Biden’s cabinet picks are globally respected, but one obstacle remains for the US to ‘lead the world’ again



Carolyn Kaster/AP

John Hawkins, University of Canberra

The “team of rivals” was the term historian Doris Kearns Goodwin used to describe US President Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet. It included three men who had run against Lincoln for the Republican nomination for president in 1860: William Seward (secretary of state), Salmon Chase (treasury secretary) and Edward Bates (attorney general).

Appointing these strong-willed figures could have been disastrous were it not for Lincoln’s personal qualities.

Goodwin describes how Lincoln was willing to acknowledge when policies failed and change direction. He gathered facts on which to base decisions. He sought compromise but took full responsibility for his decisions, respected his colleagues and set an example of dignity. (In all these, he sounds like the antithesis of Donald Trump.)

President-elect Joe Biden has taken a different approach to filling out his cabinet so far. Aside from choosing Kamala Harris as his vice president, he’s looked past his main Democratic rivals for the nomination — Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders — and appointed mainly technical experts with relevant experience and an international outlook.

Biden may have seen these more technocratic appointments as fitting with his less partisan style. It also sends a signal to the world that the US wants to reengage.

In Biden’s words, the US is “ready to lead the world, not retreat from it”. And as Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the new UN ambassador put it, “multilateralism is back”.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield is a career diplomat and former ambassador to Liberia.
AHMED JALLANZO/EPA

Team of talent

Biden may not have filled his cabinet with rivals, but he has also not surrounded himself with clones or an “echo chamber”. He made clear he wanted his cabinet to

tell me what I need to know, not what I want to know.

As secretary of state, he has appointed Antony Blinken. A francophone internationalist, Blinken served as former President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser and deputy secretary of state.




Read more:
From ‘America first’ to ‘America together’: who is Antony Blinken, Biden’s pick for secretary of state?


He once made a charming appearance on Sesame Street, telling Grover about the United Nations and refugees. He commented

we all have something to learn and gain from one another even when it doesn’t seem at first like we have much in common.

The message is a long way from “America first” and the disdain for the rest of the world shown by the Trump administration.

Advocates of free trade and climate change action

As treasury secretary, Biden has appointed Janet Yellen. She was chair of the Federal Reserve from 2014–18 and currently heads the American Economic Association. Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz recalled her as one of his brightest students.

It is quite an achievement to be the most famous economist in a family that includes a Nobel Prize winner (her husband George Akerlof).

Janet Yellen is a strong supporter of open trade.
Craig Ruttle/AP

An advocate of free trade and expert in labour markets, she understands the damage that Trump’s trade wars, especially with China, have done to working Americans.

Being chair of the Federal Reserve also gave Yellen an important role in international organisations, such as the Bank for International Settlements.




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John Kerry has been appointed to the new post of climate envoy. He is globally respected as a former secretary of state, and ran unsuccessfully for president himself in 2004.

His appointment signals that the Biden administration recognises the importance of recommitting the US to climate action. Most significantly, Kerry was highly influential in the final week of negotiations of the Paris Agreement in 2015 and signed it for the US the following year with his granddaughter on his lap.

Kerry was personally involved in pushing the Paris Climate Agreement over the line.
Mark Lennihan/AP

And following four years of Trump’s anti-immigration policies, Biden has selected a Cuban-born immigrant, Alejandro Mayorkas, to lead the Department of Homeland Security. After his nomination, Mayorkas spoke of his desire

to advance our proud history as a country of welcome.

Potential roadblocks in the Senate

Biden has assembled a team with an international outlook that will re-commit the US to supporting international organisations, such as the World Health Organisation, and treaties like the Paris Agreement. He will seek to reform rather than just impede the World Trade Organisation.




Read more:
What a Biden presidency means for world trade and allies like Australia


But there’s one significant hurdle still looming. If the Democrats can’t gain control of the Senate by winning the two run-off elections in Georgia in early January, the Republican-led chamber will likely aim to block Biden’s aims of resuming a constructive global role.

