The Morning Brief – 11.10.20

By Bruce Carson


United States Presidential Election (Part 3)

Official calling of the election for Vice President Biden and Senator Harris

The road ahead as set out by President-Elect Biden in the first few days

It is perhaps instructive to go back a few days as we deal with the results of the presidential election.

If the American system of dealing with national elections has given Canadians anything to be thankful for, it should be Elections Canada. It is quite possible that before this presidential election, few Canadians would have given much thought to the mechanics or the nuts and bolts of carrying out an election or implementing the provisions of the Canada Elections Act.

But having witnessed the system in place in the United States in operation and the attacks on it by President Trump, justified or not, one can be grateful for the Canadian system for verification and counting of ballots across Canada, and for the uniform rules that govern federal elections.

But to be fair, the United States with its much larger population dealing with this election in extraordinary times, the time of COVID-19, the allegations of election fraud seemed foreign to Canadians.

The positives that can be taken from the U.S. election are that even in this crazy, turbulent time, more Americans voted either by mail or in person in record numbers. The system worked and American democracy held strong.

So it was on Saturday that with sufficient votes counted in Pennsylvania, the Associated Press along with other U.S. media networks were able to finally determine that Pennsylvania’s 20 Electoral College votes should be cast in favour of the Biden-Harris ticket.

That decision put into play a number of matters, not the least of which was an opportunity for now President-Elect Biden and Vice-President Harris to address Americans on Saturday evening.

There is now a two-track process; Biden and Harris moving forward to plan their new administration and the other track occupied by President Trump who has not yet conceded (although that isn’t necessary) and has begun or promised to begin a series of legal challenges to the legitimacy of the outcome of the vote in a number of states.

There will be an automatic vote recount in Georgia because of the close result and perhaps in Wisconsin. In other states and particularly Pennsylvania, Trump’s lawyers are arguing that votes cast by mail-in ballots not be counted and have commenced an action in federal court. This allegation could be one that Trump may pursue in other states where he believes he can upset the count in his favour.

In his excellent piece for Reuters, Joseph Ax sets out the process by which the Electoral College operates and what could happen if the election is contested. The first important date occurs on December 14, when the 538 electors as members of the Electoral College cast their votes. Presumably, President Trump if he wants to use the courts to set aside results, he will have to do so well before this date.

So that is the Trump track seeking relief in the courts, setting aside vote counts in various states. It is also clear from Trump’s actions yesterday that he plans to keep exercising his presidential authority. He will be doing this at the same time that President-Elect Biden has established his own transition office and agenda as he prepares to assume the office of president on January 20, 2021.

On Saturday evening Harris and Biden in their new positions, with new titles addressed Americans. Harris spoke of democracy being only as strong as the willingness to fight for it and in exercising the fundamental right of democracy voters ushered in a new day for Americans.

She talked about a clear message of hope, unity, decency, science and truth delivered in this vote that brought them to the presidency and vice presidency.

Most important was her reflection on the struggle of women for equality, justice and the right to vote. She talked about her position as Vice President as a goal that can be achieved by all young women in what she termed “a country of possibilities.”

She articulated her agenda as dealing with COVID-19, economy, justice, climate change and to “heal the soul of the nation,” one of the main themes of the Democrat’s campaign.

President-Elect Biden spoke of the strength of the mandate he received from Americans and that he “will work to gain the confidence of all of the people.”

He emphasized the role his wife plays as an educator. One of his most important statements came as he reached out to Trump supporters—we can be opponents but not enemies. He added that it is time supporters from both sides saw each other as “this is a time to heal in America.”

Biden spoke of the mandate he will be pursuing; prosperity, racial justice, rooting out systemic racism, fighting climate change, restore decency and ensure that in Biden’s America “everyone is given a fair shot.” He believes in multilateralism which will see the U.S. rejoin the Paris Accord, WHO, strengthen the WTO and support NATO. On China, Biden wants to convene a meeting of like-minded democracies in order to develop a unified approach.

However, the first order of business he announced on Saturday and followed through on yesterday was to establish a transition team task force to deal with COVID-19. “I will spare nothing to turn around the pandemic.”

His announcement yesterday gained added juice with Pfizer and BioNTeck announcing that the COVID-19 vaccine they are in the process of developing had, during stage three tests, proven to be 90% effective. If the final data are in line with these results, there could be a vaccine available in early 2021; depending on the data.

Biden stated that this was “excellent news” but cautioned that the end of the battle was still months away.

Biden stated on Saturday that the United States is at an inflection point –it is time to restore the soul of America, time for our better angels to prevail. “Unlimited possibilities are what define America” and “demonization ends now.”

Biden’s themes of cooperation, reaching out and bridge building are not new, but proof of the triumph of democracy in America.

The challenge will come in the implementation of these themes and whether Biden can elicit the cooperation of Congress when the Senate may still have a Republican majority, waiting for the return of President Trump in 2024, if not earlier, depending on the success of his legal challenges.

However, as Hugh Segal points out in his most recent article, Americans by electing the Biden-Harris team while not giving the Democrats a Senate majority may have ensured “the need for parties to negotiate while setting aside more extreme proposals on either the right or left.”

Presumably members of Biden’s transition team will be looking at what may be offered to a Republican Senate majority to help smooth cooperation. The transition team will also be looking at who might fill cabinet posts, achieving Senate confirmation, if necessary.

On Thursday, The Morning Brief will look at how all of this will affect Canada.

To Come

November 11
  • Remembrance Day
November 12
  • Senior Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada will deliver a speech on Exploring Life Post COVID-19
November 16
  • Monthly survey for manufacturing for September to be released
November 17
  • Wholesale trade numbers for September to be released
November 18
  • CPI numbers for October to be released
November 20
  • Retail trade numbers for September to be released

The Morning Brief returns on Thursday, November 12.

– BC