecutors in which recalled that he has the authority to send armed federal agents to vote counting centers to “respond to, investigate or prevent federal crimes & rdquor ;. The email was sent an hour before Trump, in his only public appearance so far, in the early morning after the election, falsely declared himself the winner.