Slowly, painfully and alarmingly, US President Donald Trump has been conceding the US presidency to US president-elect Joe Biden. Over the weekend, Trump’s close friend, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, called his delay “a national embarrassment,” joining judges, aides and other US Republican politicians.
The world has erupted in a chorus of derision at the state of US democracy, polluted by corruption, fake news and money.
Countries whose leaders would not dream of risking an open election, let alone conceding one, mimic Moscow in ridiculing the “obvious shortcomings in the American electoral system,” while Beijing celebrates by preparing to jail a clutch of Hong Kong democrats.
The reality is the opposite: US historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr said that the US constitution regularly takes its grand coalition of diverse peoples to the brink of disintegration, shows them disaster and pulls them back.
Trump in 2016 was a populist candidate who ran for election on a pseudo-revolutionary ticket against the Washington establishment. Although he won fewer votes than his opponent, former US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton, a US Electoral College biased to protect the interests of small states against big ones gave him the presidency.
In office, Trump ran up huge debts, was a bully and a xenophobe, and relentlessly attacked all centers of establishment power.
The economy boomed — and US political participation soared. At this month’s US presidential election, the turnout of 67 percent was the highest in more than a century.
Biden’s popular lead over Trump was not much bigger than Clinton’s in 2016, and the Electoral College tilted his way, rather than against.
However, Trump’s popular vote rose and did so among surprising groups, including Hispanic, black and female voters. His “outsiders” stuck with him and told him to finish the job.
Exit polls showed that what helped to give Biden the victory was increased support among white men. Many of them were saying that they had gotten the point of Trump and wanted to be rid of him.
Almost as large a group was warning that it felt ignored and alienated, and that no one should take democracy for granted. It has flashed that warning not once, but twice — Trump might yet return.
Of all the great political unions that emerged from the age of empire, the US has proved the most robust, with a hesitant nod toward India. Such unions are seldom entirely stable. Their survival requires constitutions capable of accommodating disparate peoples, regions and interests — and to do so peacefully.
The US constitution, so baffling to outsiders, was designed in the 18th century to bind together a union rightly seen as vulnerable. Yet it built what became the world’s dominant great power and while delivering leaders as diverse as former US presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, it has survived them all.
Few would contend that Trump has been anything other than an aberration, but if he was testing the US constitution to destruction, it passed the test.
Biden should receive every support in restoring his country’s dignity and good faith, and other unions — not least that of the UK — should look to their own.
They all have their Trumps in waiting. All have lessons to learn.
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In memory of Diane Baker: one of the last working dance journalists, a true dance aficionado and dear friend. On Friday, through a mutual friend, I received the shocking news that dance critic Diane Baker had passed away suddenly at her apartment in Tianmu, Taipei. The news quickly spread, and messages of concern quickly swarmed in from the dance community in Taiwan and abroad. Her sister Sharon in the US later confirmed that Diane died of a heart attack on Wednesday last week. She was 65. Diane was a dear friend to Taiwan’s dance community. Her frequent appearance at dance performances in