For example, Biden will be able to issue an executive order to rejoin the Paris Agreement on his first day as president. But major reforms to cut greenhouse gas emissions or his proposed $2 trillion clean energy plan would face opposition in a Republican-controlled Senate.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell once described Biden as a ‘trusted partner’, but it remains to be seen how well the Republicans will work with the new administration.
Susan Walsh/AP

Optimists have compared Biden to former President Lyndon Johnson (also known as LBJ), who may be able to use his decades of legislative experience to achieve more change than was possible for John F. Kennedy or Obama.

Ron Klain, recently announced as Biden’s chief of staff, once put it well:

LBJ might not have been the wokest, coolest, hippest Democrat, but he’s the person who got the most actual progressive social justice legislation done since FDR […] he knew how to make the Senate work.

The rest of the world will hope Klain is right and that the Senate does not block the program of this promising new cabinet.




Read more:
Winning the presidency won’t be enough: Biden needs the Senate too


The Conversation


John Hawkins, Senior Lecturer, Canberra School of Politics, Economics and Society, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Is Trump’s truculence an attempted coup or the last-ditch efforts of a man whose star is fading?


Daniel Cooper, Griffith University and Brendon O’Connor, University of Sydney

US President Donald Trump’s time in the White House is coming to an end. But, as has become obvious over the past few weeks, he is unlikely to deliver a gracious concession speech.

Instead, the president has spent much of his time since the November 3 election plotting ways to undo what has turned out to be a rather clear victory for President-elect Joe Biden — all credible media outlets have given Biden 306 electoral college votes to the outgoing president’s 232. The successful candidate needs to amass 270 electoral college votes to win the presidency.




Read more:
Joe Biden wins US presidential election as mail-in votes turn key states around


Time is simply running out for Trump. By December 8, all states are required to certify their results, with the electors in each state to cast their votes by December 14. The inauguration of the next president takes place on January 20 2021.

None of this should obscure the anti-democratic coup d’état Trump is attempting as he refuses to concede defeat. However, it is unlikely to succeed.

His legal challenges alleging fraud and misconduct are close to running their course. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled against his claim that election “observers” were too far away in Philadelphia from workers counting ballots. In Georgia, a hand recount has finished with Biden confirmed the victor. And Michigan lawmakers appear ready to defy the president, who now seems intent on wreaking havoc on the certification process.

Trump’s efforts to undermine the legitimacy of the election are real. His attempt to influence Republican state legislators, in effect to persuade them to replace electors committed to voting for Biden with electors ready to vote for Trump, is profoundly undemocratic. Under a winner-takes-all system, Michigan’s 16 electoral college votes should be going to President-elect Biden, the clear winner of the state by almost three percentage points.

If Trump had succeeded in overturning the results, one could go as far as questioning America’s status as a liberal democracy. Not since Southern secessionists contested the legitimacy of Abraham Lincoln’s election in 1860 has a single actor been so nefarious in their attempts to undermine an incoming president.

Look no further than Trump’s actions on the transition. With over 250,000 Americans dead from COVID-19, and case numbers exploding around the country, one would think an orderly transition in which the incoming president is given access to experts knowledgeable about the country’s readiness for mass distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine would be an urgent and unquestioned priority.

But not in Trump’s White House. The General Services Administration, run by a political appointee of the president, must certify Biden as the winner before the incoming administration is given access to top public health officials.

Such certification will eventually take place, as the president simply runs out of options. We suspect he will grudgingly acknowledge he will not be president for the next four years, repeating a never-ending series of fabrications about the legitimacy of the 2020 election. His arguments will resonate with his “base” and will have consequences beyond this election cycle.

