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Trump’s Bid to Stop Count Could Turn US Into an ‘illiberal Democracy'
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By claiming victory in the presidential election while it is still in the balance, President Trump is following what could be called “the Turkish playbook” in his determination to stay in the White House.

This approach is a rerun of the strategy employed by several populist national leaders across the world in recent years to stay in power by prematurely claiming a win at the polls, and then manipulating the final result in their favour through their control of state institutions, such as election supervisory boards and the courts.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is alleged to have done this successfully on several occasions, notably in the referendum that vastly expanded his presidential powers in 2017, winning a ballot that his critics say the majority had voted against.

The extent to which Trump succeeds in curtailing the counting of votes in crucial states, such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia, will be a measure of the degree to which the US is on its way to becoming an “illiberal democracy” like Turkey, Poland, Hungary, India, Brazil and the Philippines.

Trump is seeking to build up momentum behind a sense that he has already won a great and inevitable victory. He benefits from a change in the political mood after exaggerated expectations were disappointed of Joe Biden winning in a landslide. Trump tried the same tactic in the mid-term elections in 2018, vigorously downplaying the extent of the Democratic successes so that it was several days before it became clear that the Democrats had, in fact, regained control of the House of Representatives.

It is not yet evident that the strategy of Biden and the Democratic Party leadership – focusing on winning back enough of their traditional voters in the midwestern states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan – has failed. They believed that the great mistake of an overconfident and ill-advised Hillary Clinton in 2016 was to divert attention and resources away from three traditionally Democratic states that were then lost to Trump by the hair’s-breadth margin of 80,000 votes. An overconfident Clinton had not even visited Wisconsin after her nomination.

Biden and his campaign team are being criticised for focusing too much on these states and not concentrating enough on non-white minorities, notably the Hispanic vote in Texas and Florida. At the virtual convention nominating Biden, there was not a single speaker from Texas, though Trump only won the state narrowly. Democratic activists in Georgia, still a possible Biden gain, say that they were kept short of resources.


A Biden victory is still possible, and even probable at the time of writing, but the sweeping successes that the opinion polls had predicted with some confidence never materialised. The question is, why not? The most striking feature of the vote is that the coronavirus epidemic, and Trump’s gross mishandling of it, turned out not to be the dominating issue that it had been forecast to be. Instead, it was the economy, racial differences, and law and order that were the central issues for Trump voters.

It has been a longstanding mistake of the American media to underestimate Trump’s skills as a politician and, above all, as a ferociously energetic and effective campaigner. He is unsurpassed at dominating the news agenda, uncaring about the offensiveness or absurdity of what he says, so long as it grabs attention and gets high ratings on television and social media. Contemptuous of his crassness and mendacity, the media has nevertheless hung on his every word – even when they condemn those words as open racism and lies.

Hillary Clinton and, to a lesser degree Biden, have waited in vain for Trump to self-destruct in 2016 and 2020, but this has never happened. Instead, they made the mistake of allowing a political vacuum to develop, which he was swift to fill.

Again, this is not an uniquely American phenomenon, since an ability to dominate the news has been typical of right-wing populist leaders all over the world in the last 25 years. The earliest example of this trend is probably Benjamin Netanyahu, who first became Israeli prime minister in 1996 (losing and regaining office several times in subsequent years).

The American pundit class and probably a majority of educated Americans regard Trump with such hatred, as the man who is ruining their country, that their judgement of him is often distorted. They hope that every breath of contrary wind will capsize Trump, and the onset of the coronavirus epidemic in America early in the year appeared to be the hurricane that would do the job.

Trump’s efforts to minimise the illness appeared doomed to fail, given that 225,000 Americans had died of it, but he kept repeating that there was little to be frightened of. He dismissed lockdowns and other health measures as doing excessive damage to the economy and his argument clearly struck home.

Biden has the disadvantage of being an apotheosis of the Washington establishment, however many times he emphasises his working-class origins in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Of course, Trump’s claim to be the multi-millionaire tribune of the people is even more absurd, but he is more convincing at playing the populist card than Biden. This does not mean that he will inevitably win the election, but he has got far closer to doing so than most people imagined 24 hours ago.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Ideology • Tags: 2020 Election, Donald Trump, Joe Biden 
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  1. joe2.5 says:

    …the strategy employed by several populist national leaders across the world in recent years to stay in power by prematurely claiming a win at the polls, and then manipulating the final result in their favour through their control of state institutions, such as election supervisory boards and the courts

    Contrast that with
    the strategy employed by several neocon-neoliberal US-puppet leaders across the world in recent years to stay in, or subvert, power by prematurely claiming a win at the polls, and then manipulating the final result in their favour through their control of state institutions, mainly their spy agencies, and the mass media.

