WASHINGTON DC: The French-American urban designer Pierre L’Enfant, who drew the basic blueprint for the US capital, wanted Washington DC’s architecture to reflect the most profound principles of the then-nascent American democracy.
The US Capitol was separated from the Supreme Court by Constitution Avenue, and from the White House by Pennsylvania Avenue, the state where the constitution was born, thus literally setting in stone the pillars of “separation of powers” and “checks and balances.”
But what was once thought of as a self-evident truth in American political life is now itself in the balance.
President Donald Trump continues to refuse to concede the election. While concession is said to be the only safeguard of American unity, it was not written in the constitution. The founding fathers left it to the moral character of the losing candidate.
Admitting defeat is an intimate decision, made throughout history by losing candidates at the moment the campaign manager enters the room and informs them of their loss.
The concession speech is the only move that can tame the anger of millions of the losing candidate’s supporters. It asks them to magnanimously join the winning side so political life can go on.
It was hard not to think of this underlying reality as thousands of Trump supporters flocked to the streets of the capital to contest the election result, a week after the presidential race was called for Democrat Joe Biden.
They chanted for Trump, falsely asserting that the vote was stolen, repeating similar claims and complaints by the president and his campaign.
Protesters arrived from all over the US. Caravans drove for long hours from Texas, Arizona and Florida. Some took the plane from Washington and California.
Young Pennsylvanians shared the four-hour ride into the city. Kentucky, Oklahoma, Maine, Michigan and Tennessee: They were all represented in the crowds.
They held up giant signs calling ballots “fake” and Democrats “liars,” and accusing the latter of engaging in tyranny and “constitutional travesty.” Biden, according to them, is “looting America,” and for that his “days are numbered.”
The throng of Trump loyalists were delighted as the president’s motorcade wormed its way through them on his way to his golf course in nearby Virginia.
The protesters then headed to the Supreme Court, and shouted at the highest court in the land that “Trump won.”
An anti-abortion woman who was holding a picture of an 11-week-old fetus chanted with her group that “God won” and “Jesus has won in Trump.”
Over 90 organizations nationwide took part in the protests. White nationalists and other far-right groups did attend, looking like a militia about to invade the State Capitol, but they were not armed.
A pro-Biden young woman called to passersby: “Hi losers! Nice to meet you, losers!” She provoked some back and forth, with one man joking with her: “You’re as good as Biden at drawing crowds.” She was standing by herself.
Another Biden supporter held a sign saying “Trump is over,” but he offered the Republican crowd “free hugs” and “no hard feelings.”
There was a collective rehashing of all the fears that were stoked during this year’s election campaigns.
Donning a Make America Great Again hat and draped in the national flag, Denise from Texas quoted the Book of Ecclesiastes: “A wise man turns to the right. A fool to the left.”
She told Arab News: “There’s some fraud that has been noted in major media … Any fraud in our election is too much fraud. It’s a slippery slope.”
She added: “We don’t want socialism. We have people here from the (former) Soviet Union who are crying for people to listen to what socialism really means. Investigate. Google Venezuela, the Soviet Union, Kosovo.”
A broad coalition of top government and industry officials has declared that the Nov. 3 voting and the following count unfolded smoothly, with no more than the usual minor hiccups.
The issues that Trump’s campaign has been raising are typical in every election: Problems with signatures, secret envelopes and postal marks on mail-in ballots, and the potential for a small number of ballots miscast or lost.
With Biden leading Trump by wide margins in key battleground states, election experts agree that none of those issues would have any impact on the outcome. But Anna from Virginia told Arab News: “It’s not over until the fat lady sings.”