By Patrick Martin and Joseph Kishore
President-elect Joe Biden gave a 15-minute nationally televised speech Monday night to mark the occasion of his official victory in the Electoral College.
It is unprecedented for a president-elect to make a speech on such an occasion. For most of modern American history, the vote in the Electoral College -- comprised of the electors appointed through the popular vote in the separate states -- has been fairly routine. This began to change with the election in 2000, when George W. Bush lost the popular vote to Al Gore and would have lost the vote in the Electoral College as well if the Supreme Court had not intervened to halt the recounting of votes in Florida. In the 2016 elections, Trump lost the popular vote by nearly three million but was able to secure an Electoral College victory due to the distribution of his vote in the states.
The present situation goes far beyond what happened in 2000. Here, Trump, who was massively defeated in both the popular vote and the Electoral College, is engaged in an ongoing effort to nullify the election and overturn the results.
Biden began his remarks by hailing the Electoral College vote as a completion of the election process and a major victory for democracy. "The will of the people prevailed," he said. "The democracy pushed, tested, threatened, proved to be resilient, true and strong."
If it was Biden's intention to reassert confidence in American democracy, however, not only his demeanor but his words proved the opposite.
First, his speech was characterized by its extreme defensiveness. If American democracy is so strong, why does the candidate who won the election by seven million votes have to make a speech to defend the legitimacy of his victory and his coming administration?
Second, Biden's own account of the process that led to the vote in the Electoral College underscored not the strength and resiliency but the extreme fragility of what remains of democratic forms of rule.
Biden noted that the Trump campaign has sought to bully and intimidate election officials and ordinary election workers around the country. "It was truly remarkable because so many of these patriotic Americans were subject to so much enormous political pressure, verbal abuse, even threats of physical violence," he said. "We owe these public servants a debt of gratitude," he said. "Our democracy survived because of them."
The implication is that, if it were not for a handful of election officials, the effort by Trump to overturn the elections would have been successful.
Biden then referred to Trump's unprecedented effort to overturn the election results through legal challenges, heard by more than 80 judges at the state and federal level, including the US Supreme Court. The outcome, he said, proved the "integrity of our judicial system."
If Trump was relying on the Supreme Court as the final arbiter of the election, however, it was because of its role in handing the election to Bush in 2000. Indeed, Trump has relied on the arguments advanced by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at the time -- that the population does not have the right to vote for president -- in his own efforts to overturn the results two decades later.
Biden's criticism of Trump was itself tentative and evasive. He noted that Trump led an effort to "wipe out the votes of more than 20 million Americans" and that this position was "so extreme, we've never seen it before, a position that refused to respect the will of the people, the rule of law, and to honor the Constitution."
In a manner ingrained in the culture of American bourgeois politics, Biden avoided bluntly stating the obvious: The president of the United States has been engaged in an ongoing fascistic conspiracy to establish a personal dictatorship.
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Patrick Martin writes for the World Socialist Website (wsws.org), a forum for socialist ideas & analysis & published by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI).