WASHINGTON: President-elect Joe Biden delivered a rebuke to President Donald Trump’s attacks on the legitimacy of his victory, hours after winning the state-by-state Electoral College vote that officially determines the US presidency.
“In this battle for the soul of America, democracy prevailed,” Biden said in a prime-time speech from his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware. “Now it’s time to turn the page, as we’ve done throughout our history – to unite, to heal.”
The vote, typically a formality, assumed outsized significance in light of Trump’s extraordinary effort to subvert the process due to what he has falsely alleged was widespread voter fraud in the November 3 election.
California, the most-populous US state, put Biden over the 270 votes needed to win the Electoral College when its 55 electors unanimously cast ballots for him and his running mate, Kamala Harris. Biden and Harris – the first woman, first Black person and first Asian American to become vice president-elect – will be sworn in on Jan. 20.
In a roughly 13-minute speech, Biden called for unity while voicing confidence that the country’s democratic institutions had held in the face of Trump’s attempts to reverse the election outcome.
“The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago. And we now know that nothing – not even the pandemic – or an abuse of power – can extinguish that flame,” he said.
Biden emphasised that Trump and his allies filed “dozens and dozens” of legal challenges to the vote totals without success, including a Texas lawsuit that asked the US Supreme Court to invalidate the results of four states. The court, including three Trump appointees, rejected the bid with no dissents last week.
He also noted that his 306-232 margin in the Electoral College was the same as Trump’s 2016 victory, which the Republican described as a “landslide.”
Electors are typically party loyalists who are unlikely to break ranks, and few observers had expected the vote to alter the election’s outcome. With Trump’s legal challenges floundering, the president’s dim hopes of clinging to power rest in persuading Congress not to certify the Electoral College vote in a special January 6 session – an effort all but certain to fail.
Trump had also pressured Republican lawmakers in battleground states that Biden won, such as Pennsylvania and Michigan, to set aside the vote totals and appoint their own competing slates of electors. But lawmakers largely dismissed the notion.
Some Trump supporters had called for protests on social media, and election officials had expressed concern about the potential for violence amid the president’s heated rhetoric but the vote proceeded smoothly, with no major disruptions.
Trump said late last month he would leave the White House if the Electoral College voted for Biden, but he has since shown little interest in conceding. On Monday, he repeated a series of unsupported claims.
“Swing States that have found massive VOTER FRAUD, which is all of them, CANNOT LEGALLY CERTIFY these votes as complete & correct without committing a severely punishable crime,” he wrote on Twitter.
Trump’s sole remaining gambit is to convince Congress to reject the results in January. The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives is sure to reject any such challenge, while senior Republicans in the Senate on Monday dismissed the idea of overturning the result.