“And so, now it is time to turn the page. To unite, to heal.”
California’s 55 electoral votes put Biden over the top, clearing the 270-vote mark that affirmed he will be the nation’s next president.
All the electors reflected the popular vote results in their states, awarding Biden 306 votes to 232 for Trump.
The certification of the results would usually be regarded as a formality and attract little attention. But this year, it took on a new symbolic power because of Donald Trump’s refusal to accept defeat.
The Electoral College vote came on the same day the US administered its first COVID-19 vaccinations outside clinical trials. Americans watched two major stories playing out split-screens: a testament to the power of science alongside an affirmation of democracy.
The sight of healthcare workers being vaccinated offered hope that the pandemic – which has claimed 300,000 American lives – will eventually be brought under control.
The images of electors casting their ballots offered reassurance that America’s democratic institutions were strong enough to withstand Trump’s efforts to overturn the result.
To be sure, there has been much to be troubled about in the six weeks following election day.
Trump has continued to make baseless and fabricated claims of electoral fraud, aided by conservative media outlets who amplified his complaints. As a result, tens of millions of Americans believe an election that turned out to be surprisingly trouble-free was fundamentally illegitimate.
Importantly, only a handful of Republicans in Congress have publicly acknowledged Biden as the president-elect.
As well as challenging the results in court and complaining on Twitter, Trump met with state legislators in an effort to convince them to override the will of their voters.
Meanwhile, Texas’s Republican attorney-general filed a lawsuit asking the Supreme Court to invalidate the results in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Georgia, thereby swinging the election to Trump.
Remarkably, 18 Republican-led states backed the lawsuit, as did over 100 Republican members of the House of Representatives.
But in terms of affecting the outcome of the election, these efforts have proven spectacularly unsuccessful.
Despite personal attacks from Trump and his allies, Republican officials such as Georgia’s secretary-of-state Brad Raffensperger and Governor Brian Kemp certified their state’s election results and defended the legitimacy of the process.
Dozens of judges across the country – many appointed by Republicans, and some by Trump himself – have thrown out Trump’s election-related lawsuits. On Saturday (AEDT), the Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, swatted away the Texas complaint by declining to hear the case.
Key Republican state officials have rejected Trump’s entreaties to overturn the results in their states, putting them at odds with the party’s conservative base.
After his state’s Electoral College votes were awarded to Biden, Lee Chatfield, the Republican leader of Michigan’s state House of Representatives, confirmed he would not try to reverse his state’s results.
“I can’t fathom risking our norms, traditions and institutions to pass a resolution retroactively changing the electors for Trump, simply because some think there may have been enough widespread fraud to give him the win,” Chatfield said in a statement on Tuesday (AEDT).
“That’s unprecedented for good reason.”
Crucially, the US military didn’t take sides in the election. And despite some skirmishes, there hasn’t been widespread violence or mass unrest since election day.
After being certified by the Electoral College, the election results now go to the US Congress for final approval on January 6. While some Republicans may try to create drama by challenging the results, the outcome will be the same: Biden being declared the 46th president of the United States.
Trump and his allies have set a dangerous precedent by refusing to acknowledge reality and concede defeat. But, at least for now, the foundations of American democracy held firm where it mattered most.
US power and politics
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Matthew Knott is North America correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.