My strongest impression from the United States’ 2020 general election is that the process by which we record and count votes is an unholy mess, wide open to fraud. Counting was suspended for hours without explanation; great tranches of mail-in votes appeared out of nowhere; vote monitors were denied access; and the counting process continued for days. We are a First World nation with a Third World voting system.
In fact this may even be a slight on the Third World. India, which has four times our population but only one-eighth our per capita GDP, with vast regional differences in language and religion, held a general election last year. The final tallying of the 614 million votes cast began at 8 a.m. on May 23; results followed just hours later.
“Voting systems,” I should have said, in the plural, since the methods of recording and counting American votes vary from state to state, as prescribed by Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution:
The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof …
Voting for the president is less direct, being mediated by the Electoral College. But here again, the appointment of electors by a state is to be carried out “in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.”
Creating some degree of uniformity in the voting process would greatly improve confidence in the validity of our elections. The Constitution makes suitable provision, as Article I, Section 4 adds “but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations….”
Does that power also encompass state laws directing the appointment of electors to the Electoral College? That’s not clear—not to me at any rate—but it darn well ought to. We need clear and uniform rules nationwide for collecting and counting votes.
Australia, although a constitutional monarchy, has a federal structure not unlike our own. Elections there are supervised by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), a federal body. All registered candidates can nominate “scrutineers” to be present throughout the polling and counting processes at every voting place. Voting is compulsory, with fines for defaulters. Absentee voting is strictly limited; and the limits have not been much affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
We don’t have to adopt all of Australia’s rules, but Australia does show us that a federal nation is quite capable of operating a system cleaner, more efficient, and far less prone to manipulation than our own. Congress should exercise its constitutional powers to federalize our elections.
I am of course building castles in the air. Nothing will be done to federalize our voting systems, or to improve them in any way. Attempts to apply even very elementary safeguards will be fiercely resisted by legislators.
In the case of voter ID laws, which surely come under the descriptor “very elementary,” we have already seen this. To require personal ID at polling places would, progressive politicians and activists tell us, be grinding the faces of the poor, who are unable to acquire ID documents. That is such obvious nonsense, one can only conclude that legislators like things the way they are, with all of the many opportunities for chicanery.
With that off my chest, the question remains: How will this election affect our lives, our fortunes, and our national politics?
There are still uncertainties as I write, days after the vote, but I shall assume the most probable result: Biden as president, Republicans just barely holding the Senate, and Democrats maintaining control of the House, but with a reduced majority.
Given that likely outcome, here are some predictions for the near future.
First, in the category of war, there is a high probability—I would put it north of 90 percent—that China will attack Taiwan at some point in the next four years. Bringing the Taiwanese—against their will, of course —back into the warm embrace of the motherland is a key goal of China’s leaders. They have been holding back through the duration of the Trump presidency because of his open hostility towards them, and because Trump, perhaps unconsciously, has followed Nixon’s let-’em-think-you’re-crazy style of psychological war.
The Chinese fear Trump. They don’t fear Biden. Instead they view him as feeble and non-hostile, and, as suggested by recent revelations about his family’s business dealings, they may have kompromat on him. This being China, it would be called qiāozhà xìnxī. As Biden’s poll numbers rose in the weeks prior to the election, China’s provocations against Taiwan rose in sync.
The Biden administration will have to react somehow, but there will not be a wider war because neither side wants one. Nobody thinks that China has any serious territorial claims besides Taiwan. The Chinese don’t want to rule the world; they only, in the apt words of Asia Times columnist David Goldman, “want to have everybody in the world pay rent” to them. Their claim to Taiwan, however, is intensely serious: a matter of national pride and regime legitimacy. China has gamed the conflict nine ways to Sunday, and will move when it is certain of victory.
For the United States, China’s retaking of Taiwan will be a Suez moment: the psychological equivalent of the 1956 humiliation of Britain and France by Egypt and the Americans. Until the Suez Crisis, the phrase “British Empire” was still taken seriously. Suez gave that phrase some color of irony, a color that deepened rapidly. Two years later, May 24 was downgraded from Empire Day to Commonwealth Day.
America’s role as the world’s policeman will end similarly: not with the bang of a nation-shattering military defeat, but with the whimper of an embarrassing setback; not with lasting political repercussions —the ruling Tory party won the first post-Suez election with an increased majority—only a public awakening to the fact that we have been living beyond our geopolitical means. This end may also be accompanied by the tinkle of devaluing U.S. dollars.
Secondly, there remains the open question about what will happen to Trumpism with Donald out of office. The great revelation of 2016 was that the policies of the institutional Republican Party towards the world beyond our shores —brilliantly encapsulated in Steve Sailer’s phrase “invade the world, invite the world”—were unpopular with Republican voters. Sixteen institutional Republicans stood in their party’s primaries that year: Trump beat them all by promising to leave foreigners alone when they do not impinge directly on our interests, and to practice strict border control at home.
