Biden calls for unity as electoral college makes win official

US President-elect Joe Biden urged Americans to look ahead to the "urgent work" of "getting the pandemic under control to getting the nation vaccinated against this virus".
US President-elect Joe Biden urged Americans to look ahead to the "urgent work" of "getting the pandemic under control to getting the nation vaccinated against this virus".PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON - In a speech notable for its asperity, hours after the Electoral College handed him the Presidency, President-elect Joe Biden on Monday night (Dec 14) ripped into the “baseless claims” about the legitimacy of the United States’ elections and called on Americans to accept the outcome.

“The integrity of our elections remains intact,” he said in Wilmington, Delaware - his Senate constituency and home - soon after he and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris had received the expected 306 votes in the Electoral College – the same number that President Donald Trump won in 2016.

President Trump had 232 votes.

“Now it is time to turn the page as we’ve done throughout our history,” Mr Biden said. “To unite. To heal. As I said through this campaign, I will be a president for all Americans.”

Significantly, on Tuesday morning Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell congratulated Mr Biden, a green light for other Republicans to do the same.

In his speech, Mr Biden flayed Republicans’ attempt to get the Supreme Court to overturn certified results in key swing states in a suit filed by Texas and supported by 17 Republican Attorneys General and 126 Republican Members of Congress which was dismissed by the Supreme Court last Friday.

“This legal manoeuvre was an effort by elected officials in one group of states to try to get the Supreme Court to wipe out the votes of more than 20 million Americans in other states and to hand the presidency to a candidate who lost the Electoral College, lost the popular vote, and lost each and every one of the states whose votes they were trying to reverse” Mr Biden said.

“It’s a position so extreme we’ve never seen it before. A position that refused to respect the will of the people, refused to respect the rule of law, and refused to honour our Constitution.”

Mr Biden said the nation’s highest court sent a “clear signal” to Mr Trump and his allies that it would not take part in this assault on democracy.

Despite Mr Biden’s emphatic win, the mood remained fraught, with many of Mr Trump’s supporters still refusing to accept the outcome.

In swing states, the Electoral College votes took place under heavy security. One Michigan state Republican lawmaker, Gary Eisen, told a radio station he planned to help challenge the election even if it would not change the result – and said he could not guarantee people’s safety. Following an uproar, he was removed from his committee posts.

But while right wing circles and media – and Mr Trump himself – continued to amplify theories of fraud, Mr McConnell’s acknowledgment of Mr Biden’s win on Tuesday, his first, was a sign of the inevitable.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who until Monday had kept silent on the US election results, also congratulated Mr Biden, the Kremlin said.

Mr Putin “wished every success to the president-elect and expressed confidence that Russia and the US, who bear special responsibility for global security and stability, can facilitate resolution of many problems and challenges faced by the world now despite disagreements,” the Kremlin said.

“Russian-American cooperation, based on the principles of equality and mutual respect, would meet the interests of both nations and the entire international community. For my part, I am ready for interaction and contacts with you.”

Mr Biden in his speech repeatedly had to clear his throat, detracting somewhat from its impact. But he was nevertheless forceful, saying: “Every avenue was made available to President Trump to contest the results... President Trump was denied no course of action he wanted to take.”

The pressure put on Americans going about the work of the election was “unconscionable” he added.

“So many of these patriotic Americans were subjected to so much: enormous political pressure, verbal abuse, and even threats of physical violence,” he said. “I hope we never again see anyone subjected to the kind of threats and abuse we saw in this election.”

Inderjeet Parmar, professor of international politics at the City, University of London, told The Straits Times TuesdaY: “US democracy just about squeaked through this stress test - but it is badly wounded and may not withstand such a test again especially if the vote tally is closer next time.”