Joseph R Biden, Jr was officially declared the 46th President of the United States of America on Monday after he and running mate Kamala Harris secured 306 electoral college votes, 36 more than the 270 required to win the election. Coincidentally, the 306 votes that Biden secured was the exact number of electoral college votes President Donald Trump won in 2016.
The electoral college comprises 538 electors, with each of the 50 states appointing electors equal in number to its congressional delegation (senators and representatives). The electoral college meets on the Monday after the first Wednesday of December to elect the President and Vice-President. This is essentially a procedural and constitutional event, which for the most part does not attract much attention. However, this year, it was critical given incumbent President Trump’s refusal to accept his defeat, followed up with allegations of voter fraud, lawsuits, mobilisation of riotous supporters on to the streets and the pusillanimous conduct of his fellow Republican legislators and leaders, who went along with Trump rather than tell the people what they knew to be the truth. The next and last event in the presidential election calendar is joint session of the US Congress on January 6. This is one venue where Republicans could challenge Biden’s election.
The events in the US hold learnings for all other democracies. One, strong institutions are critical. The Justices appointed by President Trump stuck to the law and turned down his appeals. Two, participation is vital. People are the lifeblood of democracy. They must vote. Three, democracy, no matter how old or rooted, is a fragile system. Constant work is called for to renew and reaffirm democracy.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Economic Times.