The situation on this news story is changing all the time, so by the time you read this, not everything included may be accurate. Please update yourself with the most recent developments as well as reading this to ensure you’re getting the correct and most up-to-date information possible.
I’d like to write that the US election hitting a thrilling climax on Saturday when the news networks starting projecting Joe Biden as the next President, having significantly overtaken Donald Trump in not just the popular vote (that is, the actual amount of votes cast) but also in the crucial Electoral College votes. Only, it’s not all over yet. Joe Biden won’t actually be inaugurated as President until January, and before then… a lot can happen.
I keep reading Donald Trump is refusing to concede. What does this mean?
Well, not much really. I don’t think anyone who’s ever encountered Donald on Twitter or the TV imagined he’d be the most gracious of loser should the Democrats win the election, but what’s happening at the moment is unprecedented in the history of American politics.
Donald is currently claiming that the election was subject to voter fraud – that is, fake ballots being counted toward Biden’s winning total, counts being fixed and even ballots being destroyed. Whilst there isn’t currently any actual evidence of this, Donald and his teams have filed lawsuits in several states to state as much. Without tangible evidence, such lawsuits are unlikely to get far in court; but they may well hold up the proceedings of states formally and finally declaring their exact ballot totals.
It is tradition that once an election has been won, the sitting President phones the new President-elect and congratulates them on their win. This is usually done within about 48hrs – but we’re now almost a week in, and there’s been no call. The impact this will have on Biden entering the White House and starting work is negligible… it’s just a formality, and hey, I’m not quite sure he wants to chit-chat with ole Don anyway. Sure, it’s pretty bad manners for Donald not to accept defeat with grace, but it’s not overly surprising.
It is also tradition for the sitting President to leave a handwritten letter for the next on their desk in the White House; and even Barack Obama did so for Donald Trump when he assumed office. Of course, it remains to be seen if this tradition will continue here… but signs aren’t looking good!
Whether or not Donald Trump chooses to concede formally doesn’t make any difference to the new President. Come January 20th, Biden will be the new President and can move into the White House. From that date he assumes control of the military and so if anyone is still there who refuses to leave, he can them removed by force.
Until Joe Biden is inaugurated, Donald Trump remains the working President of the United States of America.
Has this ever happened before?
Nope! The transitional period between Presidents runs from December through until January and sees teams of staff handover their work to their new counterparts (usually in the opposing party, but sometimes to colleagues in the same party under a new Pres). This transition is really important to America’s stability as a peaceful nation – after all, we’re talking hoards of confidential information and state secrets being handed over.
There has been contentious elections before, and there has been accusations of electoral fraud, but never a refusal to concede. There’s not really a precedent for it. Although of course the Republicans don’t have to allow their Democrat counterparts into the White House to transition power, it’s certainly seen as the ‘done’ and right thing to do.
There’s no mention of how to deal with a refusal to concede in the US constitution, and it’s kinda unclear how law enforcement would or could intervene. Until 20th January, they’re technically still under the power of Trump’s White House – even if they don’t feel it in the best interest of them or their country.
Realistically, this hasn’t happened before because it makes the outgoing President look bad. It tarnishes their legacy and would have them go down in history as a very sore loser: unless, of course, they could prove that the whole thing was a set-up and that they had won after all.
What happens next with the Electoral College?
I’ve written about the Electoral College before. Now, it’s time for them to get to work!
States will now be filing and certifying their documentation to declare the poll results in their locales which will list the names of the Electors voted for. There’s a whole bunch of processes in place to go through if the results are contested (which they may be, given Donald’s lawsuits), so if things don’t go entirely according to plan, there’s still time to iron everything out.
The Monday after the second Wednesday (I know, right?!) in December sees the Electoral College vote take place. Each Elector will nominate their Presidential candidate. The papers from these votes are then filed and the winning Presidential nominee will be nominated.
‘Faithless electors’ may change their mind and vote for someone else on the day – which is a shitter for those who voted for them! But, it’s pretty unlikely such protest votes would change anything, given the margin in which Biden has been elected by, and so we already know who the next President will be.
What is the Presidential Inauguration and when is it?
The Presidential Inauguration of Joe Biden as President and Kamala Harris as Vice President is set to take place on 20th January, 2021. Basically, it’s the main event and switch over from one President to the next. There will be speeches and lots of formalities, but in reality, we don’t know exactly how the event will look under current coronavirus restrictions. Usually, the Pres and VP have a series of balls and parties to attend, but it may be that such celebrations are postponed until a later date when gatherings are considered safer.
Both Joe and Kamala will take oaths to serve their country in front of a small invited audience. These events are usually open to the public but for safety and security reasons, this is quite unlikely this time around.
What will Donald Trump do next?
Probably play more golf. Ex-US Presidents are granted Secret Service protection for the rest of their lives, have live-in security agents with them 24/7, receive staff and business expenses, and get a decent pension, so some of the realities of White House life will stick. However, Donald can go on to live out his days however he sees fit – there’s no further political requirements of him as such. Ex-Presidents are permitted to open a Presidential Library in their home state, but they don’t have to.
Donald doesn’t live in the White House full-time, so he won’t be homeless. Melania, Barron and he all reside in Mar-A-Lago, Florida, so it’s likely he’ll move back there; although he has lots of houses and properties dotted about.
Most Presidents set up charitable foundations, write their memoirs, and take on speaking gigs alongside spending time with family and friends, but Donald has a lot of business interests, so it may be that he chooses to go back to these and take up the helm. He also, of course, has an existing career in TV, so he may choose to pursue that further and work in the media.
Realistically? We probably haven’t heard the last of him just yet. He’ll lose his Head of State protections on Twitter soon, so if he continues posting how he has been, his account will be blocked before long. There’s lots of speculation that he may set up his own TV network or media company and this certainly seems to be an area of interest for him. Time will tell… hedge your bets now!
The featured image on this post was taken by Jacob Morch for Unsplash.