Trump supporters continue to rally in protest against the election result.
Jay Janner/AP/AAP

Analysis by the Pew Research Center finds:

While a 59% majority of all voters say elections in the United States were run and administered well, just 21% of Trump supporters have a positive view of how elections were administered nationally. Among Biden supporters, 94% say the elections were run and administered well.

The magnitude of these differences is stark and suggests Biden will have much work to do in bringing the country together — if indeed that is possible. Biden himself is attempting to restore moral leadership to a country torn apart by pandemic, racial division and illiberal tendencies in the executive branch of government.

Rhetorically, Biden has hit many of the right notes, emphasising themes of unity and national healing. How this will play out in a policy sense will be seen once he takes office.

Despite Trump’s attempts to thwart him, Biden is going ahead with a calm and determined transition.
Alex Brandon/AP/AAP

Of course, Trump will continue to make life difficult for the incoming Biden administration. Some reports suggest he is already considering running for office in 2024.

So, it should not be surprising if the outgoing president leaves a number of surprises for President-elect Biden. Some press reports in the US are stating that on Middle East policy, trade with China, securing oil drilling leases in Alaska, and the Iran nuclear deal — which Biden may wish to rejoin — the Trump team is doing its best to reduce the incoming administration’s policy options.

Political theorist David Runciman argues that in democracies molehills are often made out of mountains. Vote counting, constantly updating vote tallies, failed legal challenges, recounts, the wearing effects of days of politics dominating life, Biden’s non-spectacular calmness, certification and the meeting of the Electoral College will turn this post-election mountain into a molehill as Trump’s attempted coup will eventually fail.




Read more:
Joe Biden wins the election, and now has to fight the one thing Americans agree on: the nation’s deep division


However, Trump has regularly shown us that, in the internet age, mountains can also be made out of molehills. The president’s lies and tweets have turned his presidency into a kind of reality TV show that has in turns transfixed, energised or horrified much of the world. Nevertheless, the show is in its final season and has not been renewed.

We are reminded of an article Rebecca Solnit wrote during the earliest days of the Trump presidency. In it, she presciently captures the predicament in which Trump now finds himself. Although his base and a large number of Republicans still support him, Trump has always surrounded himself with loyal followers reluctant to question their leader’s judgment and authority. This produces a form of isolation that is of Trump’s own making, a consequence of the man’s temperament and unwillingness to tolerate uncomfortable truths.

Reflecting on Trump-like leaders, Solnit explained:

In the end there is no one else in their world, because when you are not willing to hear how others feel, what others need, when you do not care, you are not willing to acknowledge others’ existence. That’s how it’s lonely at the top. It is as if these petty tyrants live in a world without honest mirrors, without others, without gravity, and they are buffered from the consequences of their failures.

Of course, sooner or later Trump will realise the presidency must be vacated. He will have to face the one thing in his life he has always tried to avoid: defeat.The Conversation

Daniel Cooper, Lecturer at Griffith University, Griffith University and Brendon O’Connor, Associate Professor in American Politics at the United States Studies Centre, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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What a Biden presidency means for world trade and allies like Australia



Eugene Hoshiko/AP

Lisa Toohey, University of Newcastle

Back in March, Joe Biden lamented “the international system that the United States so carefully constructed is coming apart at the seams”.

“As president,” he declared, “I will take immediate steps to renew US democracy and alliances, protect the United States’ economic future, and once more have America lead the world.”

Among the closest allies of the US, none arguably has more at stake in Biden making good on his promises than Australia.

The international system Australia wants repaired is one defined by rules and consensus. As a middle-ranking power, it has long recognised its national interests are best protected by international agreements and the rule of law, rather than one in which might makes right.




Read more:
Why the Australia-China relationship is unravelling faster than we could have imagined


At the heart of Australia’s desired international trade system are multilateral trade deals, rather than bilateral deals which tend to favour the stronger nation, and a strong international authority – namely the World Trade Organisation – to negotiate rules and adjudicate disputes.

