Donald Trump on Monday could suffer a withering blow to his increasingly hopeless effort to overturn the results of the US presidential election when 538 members of the electoral college will cast their ballots and formally send Joe Biden to the White House.
Under the arcane formula which America has followed since the first election in 1789, Monday’s electoral college vote will mark the official moment when Biden becomes the 46th president-in-waiting. Electors, including political celebrities such as both Bill and Hillary Clinton, will gather in state capitols across the country to cement the outcome of this momentous race.
Normally, the process is figurative and barely noted. This year, given Trump’s volatile display of tilting at windmills in an attempt to negate the will of the American people, it will carry real political significance.
Trump continued those quixotic efforts over the weekend, sparking political unrest in several cities including the nation’s capital. On Sunday morning he tweeted in all caps that this was the “most corrupt election in US history!”.
In an interview with Fox & Friends that aired on Sunday, he insisted that his anti-democratic mission was not over. “We keep going and we’re going to continue to go forward,” he said, before repeating a slew of lies about the election having been rigged.
Trump’s barefaced untruths about having won key states including Pennsylvania and Georgia went entirely unchallenged by the Fox News interviewer, Brian Kilmeade.
Any faltering hopes Trump might still harbor of hanging on to power were shattered on Friday when the US supreme court unanimously and bluntly dismissed a lawsuit led by Texas to block Biden’s victory in four other states. In a different case, a Wisconsin supreme court judge decried Trump’s lawsuit aiming to nullify the votes of 200,000 Americans, saying it “smacked of racism”.
Despite the categoric rebuff that Trump has suffered in dozens of cases, including before the nation’s highest court, his unprecedented ploy to tear up democratic norms continues to inflict untold damage on the country with potential long-term consequences. The Texas-led push to overturn the election result was backed by 126 Republicans in the House of Representatives – almost two-thirds of the party’s conference – as well as Republican state attorneys general from 18 states.
Among the wider electorate, a recent Quinnipiac University poll found that 77% of Republicans believe – mistakenly – that there was widespread voter fraud in the 3 November election.
Another manifestation of the harm that is being done was the violence that erupted on Saturday night across several cities. In Washington DC, four people were stabbed and required hospital treatment, and 23 were arrested, when far-right groups clashed with counter-protesters following a so-called “Stop the Steal” march enthusiastically endorsed by Trump.
Far-right militia groups mingled among the Trump supporters and engaged in the violence, including the white nationalist Proud Boys who call themselves “western chauvinists”. Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser who Trump pardoned for lying to the FBI, addressed a crowd, exclaiming: “We decide the election. We’re waging a battle across America.”
Violence also broke out in Olympia, the state capital of Washington state. One person was shot in clashes between heavily armed factions, with Trump supporters and Proud Boys facing off against counter-protesters, and three people were arrested.
Video footage appeared to show that the shot was fired by a member of the Proud Boy and that the victim was a counter-protester, although details remained sketchy.
In Georgia, a separate militia group, Georgia Security Force III%, were in attendance at a far-right rally at the statehouse on Saturday. The armed group has helped to organise recent caravans that have intimidated local election officials at their homes claiming falsely that Biden’s victory in Georgia was fraudulent.
Biden’s transition team has watched with growing alarm the spate of violent incidents that has cropped up around Trump’s spurious claims of a rigged election. Cedric Richmond, a Democratic representative from Louisiana who Biden has tapped as the incoming director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, said they were anxious about what lay ahead in the holiday season.
“We are concerned about violence,” he told Face the Nation on CBS News. “Where there’s violence it is not protest, that is breaking the law, so we are worried about it.”
Asked about the majority of House Republicans who backed Trump’s frivolous lawsuit to block election results being certified, Richmond implied their resistance was more theatrical than real. “They recognize Joe Biden’s victory. This is just a small proportion of the Republican conference that is appeasing the president on his way out because they are scared of his Twitter” feed.
The outlier nature of Trump’s stubborn refusal to concede was underlined on Sunday by Al Gore in an interview with CNN’s State of the Union. Exactly 20 years ago to the day, he conceded the bitterly-fought 2000 presidential race to George W Bush, saying: “This is America, we put country before party – we will stand together behind our new president.”
Gore told CNN that he hoped Monday’s electoral college vote would be the beginning of healing. He called the lawsuit dismissed by the supreme court “ridiculous and unintelligible”, and castigated those Republicans who continued to stick with Trump in his “lost cause”.
“With the electoral college votes tomorrow in all 50 states, I hope that will be the point at which some of those who have hung on will give up the ghost,” Gore said. “There are things more important than bowing to the fear of a demagogue.”