May be method in Trump’s bid to dispute win

US President Donald Trump continues to challenge the election result. PHOTO: REUTERS
US President Donald Trump continues to challenge the election result. PHOTO: REUTERS
Nicholas Khoo looks at 
why Donald Trump is challenging the US presidential election results.

 

Rather than cut his losses, United States President Donald Trump is doubling down and insisting that he has won the 2020 presidential elections.

Even as Trump’s own election officials have declared the election "the most secure in history," his legal and political proxies have launched court challenges to the voting process in several states.

Leading these efforts to delegitimise the election results are Rudolph Giuliani, former mayor of New York City and Trump’s personal lawyer, and Republican Senator Lindsay Graham, the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Meanwhile, the escalating Covid-19 pandemic claims more lives. The United States has now registered an astounding 250,000 deaths.

How can we best explain Trump’s actions?

Any explanation for why Trump is challenging the election results has to start with an assumption of whether he is rational or irrational.

Irrational explanations would include the view that Trump is acting emotionally, retaliating out of anger at his election loss.

It could also include any variant of the conspiracy theories that pitch Trump as defending the US political system from a hostile takeover by nefarious sources.

The biggest problem with these explanations is that for them to hold up, we have to either assume that Trump is acting against his own interests, or that he is the protagonist in an implausible plot against what is arguably the most powerful state in world history.

A more convincing way to understand Trump is from a rational, interest-based perspective.

This perspective assumes that Trump has a basic understanding of the costs and benefits of his options, and that he is selecting an approach that maximises his benefits while minimising his costs.

In other words, Trump knows exactly what he is doing.

There are at least two interest-based approaches that Trump could have adopted in response to his election loss.

The first would have been for him to gracefully accept that he lost the election, assist in a swift transition to a Biden presidency, and thereby build up his political capital to fight another day.

Trump could then serve as the Republican Presidential candidate in 2024. Or, he could be the ‘king-maker’ who determines which Republican Party politician continues the Trump effort to ‘Make America Great Again’.

It could be plausibly argued that such a strategy nicely combines Trump’s personal interests with the country’s national interest.

Trump has rejected such an approach.

Instead, he has adopted an alternative strategy which focuses on his personal interests, with little regard for the national interest as it is conventionally understood.

Trump’s actions during the 2020 election year, which include refusing to co-ordinate a national coronavirus strategy, and contesting the presidential election results, reflect the belief that such a disruptive anti-democratic posture either does not hurt him, or even maximises his personal interests.

What are his personal interests in continuing the campaign to overturn the 2020 presidential election results?

These include Trump setting himself up for a post-election career disputing the 2020 election results, and establishing a policy grievance on which any of his high-profile children can use to seek public office in the future.

It may also be that Trump plans to paint any future legal prosecution for his many alleged pre-presidency financial improprieties as evidence of a ‘deep state’ campaign targeting him for his refusal to accept the 2020 presidential election results.

For Trump’s strategy to work, the Republican Party must co-operate.

By keeping their heads down, the vast majority of Republicans in both the Senate and the House of Representatives are in effect choosing to support Trump.

The costs to the United States of this remarkable development are significant.

At least three can be identified.

First, it forestalls a more effective response to the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.

Second, it taints the election result by perpetuating the falsehood that Joe Biden lost, enraging a substantial bloc of Republican voters. This perpetuates the dysfunction in the United States’ political system, further diminishing the credibility of liberal democracy as an example to other countries.

Third, it heightens the appeal of the political stability and economic growth model provided by authoritarian rivals to the United States, notably China.

The argument that Trump is looking out for his own interests might seem an unexceptional argument. But we live in exceptional times, where conspiracy theories abound and the obvious needs to be explained, cogently and succinctly.

Trump’s decision to continue challenging the elections results is unprecedented. It reflects the reality that the United States is deeply divided and has never had a president like him.

And, in challenging the election results, Trump may be many things, but he is not irrational and knows exactly what he is doing.

Nicholas Khoo is an associate professor in the politics programme at the University of Otago in New Zealand.

Comments

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Trying to apply rational reasoning to the thought processes of a malignant narcissist is pointless.