Donald Trump’s presidency undermined both. His “America First”
polices were grounded in grievances about other nations playing the US for “suckers”. He obstructed the WTO, turned his back on multilateral deals and started trade wars.

A Biden presidency promises a return to multilateralism. But it remains to be seen how it approaches the WTO.

Trump’s war on multilateralism

As president, Trump rapidly undid decades of mutilateral trade negotiations.

In his first week in office he withdrew the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the multilateral trade deal intended to strengthen economic ties between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam and the US. (The agreement was modified and signed without the US as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.)

Trump’s trade war with China was also an exercise in power over principle. Both the escalating tariffs and the truce struck in January, known as the “Phase One Agreement”, repudiated established free-trade principles.

Donald Trump, holding the Phase One trade agreement signed with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He on January 15 2020.
Donald Trump, holding the Phase One trade agreement signed with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He on January 15 2020.
Evan Vucci/AP

Along with commitments to reduce “structural barriers”, China is required to buy an extra US$200 billion in specified American goods and services over two years in return for the US cutting tariffs on $US110 billion in Chinese imports.

This worries Australian exporters.

The US shopping list for China includes more American seafood, grain, wine, fruit, meat and energy – all markets in which Australia is a significant exporter to China. As former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd asked at the time the deal was signed:

How can the US pursue another $US32 billion of American beef, wheat, cotton and seafood – all listed in the agreement – without Australian exporters becoming collateral damage?

The deal, as the Minerals Council of Australia rightly noted, undermined “the principles of free trade which have underpinned Australia’s bipartisan approach to trade policy for many decades”.




Read more:
Are Trump’s tariffs legal under the WTO? It seems not, and they are overturning 70 years of global leadership


Blocking the World Trade Organisation

The Trump administration has also continued the slow strangulation of the World Trade Organisation, on the grounds it doesn’t serve American interests.

The US has blocked every recent appointment and reappointment to the WTO’s Appellate Body, which hears appeals to WTO adjudications. Appointments require the agreement of all of the WTO’s 164 member nations, and the Appellate Body requires three judges to hear appeals. US obstruction reduced the number of judges to just one by December 2019, meaning it simply cannot function.

It’s important to note that US antagonism to the WTO predated Trump. The Obama administration also blocked appointments it considered would not sufficiently represent US preferences. But the Trump administration certainly upped the obstructionism.

Indeed, just days before the 2020 election it blocked the appointment of former Nigerian finance minister Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to head the World Trade Organisation. A highly regarded development economist with a 25-year career at the World Bank, Okonjo-Iweala is widely considered to be an outstanding candidate to lead the WTO. The United States stood alone in objecting to her appointment.

What will change under Biden?

Dropping opposition to Okonjo-Iweala and other appointments so the WTO’s processes can function would be an important symbolic and practical first step for Biden. It would reassure Australia and others that global rules still matter.




Read more:
Arrogance destroyed the World Trade Organisation. What replaces it will be even worse


How quickly, and on what terms, Biden returns the US to multilateralism remains to be seen.

He has acknowledged the importance of deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership to ensure an increasingly powerful China “doesn’t write the rules of the road for the world”. But he has also pledged to not enter any more international agreements “until we have made major investments in our workers and infrastructure”.

For Australia – and other US allies – it is important that the US return to the multilateral negotiating table sooner rather than later. For global stability, long-term interests need to override the temptation of short-term expediency.

For “America to lead again” there’s a long and difficult diplomatic road ahead. The international trade system and the WTO are not perfect, but a world without rules would be far worse.The Conversation

Lisa Toohey, Professor of Law, University of Newcastle

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Biden’s Electoral College win was narrow in the tipping-point state; Labor surges in Victoria



AAP/AP/Carolyn Kaster

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

With all states called by US media, Joe Biden won the Electoral College by 306 votes to 232 over Donald Trump, an exact reversal of Trump’s triumph in 2016, ignoring faithless electors. Biden gained the Trump 2016 states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona and Georgia; he also gained Nebraska’s second district.

