For those who did not use mail-in ballots, people in the United States took to the polls to cast their ballot on 2 November in the 2020 Presidential Elections. Although there are 11 Presidential Candidates, in reality the race was only ever going to be called between two of the candidates: the incumbent President Trump for the Republican Party, and former Vice President Joe Biden for the Democratic Party.
In addition to the rallies and campaigns carried out by the two candidates in the runup to the Election itself, social media was awash with narratives relating to the election. Arguably one of the biggest narratives was the alleged cache of emails which came from a laptop said to be linked to Hunter Biden, which purportedly highlighted Joe Biden’s corruption and abuse of power. Regardless of whether the cache of emails were genuine or not, it seems that most of the damage arising from that narrative was actually through the way Twitter and Facebook had censored the New York Post in breaking their “exposé” on the cache of emails, with the allegations of censorship causing more people to search for the matter, a classic case in point of the Streisand Effect in practice. The refusal of the mainstream media to cover the alleged Hunter Biden email cache further fed into the labelling of mainstream outlets as “fake news”.
As ballots were counted on 2 November, social media lit up with accounts of voter fraud, from allegations of dead people voting, to mail-in ballots in favour of President Trump being dumped en masse. Whilst some of the incidents which have been raised as evidence of electoral fraud have been fact checked and debunked, that is not to say that there are no other proven incidents which could lead to errors in the election. For example, Brandon Wilson, a 27-year-old postman from New York, was arrested and charged with allegedly possessing 813 items of undelivered mail, which included 3 mail-in ballots for the election.
Despite the fact checking process debunking certain myths, there is nonetheless a very sizeable body of people who continue to believe the debunked narratives, for example, continually using the debunked “Baldings World” report on Biden’s corruption as a rebuttal to reports that Biden has pledged to work more closely with allies in confronting China on trade issues. The continued clinging to myths which have been investigated and shown to be false highlights a deep distrust between a very large number of people, and the mainstream media.
The danger caused by this mistrust by a large proportion of the population cannot be understated, creating a rift in society which is very difficult to mend due to the refusal to accept anything in the mainstream media anymore. The increased usage of social media has also added more fuel to the fires of doubt by all sides, since social media act as an online echo chamber, with users generally only following those who echo similar views, or discuss similar interests. This echo chamber makes it more difficult for people on any side to be exposed to alternative theories and rebuttals.
Many media outlets and Joe Biden, on 7 November, have indicated that he is now President-Elect, with Donald Trump vowing to go through the legal process to challenge the results known thus far. Every dog must have its day in Court. This is the Rule of Law which is cherished by many, in that those who feel aggrieved should be allowed to air their discontent before the Courts, and the Trump campaign must be allowed to proceed with any legal challenges it deems necessary. It is not for anyone to pre-judge the merits of any legal action which the Trump campaign may file with the Courts. Any identifiable instances of actual electoral fraud or errors should be aired and considered in order to ensure the system addresses any potential shortcomings, regardless in whose favour any error is made. One error in an election should be considered one error too many.
In law, lawyers know that “Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.” The judgment of Justicia will only be accepted if those subjected to the process, and the society at large, has a perception that justice exists. Applied to elections, democracy will only work if those taking part in the voting process perceive the election to be fair. For example, one would not consider an election where the candidates are all chosen by the government as a true reflection of democracy. Any notion of electoral fraud only serves to undermine the faith people have in the system of democracy. With an estimate of 47.7% and 50.6% of votes being for Trump and Biden respectively, and the election having been too close to call for days, such allegations of electoral fraud, and claims that Biden only won key states due to fraud, is very damaging to the faith which people have in the notion of democracy.
The elections have not only created a rift in American society, but also affected supporters of the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement, with the sizable number of supporters of President Trump within the movement continuing to push the idea of electoral fraud on social media, as well as accounts of Joe Biden having been bought by the Chinese Communist Party. A society, or a movement, which is thus divided will only serve to benefit outsiders. The idiom of “united we stand, divided we fall” could not have found a more apt application. Any society, or movement, which has been so split by the Presidential Elections must now begin to work out how to mend rifts and work together again. Fail to do so, and the real loser is not Trump, or Biden, but society, or any movement affected, as a whole, as well as the faith which people have in the notion of democracy.