Political pundits like Mr. Khoo have lost all credibility given their grossly inaccurate assessment of a Biden blow out in the 2020 US election! Khoo believes that because Trump is exercising his constitutional right to contest the election, this forestalls a more effective response to the COVID pandemic. This is total rubbish. The federal government has already allocated the funds to support the supply and delivery of the vaccines. Distribution falls under the CDC and the governors. Trump has no input nor control. Next Khoo states the Trump is tainting the election by perpetuating the falsehood that Biden lost. Today, three weeks after the election states still are finding ballots. States have admitted there was fraud and election improprieties. Regardless of the outcome, 74 million Americans already view Biden as illegitimate and the US election system as corrupt. Next Khoo brings up China. The Biden’s have been peddling influence in China and Ukraine for years. China will get a significant return on their Biden investment. Again, more rubbish from Khoo. Amazing how liberals are for others having rights so long as they align with the liberal narrative. How about some facts?

Or he might believe that the US has been corrupted by big business and they have sold out in pursuit of global dominance, massive profits and personal power.
His one consistent theme, from way before winning the White House, is that political, administrative and corporate American were responsible for exporting US jobs and technology development to tyrannical, low wage, low environmental protection, low human rights countries, such as the CCP run China to enrich themselves at the expense of their own country and citizens.
That it is their greed that is behind the homelessness created when Obama continued the bail out of the banks that Bush started, rather than supporting the mortgage holders. It was the Biden Bill that gave them the 1994 Crimes Act that created massive privately run prisons and followed through on reducing black families to 70% fatherless, state dependant homes. It was Clinton that expanded the Middle East oil wars in pursuit of regime change that flooded Europe with refugees and created 20 years of war.
If Trump does loss, expect more of the same but a nation aware of 1%'s loathing of their own country, a hypocritical media and their love of their country.

Assuming the opinions expressed in your first two sentences are valid, then what this represents is capitalism at work. The free market working as Adam Smith maintained it would when left unrestrained. Never mind your highly emotive terminology for the moment, Never mind that impeached ex-president Trump was one of the big business magnates that sold his country out causing the very issues you list out. Yours and impeached ex-president Trump's solution was to impose some chaotic form of socialism to reverse the trends. The main weapon being tariffs. Make no mistake tariffs are a prime socialist tool, they are as anti-free market as you can get. Did it bring industry back to the USA? No it didn't. Did it remove the trade deficit? No it didn't. Did it achieve anything worthwhile? No it didn't. It was a four-year experiment in how not to run a country. I can't wait for the books with an analysis of impeached ex-president Trump's mad experiment to become available in the next couple of years. They'll be compulsive reading. Biden has already announced his intention to take the USA back into world politics. Good on him. Whether he can achieve that or not remains to be seen.

Might want to learn something about the american political system before writing! Trump still is president.

Another delusional Kiwi suffering from Trump derangement syndrome! Trump never made any bones about the fact he was an isolationist. Like roughly 75 million Americans who voted for him, Trump doesn’t want the US involved in everybody’s business. He was focused on building America and investing money that traditionally went to other countries in the form of foreign aid back into America. Trump expressed what many Americans felt. Disgust for the constant abuse from other countries. I would have thought most Kiwis would be pleased by his policies favoring isolation. You don’t seem to understand that Trump was acquitted of the charges brought forward in the impeachment. Emotive terminology you say? Would you label an excon an excon? I doubt it! Typical liberal, in Trumps case its OK. Maybe focus on the things you are knowledgeable about. American politics clearly is not your strong point!

'Political, administrative and corporate' America are not the Big Business Plutocracy that supported Trump.

Response to Red Pill and Cherry_Clinton above. I doubt you could teach me much about American politics. Impeached ex president Trump was impeached by Congress. That is a fact. He was tried and acquitted by the Senate but that does not remove the fact that he was impeached. Both he and Bill Clinton before him remain impeached for ever. As to describing impeached president Trump as an "ex president", Technically yes, he remains president until Biden is inaugurated but the fact remains he is a lame duck and in all practical terms regarded by the world as an ex president.
As for your defence of his chaotic administration, well... repeating the things impeached ex president trump claims as his goals and achievements does not mean they happened. Check the stats, Overseas aid from USA to the world did not diminish under him, trade deficits increased, national debt, that's the extent to which foreign money lenders own the USA, increased phenomenally. and that's disregarding the impacts of the pandemic. If 74 million supported impeached ex president trump then 80 million opposed him. That's a clear majority that didn't want isolationism and wanted the world to stop laughing at them.

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