While Biden’s win appears decisive, he won three states – Wisconsin (ten Electoral Votes), Arizona (11) and Georgia (16) – by 0.6% or less. Had Trump won these three states, the Electoral College would have been tied at 269-269.

If nobody wins a majority (270) of the Electoral College, the presidency is decided by the House of Representatives, but with each state’s delegation casting one vote. Republicans hold a majority of state delegations, so Trump would have won a tied Electoral College vote.

Wisconsin (Biden by 0.6%) will be the “tipping-point” state. Had Trump won Wisconsin and states Biden won by less (Arizona and Georgia went to Biden by 0.3% margins), he would have won the Electoral College tiebreaker.

The national popular vote has Biden currently leading Trump by 50.9% to 47.3%, a 3.6% margin for Biden. This does not yet include mail ballots from New York that are expected to be very pro-Biden.

Biden is likely to win the popular vote by 4-5%, so the difference between Wisconsin and the overall popular vote will be 3.5% to 4.5%. That is greater than the 2.9% gap between the tipping-point state and the popular vote in 2016.

Prior to 2016, there had not been such a large gap, but in both 2016 and 2020 Trump exploited the relatively large population of non-University educated whites in presidential swing states compared to nationally.




Read more:
US 2016 election final results: how Trump won


This article, written after the US 2016 election, has had a massive surge in views recently.

Relative to expectations, Democrats performed badly in Congress. In the Senate, Republicans lead by 50-48 with two Georgian runoffs pending on January 5. In the House, Democrats hold a 218-203 lead with 14 races uncalled. Republicans have gained a net seven seats so far, and lead in ten of the uncalled races.

Before the election, Democrats were expected to win the Senate and extend their House majority. The House would be worse for Democrats if not for a judicial redistribution in North Carolina that gave Democrats two extra safe seats.

US polls understated Trump again

New York Times analyst Nate Cohn has an article on the polls. Biden was expected to greatly improve on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 performance with non-University educated whites and seniors, but the results indicate that Trump held up much better with these demographics than expected.

Trump also had large swings in his favour in heavily Latino counties such as Miami Dade, Florida; polls suggested a more modest improvement for Trump with Latinos.

After the 2016 election, most polls started weighting by educational attainment, but this did not fix the problem. Cohn has some theories of what went wrong. First, Republican turnout appears to have been stronger than expected. Second, Trump’s attacks on the mainstream media may have convinced some of his supporters to not respond to polls.

A third theory is that coronavirus biased the polls’ samples, because people who followed medical advice and stayed home were more likely to respond to pollsters and more likely to be Democrats. Polls had suggested Biden would win Wisconsin, a coronavirus hotspot, easily, but he only won by 0.6%.

While US polls understated Trump in both 2016 and 2020, it is not true that international polling tends to understate the right. At the October 17 New Zealand election, polls greatly understated Labour’s lead over National. Polls also understated UK Labour at the 2017 election.

Victorian Labor surges after end of lockdown

In a privately conducted Victorian YouGov poll reported by The Herald Sun, Labor led by 55-45 from primary votes of 44% Labor, 40% Coalition and 11% Greens. Premier Daniel Andrews had a strong 65-32 approval rating, while Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien had a terrible 53-26 disapproval rating. The poll was conducted from late October to early November from a sample of 1,240. Figures from The Poll Bludger.

A Victorian Morgan SMS poll, conducted November 9-10 from a sample of 818, gave Labor a 58.5-41.5 lead, a seven-point gain for Labor since the mid-October Morgan poll. Primary votes were 45% Labor (up five), 34.5% Coalition (down 5.5) and 11% Greens (up two). In a forced choice, Andrews had a 71-29 approval rating, up from 59-41 in mid-October. Morgan’s SMS polls have been unreliable in the past.