  2. You have a very appropriate surname. Only sucker would be more fitting.

    • Troll: Supply and Demand
    • Replies: @Wyatt
    , @anon
    , @Hapalong Cassidy
  3. anonymous[331] • Disclaimer says:

    Please don’t quote that asskissing TV bobblehead Zakaria, it makes us throw up soft wet morsels in our mouth and have to swallow them back down.

    Illiberal democracy. If Zakaria ever did his homework instead of pulling half-baked concepts out his ass, he would know that the US is not a democracy at all. Zakaria doesn’t know the customary international law definition of a democratic society. You probably don’t, either. It’s in the Siracusa Principles. Ever heard of that? I thought not.

    A democratic society is one that has come into conformity with the UDHR. That’s not the only possible definition, but the US doesn’t meet the other ones, either. The US also fails to meet the binding standards of ICCPR Article 25§b, which is supreme law of the land. The US fails to guarantee the free expression of the will of the electors. In fact, the US thwarts the will of the electors at every turn. Didn’t you read the DNC emails? The Podesta emails? US elections are fake. Futility’s baked in. If you won’t admit that, you might as well go write witty Oxbridge bullshit mots for The Economist.

    So could you please can the boilerplate government-issue propaganda warnings, “the US might turn into an XYZ-type shithole…” The US already is one. The US has been one for decades. You’re pulling your punches here, and it’s unmanly.

    • Replies: @Ann T. Zemitik
  4. fnn says:

    Wow, it looks like the Commies are now taking the side of the FBI, CIA and Wall Street and Silicon Valley plutocrats.

    • Replies: @Getaclue
  5. Wyatt says:

    I was going to address him as “Mr. Cockhole” and then tell him why he was wrong.

  6. unit472 says:

    As Joe Biden would say, “Come on man, we all voted on the same day by the same rules forever!” True we’ve expanded the franchise but its still a helluva lot easier to cast your vote in 2020 than in 1920 or 1820.

    Here is what’s wrong with the current system. Equality should include equality of information. If you vote weeks before the election date you are voting on incomplete information. A candidate for the North Dakota legislature ( Trump supporter BTW) died before the election. Still he had enough votes to win.

    There is no reason we cannot make voting easier and secure and all of use vote on the same day. Bank of America, JP Morgan, etc process millions of our transactions daily using the internet and they have to get it right or they’d be ruined. Better not charge my Visa card for a transaction someone else made and, for voting purposes, your county registrar, could send a ‘confirmation number’ to your cell phone you’d have to confirm before your ballot is counted.

    We adjust representation ( and electoral college votes) based on 10 year old data. We also use total population instead of US citizens to determine E.C. votes. Well…, New York gets 29 electoral votes, same as Florida but today Florida has 2 plus million more people than New York. California gets half a dozen electoral college vote based on its population of illegal immigrants,

    The reason our voting system is so convoluted is because Democrat politicians need it that way to rig our elections.

    • Agree: 36 ulster
  7. @anonymous

    The US fails to guarantee the free expression of the will of the electors. In fact, the US thwarts the will of the electors at every turn. Didn’t you read the DNC emails? The Podesta emails? US elections are fake. Futility’s baked in. If you won’t admit that, you might as well go write witty Oxbridge bullshit mots for The Economist.”

    I love how you conservabots always telegraph your right-wingerness by only pointing out Democrat malfeasance but somehow manage to do a full stop before you get to the part where Shrub, Jeb,and Katie Harris conspired to subvert the “will of the people” that elected President Gore to the White House. If you won’t admit that, you might as well take a job writing not-so-witty catchphrases for GOP liarsmith, Frank Luntz. Caw. Caw. Polly wanna “job creator”.

    • Troll: 36 ulster
    • Replies: @Ann T. Zemitik
  8. Than you Mr. Cockburn. Your points are salient as always. Very much agree on racist dictator Trump.

    • Troll: 36 ulster
  9. GoodTwin says:

    Trump has been saying since Spring that printing millions of mail-in ballots was crazy, now we find he was correct. With places reporting 100+% or registered voters and massive irregulsrities in Dem controlled cities, they are not even trying to hide this blatant fraud. We need to throw out every mail-in ballot that is questionable and consign the idea to oblivion. We are Venezuela if Trump loses.

  10. polistra says:

    We come to Unz to skip this standard DNC/MSNBC/CNN stuff. Why does Unz bother to include it?

    • Agree: Gordo
  11. anon[186] • Disclaimer says:

    Ann, Ann, Ann. In your induced factional fury (comment 7,) running around looking for someone to fight with, you wound up drolly barking up the wrong tree. When is the last time you heard conservabots, whatever they are, citing universal human rights instruments? I do not fit your statist left/right false dichotomy.

