Still hope of sanity returning to the  US

The outcome of what is the most consequential presidential election in the United States of America is still not clear. At the time of writing on Wednesday evening, Donald Trump’s Democratic challenger Joe Biden was ahead in both, the popular and Electoral College vote. But characteristically, Trump had already declared himself winner, demanding an immediate end to further counting and threatening to approach the Supreme Court --- yes, the same court he has packed, appointing three hand-picked judges in his disruptive four-year tenure.

Trump calling the election a fraud in the face of overwhelming evidence that it was anything but can only be expected from a president who has most brazenly driven a coach and four into all that was good and commendable in the American system of governance. The buffoonish President has made every attempt to antagonise America’s friends and please enemies --- President Vladimir Putin of Russia, more than all others.

Anyway, the time for taking account of his toxic four years in the White House will come. Right now, the priority ought to be what the American voter has put in the ballot box --- for America and for the world at large. For, still by far the most powerful military and economic power, what the US does, and doesn’t, can still have serious repercussions for the wider world. At the moment, the fear is that we may not have a clear result for some days. The nail-biting finish was unexpected, given that most opinion polls showed Biden had a comfortable eight to nine per cent lead over Trump.

Maybe the pollsters are not to blame. It is the complicated vagaries of the American system, with each state deciding how the poll would be conducted, who would be disenfranchised, ex-felons and Black Americans in some cases, for instance, how the mail-in votes would be dispatched and collected, in one drop box for a whole county or several, and whether drive-in voters were welcome, especially in the Covid-19 pandemic -- with over 2.25 lakh fatalities already and still counting -- and when these votes could be counted, ahead of the election day or after, etc.

Again, which party rules in the provincial legislature and who tenants the gubernatorial mansion can also generate confusing and contradictory signals both in pre- and post-count directives. Such a welter of confusing provisions are a delight for lawyers. For, there is nothing like our Election Commission of India in the US. At the time of writing, while Trump had already announced his decision to approach the Supreme Court, Biden, on his part, was ready with his legal team as well. While sounding optimistic about the outcome, he has declared his intention to ensure that every vote polled is counted, a legitimate objective, without which the election would be a farce and the American people would feel cheated of their mandate.

Given that the November 3 poll saw a record turnout, breaking all previous records, it reflected a toxic division and polarisation in America, thanks to Trump’s dog-whistle racism, his barely concealed calls to supporters to take up arms against his rivals.

In no other previous election has one seen fear of the unknown run so deep in their society, with the sales of firearms registering a sharp spurt ahead of the poll, and shopping malls and stores boarding up their fronts for fear of violence and looting. This is not what the world’s most advanced nation was supposed to be. But four years of Trump have injected so much toxicity, so much incivility in public affairs that his partisans were ready to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat should the highest court in the land lend a helping hand. We hope not, though.

The peace-loving world cannot have another four years of disruption and chaos, when the NATO and WTO and the Paris Climate Accord was shredded, when foreign policy was fully transactional, framed on the basis of the likes and dislikes of a narcissistic president, depending on whether a foreign leader 'loves me’ or not, and when the American power was frontally challenged by an upstart China, which felt encouraged to fill the vacuum Trump created to the chagrin of a carefully-crafted post-World War-II global order his predecessors at 1600, Pennsylvania Avenue, had spent precious time, energy and billions of US dollars putting in place --- and which under the bull-in-the china-shop presidency was fast crumbling. The world desperately waits with bated breath to be spared four more years of Trump.

Of Shashi Tharoor and Arnab Goswami

Shashi Tharoor, the suave and articulate Congress MP who spares no effort to tear into the Modi government, is an accused in a case of abetment of the suicide of his wife, Sunanda Pushkar. Before Pushkar died, she had threatened to 'expose’ her husband in the IPL scam , sharing her agony with a couple of high-profile women journalists. There are SMSs to support this. We do not know the police ever dragging him away from his house in an early morning raid. The case against Tharoor is still under trial in a Delhi court. Now, cut to Arnab Goswami.

The Republic TV founder was taken away screaming and shouting from his Mumbai house by police on early Wednesday morning. Allegedly on the basis of an overnight reopened case, with the sole intention of hounding the TV anchor who had targeted the Maha Vikas Aghadi government led by Uddhav Thackeray. It was claimed that an architect and his mother had committed suicide some years ago because Goswami and two others had not paid him for the work he had done.

Even if the case were to be reopened, the question that police must answer is this: why wasn’t he issued summons to report for interrogation? Why this ugly haste? Smacks of personal pique being visited on the anchor by those in power in Maharashtra. Disgraceful, indeed. By the way, sedition cases were filed in Rajasthan and Jharkhand against some in the ruling and opposition on the charge of, hold your breath, their trying to destabilise the state governments. Yet, Modi and Shah are fascists, out to muzzle free press? Think clearly. All politicians regardless of the party label abuse and misuse power.

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