Labor wins Queensland election with 52 of 93 seats

At the October 31 Queensland election, Labor won 52 of the 93 seats (up four since 2017), the LNP 34 (down five), Katter’s Australian Party three (steady), the Greens two (up one), One Nation one (steady) and one independent (steady). Labor has an 11-seat majority.

Primary votes were 39.6% Labor (up 4.1%), 35.9% LNP (up 2.2%), 9.5% Greens (down 0.5%), 7.1% One Nation (down 6.6%) and 2.5% Katter’s Australian Party (up 0.2%). It is likely Labor won at least 53% of the two party preferred vote. The final Newspoll gave Labor a 51.5-48.5 lead – another example of understating the left.

Labor gained five seats from the LNP, but lost Jackie Trad’s seat of South Brisbane to the Greens. Two of Labor’s gains were very close and went to recounts, with Labor winning Bundaberg by nine votes and Nicklin by 85 votes.

Federal Newspoll: 51-49 to Coalition

In last week’s federal Newspoll, conducted November 4-7 from a sample of 1,510, the Coalition had a 51-49 lead, a one point gain for Labor since the mid-October Newspoll. Primary votes were 43% Coalition (down one), 35% Labor (up one), 11% Greens (steady) and 3% One Nation (steady). Figures from The Poll Bludger.

Scott Morrison is still very popular, with 64% satisfied with his performance (down one) and 32% dissatisfied (up one), for a net approval of +32. Anthony Albanese’s net approval jumped eight points to +4, but he continued to trail Morrison as better PM by 58-29 (57-28 previously).

A YouGov poll in former Labor frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon’s seat of Hunter had a 50-50 tie; this would be a three-point swing to the Nationals from the 2019 election. Primary votes were 34% Labor, 26% National, 12% One Nation, 10% Shooters and 8% Greens.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

What’s behind Trump’s refusal to concede? For Republicans, the end game is Georgia and control of the Senate



BRANDEN CAMP/EPA

Markus Wagner, University of Wollongong

The world may have expected the chaos and uncertainty of the US presidential election to end when Joe Biden was declared the winner last weekend. But these are not normal times and Donald Trump is not a conventional president.

Concessions that used to be a part of the political process have been replaced by baseless allegations of voter fraud and election stealing, loud, all-caps shouting on Twitter and plans for a “Million MAGA March” on Washington.

The courts are the proper venue for candidates to challenge the results of elections. But a legal process requires evidence of illegality — and as of yet, the Trump campaign has produced very little.

So, then, how long can Trump string things out — and, more importantly, what’s the end game?

More lawsuits are filed, with little chance of success

Lawsuits can be filed for a number of reasons after an election: violations of state law by local election officials, discrimination against voters, political manipulation of the outcome or irregularities in the ballot counting process.

The Trump campaign has filed numerous lawsuits in both state and federal courts. Some challenges in Georgia and Michigan were quickly dismissed.




Read more:
Has Donald Trump had his Joe McCarthy moment?


In one case filed in Pennsylvania, Republicans sought to stop the vote count in Philadelphia on the grounds Trump campaign officials were not allowed to be close enough to the ballot-counting process.

Under questioning from the judge, the Trump campaign lawyers were forced to admit a “non-zero number” of Republican observers were present. The judge, clearly exasperated, responded by asking, “I’m sorry, then what’s your problem?”

Trump supporters demonstrate near the Pennsylvania state Capitol last weekend.
Julio Cortez/AP

In another filing before a federal court in Pennsylvania, the Trump campaign alleges voting by mail runs afoul of the Constitution’s equal protection clause, a claim bound to fail.

The most interesting – and perhaps most viable – case concerns whether a state court can extend the time limit for mail-in ballots to arrive.

In this case, the Trump campaign challenged a decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to allow mail-in votes received up to three days after election day to be counted.




