Please be more patient! There are many indications that Joe Biden will become the 46th President of the United States. But it is only when the votes are counted without a doubt.
That night he won the Michigan and Wisconsin counts. Sooner or later, his victories in Arizona and Nevada could be certain. Then he would have gotten the 270 electoral votes he needs to enter the White House.
Today you can visit an American democracy that has confidence in its rules and processes and the famous checks and balances. And in stark contrast to this, a tone in some American media, but all the more so when you look from the outside, including Germany, which constantly conjures up the chaos and alleged failure of the American system and institutions.
The president provokes. With little success
What is the evidence of the alleged failure of American democracy? Counting continues. And the incumbent president, Donald Trump, says openly that he will not accept defeat. He wants to stop counting, speaks of election fraud, calls the court.
It is indeed a provocation and a monstrous act. The president is obliged to recognize and enforce the rules. It borders on breaking the oath of office if he instead undermines it.
But the deciding factor in judgment should be how this battle ends. Democracy and the rule of law would only be lost if their rules and procedures no longer apply. If, on the other hand, the thriller ends with a resilient win of no reasonable doubt, the system would have proven its reliability.
Reliability comes before speed
And what is actually happening in the US? The election committees in the municipalities and individual states are undaunted in their work despite enormous pressure. You calculate with care and patience. They explain that reliability is more important than speed.
Trump likes to provoke, to protest, to appeal in court. It changes little – and it should be noted, Trump finds little support for his undemocratic demands, such as the counting stop. Vice Mike Pence says every vote is counted. Republican leaders in Congress also insist that there will be an orderly change of power if Trump loses. There are individual disruptive maneuvers – by supporters on both sides, by the way – but no evidence of widespread use of force.
The “ballot paper” has replaced the “bullet” (ball). That is the great gain of civilization through democracy and the rule of law. Conflicts are not decided by the law of the stronger. They are executed peacefully.
Why do so many people talk like America is a banana republic?
Why then these widespread concerns? Why are so many talking about the US as if it were a banana republic? Where does the assumption come from that, when deciding on appeals, the constitutional judges do not judge according to the law, but rather make a decision that is Trump-friendly? And: why does this mistrust dominate?
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The concerns are understandable. Trump has consistently broken the rules and shown no respect for the institutions. However, he was repeatedly appointed by the courts or by Congress.
There should be no mistrust, at least not to that extent. Certainly it would be more reassuring if the separation of powers and checks and balances were not even questioned. But the experience they hold should – yes, it should actually strengthen trust in them. America’s constitutional judges have proven time and again that they are politically independent and decide regardless of which president and which party puts them in office.
It smokes and cracks and smells – because the system works
The first misunderstanding: smoking, cracking, and smelly when dealing with conflicts of interest is no evidence that the rules are useless. It smokes and bursts and stinks, especially if they are not plainly respected by everyone but must be enforced against rule breakers.
The second misunderstanding: more and more people no longer base their judgment on the democratic system on whether the rules are being enforced. It is about whether the result meets your requirements. This applies to the US, but unfortunately also to a large extent in Germany.
Respect means accepting democracy, even if you are defeated
In short, if after counting and checking the objections it is clear that Trump has won the election, respect for democracy requires that we also accept this result.
On the other hand, those who make judgments about the reliability of the system dependent on whether or not they deliver results that correspond to their own wishes, help themselves to undermine respect for rules and institutions. Citizens can trust them. But also about the fact that citizens do it when the “checks and balances” prove their reliability.