    Of course 2000 was fake democracy. Applying the standards I cited would tell you that, if you bothered to look at them. Clearly you did not. What’s more, 2004 was equally fake, with Kerry rolling over for blatant electoral fraud in Ohio. I’m not jumping down your throat for not citing 2004 too. Politically competent people know that all US electoral politics is fake.

    Here are the minimal standards of the civilized world, for your edification. Your bullshit party will never tell you how to go over your government’s head to the outside world and get your rights.

    Best of luck transcending your false consciousness! I’m rooting for you!

  12. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Cockburn. Judges ruling no postmarks, no matching signatures, and no deadline to receive votes killed any concept of “democracy” whether liberal or illiberal. It was an open invitation for an increase in the voter fraud, which has been going on for decades. The 2018 “mid-terms” were the warm up for 2020.

    • Replies: @TheTrumanShow
  13. MeaCulpa says:

    The US may “turn into an illiberal democracy”?

    The author either has a keen a sense of irony, or is too Goddamned stupid to be alive.

    Stupid fucking pig

  14. @Ann T. Zemitik

    If you think my comment is “trolling” then DISPUTE it, ya’ nutless pussy. But, of course, you can’t. Because it’s true.

  15. TG says:

    The United States is not currently any kind of democracy. In all aspects of major policy: an excessive cheap-labor immigration policy, shipping our industrial might to communist China, spending tens of trillions bailing out and subsidizing the super-rich, spending a trillion dollars a year on pointless winless wars that benefit only politically connected defense contractors, ‘surprise’ medical billing, etc etc., the popular will is ignored.

    Given that the United States is NOT currently a democracy in any de-facto way, perhaps an “illiberal democracy” could be a step up?

  16. Getaclue says:

    Wall Street funds the Commies — they funded the Bolsheviks and Lenin — Anthony Sutton did some great work proving this — they funded the North Vietnamese Communists. David Rockefeller’s fingerprints are all over “Modern” China — the ChiCom Totalitarian State is the NWO Model they are going to inflict on us all with the “Great Reset” NWO Agenda using Medical Martial Law and the CVirus and whatever they release next — probably some skin/small pox like disease ala “Dark Winter” they keep dropping on us…here’s Anthony Sutton to explain it for you as to Wall Street and their love for Commies and instituting such regimes to commit Mass Murder — gives you an idea of what’s coming to the USA, soon:

  17. anon[370] • Disclaimer says:

    No,no , Trump is bad for your health .Even his children are toxic . don’t support them After his departure, he will likely get his day in the jail for bullshitting ,for enriching this family and donor class.

  18. nickels says:

    Uhhh, so suppressing illegal votes is ‘illiberal’.
    No, try again.

  19. @Curmudgeon

    ” It was an open invitation for an increase in the voter fraud …”

    Agree wholeheartedly – and then some. It was tantamount to legalization and endorsement of vote/voter fraud – by a corrupt, politicized judiciary.

  20. America has been an illiberal democracy for nearly a century thanks to Marxist Democrats.
    Trump is trying to stop continued voter fraud so all remaining uncounted votes can be verified as legitimate. But this TDS infected author is here to propagandize, not tell the truth, although I’m quite sure he knows the truth, deranged mind or not!

    • Replies: @Hans
  21. Hans says:

    It’s one of the Cockburns. They are/were all Commies and completely full of shit despite and occasional truth.

    • Replies: @Bill Jones
  22. Why bring up Hillary Clinton as anything other than the Butcher of Libya? Anyone who has that fiend in his coattails is diablo or just Dumbo.

    And why not bring up the experience of Sweden when dealing with CV19? They never shut down their grade schools, many businesses stayed open, and mask wearing was hardly employed at all among the general citizenry, and they fared better than many countries and states that went into total lock down.
    Thus Sweden serves as a superior example of how this could have been handled.

    Yet “progressive” Trump haters resent he did not clamp down on our lives more! They regret our Constitution is not chopped down even faster.

  23. @coolhand850

    I think it’s actually pronounced “Coburn”. I used to read the late Alexander Cockburn’s “Counterpunch” website, back in the Iraq War days, when I was hungry for any anti-war perspectives I could find. How ironic that his brother has become a shill for the deep state warmongers.

  24. GoodTwin says:

    If Biden wins it will be such a massive victory for mail-in voting (synonymous with fraud wherever it is widely used), Big Tech censorship, and media/CIA manipulation of US elections. Those three tools will be used over and over, making US democracy into a farce.

  25. Cockburn’s article is full of lies and half truths. Cancelled.

  26. @Hans

    It’s one of the Cockburns. They are/were all Commies and completely full of shit despite and occasional truth.

    The word you are searching for is “Irish”.

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