Read more:
How votes are counted in Pennsylvania: Changing numbers are a sign of transparency, not fraud, during an ongoing process


The US Supreme Court twice declined to halt the counting of these votes, but did order the ballots to be segregated, leaving the door open to a challenge after the election.

A group of Republican attorneys-general filed a brief at the US Supreme Court this week urging it to take up the case.

Amy Coney Barrett, the newly appointed Supreme Court justice, did not participate in the earlier decisions, and it remains to be seen if her vote would change the outcome should the case reach the court.

Hoever, this may all be a moot point, as there are likely not enough late-arriving ballots for Trump to make up the sizeable gap to Biden in the state.

Even with a conservative majority, the US Supreme Court is unlikely to play a role in the election outcome.
Patrick Semansky/AP

Attorney-general steps into the fray

Attorney-General William Barr has also inserted the Department of Justice into the post-election drama, authorising investigations by US attorneys into alleged voter fraud across the country. The move outraged the top official in charge of voter fraud investigations, prompting him to resign.

The Department of Justice has historically stayed out of elections, a policy Barr criticised in his memo, saying

such a passive and delayed enforcement approach can result in situations in which election misconduct cannot realistically be rectified.

The department’s about-face is important for several reasons. It changes long-standing practice, as Barr himself admits. The general practice, he wrote, had been to counsel that

overt investigative steps ordinarily should not be taken until the election in question has been concluded, its results certified, and all recounts and election contests concluded.

Of course, Barr has ingratiated himself with Trump before, most notably in his 2018 memo to the Justice Department expressing concerns over the Mueller investigation.

Many had wondered why Barr had remained unusually quiet for so long on the election. It appears he is back, and willing to support Trump and the Republican cause.

The end game: Georgia and the US Senate

Given Trump and Republicans have very little chance of overturning the result through these tactics, the question remains: what is the goal?

Yes, this all could be explained simply as Trump not liking to lose. But setting such indulgences aside, the reason for this obstruction appears to be two upcoming US Senate runoff elections scheduled for January 5.

Georgia state Rep. Vernon Jones speaks at a Trump rally in Atlanta this week.
Mike Stewart/AP

Under Georgia law, a runoff is required between the two candidates that came out on top if neither wins 50% of the vote in the state election.

The Republicans currently hold a 50-to-48-seat edge in the Senate, meaning control of the chamber now comes down to who wins the two Georgia runoffs.

The positions taken by Republican senators in recent days are telling — they have stood firmly behind Trump’s challenges and gone out of their way not to congratulate Biden on his victory. Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota put it bluntly,

We need [Trump’s] voters […] we want him helping in Georgia.

The Senate plays a crucial role for the Biden presidency. If it remains in Republican hands, this could leave Biden with few avenues to implement his favoured policies on the economy, climate change or health care and would deny Democrats the ability to expand the Supreme Court.

Already, it’s clear the focus of the GOP is shifting toward Georgia. The two Republican Senate candidates this week called for the resignation of the secretary of state, a fellow Republican, repeating Trump’s baseless claims over voter fraud in Georgia.




Read more:
Winning the presidency won’t be enough: Biden needs the Senate too


According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, this was done to appease Trump

lest he tweet a negative word about them and risk divorcing them from his base ahead of the consequential runoff.

Is democracy at stake?

It appears all these efforts are aimed at one goal: energising the Trumpian base for the Georgia run-off elections by delegitimising not only Biden, but the election process itself.

The long-term implications are momentous. The US is already bitterly divided, as demonstrated by the large voter turnout on both sides in the election. This division will only deepen the more Trump presses his claims and signals he won’t go away silently.

This continued fracturing of the US would prevent Biden from achieving one of the main goals he set out in his victory speech: bringing Republicans and Democrats together.

If half the country buys into his claims of a stolen election, the real danger is the erosion of democracy in the US as we know it.The Conversation

Markus Wagner, Associate Professor of Law, University of Wollongong

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.