His actual accomplishments in those areas have been meager. We are still in NATO, guarding the Fulda Gap against Soviet tanks. We have still been taking casualties in Afghanistan—though one of Trump’s last acts in office may be to remove U.S. troops once and for all. We are still playing host to 11 million—or perhaps 20 million to 30 million—illegal aliens and awarding birthright citizenship to their offspring. At the urging of corporate donors, we are still pushing citizens out of middle-class office work in favor of cheaper foreign guest workers.
Trump kept up the rhetoric, though, and effected some changes by executive action. There is every sign that the gap between world-policing, open-borders, institutional Republicanism and the populist nationalism of Republican voters is as wide as it was four years ago. So: whither Trumpism?
Will the GOP remain Trumpish? There is a small base of sincere Trumpists in the congressional party—Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley, Matt Gaetz—any one of whom could run as a standard-bearer for Trumpism in 2024. They are encouragingly young: Hawley is actually the youngest serving U.S. senator. There is even speculation that some national figure from outside of politics might fill the role, with Tucker Carlson as the name usually offered here. It was, after all, Trump who showed the way from TV celebrity to the presidency.
Trump himself may remain in the arena. The more than 70 million votes he won is not nothing, and in November 2024 Trump will be 78, the same age Joe Biden is today. Institutional Republicans will shun him, no doubt; but then, he had no standing with them in 2016 until he won the primaries. With that vote count in mind, and those stupendous campaign rallies, it’s hard to imagine Trump spending his remaining years on the golf course.
My own guess is that institutional Republicans will re-assert themselves after the—as they see it—temporary aberration of Trumpism. They will strive to win back the hearts of Republican voters by adopting a few Trumpish policies: deregulation, ending Obamacare, fiscal insouciance, and global warming skepticism. They will put forward politicians potentially credible to both Trumpists and institutionalists: Mike Pence, perhaps, or Nikki Haley.
With U.S. imperialism in disfavor following the Taiwan fiasco, “invade the world” will have lost its appeal anyway. Throw in a few insincerities against “invite the world”— strictly as campaign-trail rhetoric of course—and the Chamber-of-Commerce-approved, beautiful-losers brand of Republicanism will be back in charge of the GOP.
This return to institutional Republicanism could be accompanied by a long regrouping for populist nationalism, similar to what “fusionist” conservatism went through following Goldwater’s defeat in 1964. It was 16 years from that defeat to the election of Ronald Reagan. Perhaps it will take that long to properly institutionalize Trumpism. That assumes, however, that Trumpism is not outlawed.
Finally, the thing to be feared most from a Biden presidency is the intensification of our state ideology, with its corresponding loss of liberty.
I doubt that Biden himself is much of a metaphysician, but he has learned to parrot the cant language of the “woke.” On the campaign trail back in July he was already telling voters he had a plan to tackle “systemic racism”—the invisible gas or luminiferous æther that supposedly prevents the educational and social achievements of black Americans from equalling those of nonblacks, despite decades of massive institutional favoritism awarded to blacks through affirmative action and other governmental, educational, and corporate programs.
Biden himself may not be “woke” in any sincere way, but he has cabinet positions to fill, and posts in the bureaucracy and judiciary. The résumés are coming in, many of course from Obama administration stalwarts. Susan Rice is already named as a possibility to fill the Secretary of State post. Attorney General? Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch are both available. Obama retreads aside, you may be sure the level of wokeness in the applicant pool is high.
With the Biden administration thus staffed, with Holder or Lynch or one of their clones at Justice and, oh, perhaps Beto O’Rourke at Commerce, we shall proceed apace towards what social scientist Karl Wittfogel called a “beggar’s democracy.” It’s the state of affairs in which, while low-level grumbling by persons of no importance—the beggars—may be tolerated, only opinions compliant with state ideology will be allowed to air in the public forum.
We are close to that point. In this recent campaign cycle, major media outlets—including Fox News, as we saw on election night—have been uniformly anti-Trump, with social media even more so. Twitter’s efforts to cover up negative reporting on Biden are well known, at least down here among the beggars.
And beggary involves not just exclusion from the public forum, but the denial of a wide range of public and commercial services. Persons known to have heterodox opinions are already seeing their bank accounts and credit cards canceled. Laura Loomer, who ran in a GOP primary race in Florida last year—and won!—describes herself as “the most banned woman in the world.” According to journalist Gavin Haynes, writing at the British website UnHerd on Oct. 29:
In addition to Chase [Bank], she is banned from PayPal, from VenMo, from The Cash App, Airbnb and Instagram, from Lyft, Uber and UberEats, from the blogging monetisation platform WordAds and the t-shirt print-to-order site TeeSpring, from Twitter and Facebook—obviously—and from any one of a half dozen other platforms for digital congress.
Expect much worse. With the federal bureaucracy fully woke, the media and social media in compliance with the incoming administration, and the alumni of our progressive law schools being shunted into the federal judiciary as fast as confirmation proceedings will allow, things will get worse fast, with even milquetoast civic nationalist conservative types being canceled.
A Tucker Carlson run for president in 2024? Permit me to make a bold prediction. At some point in the next four years, probably as soon as next year, Tucker Carlson will be deplatformed. He may even lose his bank account.
above: Municipal workers extract Luzerne County ballots from their envelopes, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)