24th November 2020
Process is the friend of President-elect Joseph Biden.
As long as the States duly certify their votes, and the Electoral College then duly votes in accordance with those certifications, and Congress then duly accepts the Electoral College result, there is little Biden really needs to do so as to become President of the United States on 20 January 2021.
Unless something extraordinary happens, Donald Trump will cease to become President on 20th January 2021 by automatic operation of the Constitution of the United States.
Process is his friend.
There is, of course, still litigation and political pressure from the Trump campaign.
(And it is testament to the lack of confidence many have in the integrity and independence of the currently composed Supreme Court of the United States that many can easily imagine at least two or three of the Justices voting in favour of the side of Trump in any election case before that court, regardless of the merits of that case.)
None of the current litigation, however, really adds up.
Indeed, the lawyering in some of the cases brought by the Trump campaign has been unimpressive.
And even if each of these cases are taken at their highest, it is not conceivable that it would ‘flip’ the result in a single State, let alone the entire presidential election.
Understandably, many are still anxious as to whether Trump will really go, and are concerned that some grand litigation trick may keep him in the White House after 20 January 2021.
After all, many strange things have happened in the United States (and the United Kingdom) since 2016.
But here it looks like process will prevail.
Process is the enemy – the negation – of the disruptive approach to politics of Trump and Bannon in the United States and of Johnson and Cummings in the United Kingdom.
That approach to politics prioritises mobilising a political base so as to enable those in political power to govern without checks and balances.
And as such, both politics and policy becomes a sequence of gestures, expediences and contrivances.
Process is an alien concept to this approach of constant disruption.
Take, for example, Brexit.
In approaching the negotiations of the exit agreement and then of the subsequent relationship on trade, the European Union has been dull, methodical, and relentless.
The United Kingdom, on the other hand, has constantly sought to rely on bluster and bullying, but at each stage has been at a disadvantage.
Johnson and others prioritised playing to their political and media constituencies over engaging properly in a structured negotiation process.
They have received claps and cheers, but those claps and cheers have quickly faded and are becoming less loud and enthusiastic each time.
Process has been the friend of the European Union over Brexit, just as process is now the friend of Biden in the United States.
This is not to say that process was always going to favour the European Union (even though the Article 50 procedure is rigged against the departing Member State).
The United Kingdom can also be rather good at the politics of process, when its political leaders take process seriously.
But throughout Brexit, a distrust of ‘Remoaner’ expertise and experience meant that United Kingdom did not have the benefit of those who were the match to the procedural politicians of the European Union.
Think of Ivan Rogers, among many others.
The populist nationalist authoritarian politics of Trump and Johnson, and of Bannon and Cummings, has shaken many liberals and constitutionalists.
Disapproval and tuttery has no effect; conventions are disregarded; inconvenient laws are circumvented and even sometimes broken.
It is akin to a wild animal loose in a village.
The unpredictability and noise and damage is unwelcome.
But, just as there are advantages for those who promote this destabilising approach to politics, there are also weaknesses.
And one of those weaknesses is that it cannot easily deal with process, if that process survives the attempts to disrupt it.
The scary thing is when populist nationalist authoritarians master the political arts of process, rather than the lesser political arts of disruption.
We are (relatively) fortunate: Trump will soon no longer be in office; Bannon and Cummings are both no longer in central political positions; and Johnson now seems politically weak.
The next wave of populist nationalist authoritarianism in the United States and the United Kingdom may be harder to dislodge.
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