Lame-duck Donald Trump: from Nov. 3 to now

Aryeh Lesch

Much like the rest of his presidency, there is little precedent for what Donald Trump’s tenure as a lame-duck has looked like. “Lame-duck” refers to any elected government official in the period of time after their successor has been elected but before they have left office. What has made Trump’s last weeks in office different from those of other presidents is that he has thus far refused to acknowledge that these are, in fact, his last weeks in office.

Instead, he has advocated that he is the rightful winner of the election due to voter fraud for which he has yet to provide evidence. Claiming in a speech on Dec. 2 that, “This election was rigged. Everybody knows it.” This, as well as many other claims made by the president in his Dec. 2 speech, have been deemed false by the Associated Press and most other mainstream media outlets. Though many students expected a situation similar to this one to occur, it is still worrying for some to see it actually play out.

“I think now is the time when we really need strong leadership, and the new administration needs to be able to prepare as much as possible. For Trump to delay that and stay so grounded in his delusion that he won the election… [is] really irresponsible and could have some implications for our country,” said senior Ben Ward, co-founder of the ETHS Politics Club.

While the president has been promoting claims of voter fraud, his lawyers have been simultaneously fighting a largely unsuccessful legal battle to overturn election results in key states. Of the approximately 50 lawsuits filed by the Trump legal team, nearly 40 have already been rejected or dropped. One case from the swing state of Pennsylvania ended when a U.S. Court of Appeals threw out a lawsuit by the president requesting to reverse ballot certification, stating, “Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here.”

Trump’s legal campaign has so far had one victory. However, any remaining optimism for Trump’s legal success was blunted on Dec. 1, when Attorney General Bill Barr said, “To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”

“He’s had his fair day in court [and] court proved that there was no fraud and that everything was legit.” said junior Madeline Matsis, co-founder of the ETHS Politics Club. “I think he needs to accept that he didn’t win and just let this transfer of power be peaceful.”

Despite the losses in court and lack of evidence for widespread voter fraud, many Republican officials and politicians remain sided with the president. In fact, as of Dec. 9, only 27 of the 249 Republicans in Congress have said they believe Biden won the election.

“[By the inauguration], I hope that all of the Republican people in Congress say that Biden won, which a lot of them still haven’t,” said senior Gabe Karsh.
While the president’s attempts to change election results have been unsuccessful, many are worried about the impact that his refusal to aid in a smooth transfer of power could have on the incoming Biden administration.

“I just hope that Biden will have had enough time to continue getting his administration together unobstructed,” said Ward. “During the lame-duck phase, I think it is also important [for the president] to step back a little bit for the new administration.”

The peaceful transfer of power between presidential administrations is a key step in ensuring that incoming presidents have the information necessary to be prepared to take office. For years, the peaceful transfer of power has been a hallmark of American democracy; it represents the unity of the country and ability of the two political parties to work together, even after bitter presidential races.

The standard of a peaceful transfer of power was practiced after the 2008 election, as well as by Barack Obama in 2016, who began the transition by inviting then-President-elect Trump to the White House for a meeting two days after the election. This was acknowledged by President Trump in his inaugural address, in which he said “We are grateful to President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition.”

However, it was not until over two weeks after the Associated Press called the election for Joe Biden that the Administrator of the General Service Administration (GSA), Emily Murphy, acknowledged Biden as the “apparent winner” of the Presidential race and allowed the transfer of power to officially begin. Though yet to concede, Trump made clear in a tweet on Nov. 23 that he supports the GSA’s decision, writing, “In the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done in regards to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same.”

“I think in the long run, it’s going to hurt democracy because we’re not going to see that peaceful transition that so many presidents have had before,” said Matsis.

Since Nov. 23, standard protocols have occurred smoothly, with the first real obstacle coming on Dec. 5, when the Trump administration blocked Joe Biden’s transition team from meeting with officials from the agencies within the Defense Department.
As the transfer of power has officially begun, some students feel hopeful, though many are still concerned about the repercussions that the delay may have caused.

“I think it’s gonna make his [the president’s] supporters angry for a long time. Had he just lost and conceded, they might have sort of faded back into the fabric of normal politics. But I don’t think that’s going to happen now,” said Karsh.

Despite the GSA’s announcement, President Trump’s Twitter largely tells a different story. Following the Nov. 3 election, he has used his account to make such claims as “Rigged Election!” and “I WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT!” Students, who spend much of their time on social media, have not been surprised by Trump’s tweets since the election, but still consider them dangerous.

“Trump’s Twitter is another thing that’s been irresponsible throughout his presidency and continued to be irresponsible after the election,” said Ward. “For him to tweet things like ‘This election is rigged,’ or that there is widespread fraud and that mail-in ballots can’t be trusted, that has the potential to have about half the country believing that same thing which is very dangerous [and] could have led to some serious violence.”

Besides his refusal to accept the results of the election, other actions taken by the lame-duck president have raised concern. Most notably, Trump, less than a week after the presidential election was called, asked advisors about the possibility of ordering a missile strike against nuclear sites in Iran.

“People have been saying, ‘Oh, he’s gonna cause a nuclear war’ since [Trump] got elected,” said Karsh. “I think it’s kind of overblown. I’m sure he might do a missile strike on Iran, but I don’t think he’s gonna start a war.”

Despite the president not conceding, President-Elect Biden has remained consistent in his message that he is the legitimate winner of the presidential race and that he will proceed in the transfer of power as he would have had the president conceded.

Prior to the GSA announcing their decision to support a transfer of power, Biden, unable to commence the typical transition proceedings, finalized his transition team of over 500 people, announced the creation of his COVID-19 task force, and began announcing nominees for several key positions in his cabinet. Biden has stated his commitment to creating a diverse cabinet that “is going to look like the country.”

As of Dec. 9, Biden has nominated 13 people for cabinet positions with some of the most prominent appointments including Janet Yellen as the first female Secretary of the Treasury, Antony Blinken as the Secretary of State, and Gen. Lloyd Austin as the first Black man to serve as Defense Secretary.

“I like how he’s picked people for his cabinet that have a lot of experience. I think experience is good for a time of crisis. I would have liked to see a few more progressives in his cabinet, but I think he has done a good job of picking some people who will be good leaders,” said Ward. “The country is very divided right now…[and] I think Biden can kind of be a uniting force.”