Presidential election explodes myths

By Arlene Violet
Posted 11/26/20

Joseph Biden, nominally President-elect, has frequently talked about unity and healing. His "Kumbaya" moments are merely wishful thinking. Despite a history of citizens eventually rallying around a …

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Presidential election explodes myths


Joseph Biden, nominally President-elect, has frequently talked about unity and healing. His "Kumbaya" moments are merely wishful thinking. Despite a history of citizens eventually rallying around a president, I doubt that this tradition will continue.

For starters, the apparent loser, President Donald J. Trump, poisoned the well with a steady stream of invective against democrats. Unproven accusations of fraud were repudiated by courts yet Mr. Trump’s followers continued to drink the Kool-aid poured by the president. Certainly, there are anecdotal stories of wrongdoing. One involved a postal worker ditching his mail with about 6 ballots in the lot along with the bills, magazines, and personal mail for those on his route. Periodically, a few of such stories appear, usually around Christmas time, when weary deliverers just shuck the mail into a ditch. As disturbing as this is, it doesn’t measure up to a massive problem.

Mr. Trump at a minimum is setting himself up as a foil to the new president if he loses his job. He continues to stir up his 73 million plus voters to disregard the “pretender to the throne” by accusing Biden et al of engaging in nefarious schemes to steal the election. The President’s accusations undermine democracy, particularly the long-held adage that every legal vote should be counted. Democrats may be mystified as to why there was no sweeping repudiation of Trump, his policies, and his untruths. This contest will end, not in a country supporting one president but with two cultural tribes and two sets of facts where never the twain shall meet. So much for the myth of a UNITED States of America.

Another myth exploded by this election is that this country functions smoothly as a constitutional democracy. The 2020 presidential election unmasked the flaws in the electoral system. An index, The Electoral Integrity Project, uses 49 criteria, including dispute resolution and the accuracy of voter rolls. Its latest index in 2019 placed the U.S. in 57th place, the rock bottom of Western Democracies (Bloomberg Business Week, Nov.9, 2020 pp. 24-25) While no electoral system is perfect, this country’s system invites disparities which conjure up accusations of manipulation. The reality is that the pockmarks in our voting systems which vary from state to state lend credence to perceptions of balloting irregularities. Perhaps these variations historically do support one party over another, but if there is to be any trust in the government, reform is imperative.

An electoral system should be uniform. Ours isn’t and is growing more divergent. Different voter verification requirements like a witness or a notary (or not) abound. Some states allow counting of ballots before Election Day while others require counting only after the polls close. Identification of voters remains scattershot. The mainstream of democracies has automatic voter registration for citizens and issues a free voter ID card with a photo that’s matched to the voting roster. If countries like India with 800 million people can manage this system, so can the U.S. (Bloomberg Businessweek, Id. at p. 26) A real debate should also ensue whether the Electoral College should be jettisoned and whether the popular vote (Biden by about 6 million) should govern.

The potpourri of state practices creates the perception of wrongdoing which could be rectified by a uniform presidential system.

Arlene Violet is an attorney and former Rhode Island Attorney General.

Arlene Violet

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