Is the USA on a path towards civil war?

I hope not! But the signs are not good.

The media have unanimously proclaimed that Joe Biden has been voted the next President and will take office on January 20. The official results have not been announced and the outcome will not be formalized until the Electoral College meets on December 14. Yet, the incumbent President not only is claiming that his second term as President has been “stolen” by a “rigged election” but also is undermining the goodwill required during period of transition between the outgoing and incoming Presidents and their respective Administrations.

What could happen if Donald Trump sticks to belief that he is the truly elected President of the USA? Here are four possible scenarios:

  • Trump declares that the election results are invalid, that he is the legitimate President and calls on the Armed Forces (of which he is the Commander in Chief) onto to the streets to restore order and take control of rebellious cities and states. It is worth noting conflict within the armed forces’ Oath of Enlistment – to “support and defend the Constitution” and to “obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me.”
  • Trump concedes the election outcome but refuses the leave the White House until Inauguration Day, continues to foment domestic divisiveness, urges civil disruption and sabotages US international trade and diplomatic relations.
  • Trump concedes the election and steps aside but continues to claim (in vitriolic attacks against those whom he perceives have robbed him of his rightful second term as President) that the election was stolen, obstructs the incoming Administration and encourages his supporters to protest and demonstrate against an ‘illegally elected’ Administration. Those protests result in riots, deaths and considerable civil disruption.
  • Trump persists with his vitriolic attacks and denials of the election outcome, resulting in a heightened risk of protests and civil unrest. To avoid a domestic conflagration and bloodshed, Joe Biden concedes the presidency to Donald Trump.

Some of the consequences of each of these scenarios are breakdowns in law, order and infrastructure, many American deaths, scenes in US cities reminiscent of the 1930s, and foreign investors withdrawing their capital and willingness to trade with the USA.

Then again, Donald Trump could concede that Joe Biden won the election, promise an orderly transition to the new Administration, and urge his supporters to accept the election result, demonstrate peacefully and refrain from any civil disruption!!!?

Never poke an eagle or a (panda) bear

An increasingly relevant sideshow to the effects of, fight against and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is the November US Presidential election. Donald Trump has begun his re-election campaign using many of the same themes and ‘tools’ that got him elected in 2016, mainly bluster, bullying (anyone who disagrees with or argues against him), isolationism and consistent selection and redefining of facts and the truth. As a result, the US is facing the erosion of its status as the global superpower.

China seems to be taking the opportunity presented by Trump’s bluster, poor judgement, lack of leadership and isolationist moves to fill the global leadership gap left by the US, to show the world that China is the equal of (or greater than) the US as a global superpower and to tidy up what it sees as domestic matters. The World Health Organisation is just one battlefield between the US and China.

China is quietly but assertively absorbing the Trump Administration’s anti-China vitriol. At the same time, it is escalating the addressing of longstanding domestic matters, such as the integration of Hong Kong into the People’s Republic of China, the security of shipping lanes in the South China Sea (the recent sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat), the security of its land borders (the escalating stand off on the India-China border) and the safety of its citizens overseas (China’s actions in response to the extradition proceedings of the Huawei CFO who is also the daughter of its founder).

The US and China, in attacking each other and the other’s perceived allies, in their battle to be the world’s biggest geopolitical influencer, risk spreading their animosity throughout the world. Rising tensions between the US and China have the potential to inflame and divide the world, with serious geopolitical, economic and military consequences for everyone, more so in this fragile coronavirus period.