New York, Dec 20 : Donald John Trump has been formally elected to lead the most powerful nation by its electoral college, setting him on course to takeover as the 45th President of the US next month.
With the electors overwhelmingly spurning calls by Hollywood celebrities, politicians and activists to defect from Trump, the president-elect on Monday received 304 electoral college votes, 34 more than the 270 needed for his election.
Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton received only 227 votes despite her 2.9 million lead in popular votes.
“With this historic step we can look forward to the bright future ahead,” Trump said in a message to the nation. “I will work hard to unite our country and be the President of all Americans. Together, we will make America great again.”
The final step in the election process is for the Congress to certify the electoral college results on January 6 ahead of the inauguration scheduled for January 20.
The last minute appeals to patriotism fuelled by Democratic President Barack Obama administration’s claims that Russia had interfered in the US elections did not turn Trump’s electors against him nor the oft-repeated questioning of his suitability for the job.
The appeals to conscience, in fact, backfired when five electors elected by their voters to vote for Clinton turned against her while only two Trump electors voted against him, but for other Republicans.
Three of the Clinton electors voted for Colin Powell, the African-American general, who led the nation in the first Iraq war and was the Secretary of State with President George W. Bush.
Although Trump called his victory a “landslide”, it was not one in terms of popular votes or electoral college votes.
Clinton’s 2.9 million popular vote lead over Trump did not matter either because the US presidential election is ultimately an indirect election — much like India’s — and the electors have the final say, not the voters themselves.
The electoral college votes are distributed by states based on their relative size and this helped Trump.
Clinton’s popular vote lead came mainly from large states like California, where she trounced Trump by 4.2 million votes and New York by 1.7 million.
But these leads were limited by the number of electors they could elect in the state.
Trump tried to delegitimise Obama by questioning whether he was born in the US, a constitutional requirement.
Now it is payback time for the Democrats who have raised Russia’s hand in the elections to undercut his victory.
As electors gathered in state capitals across the nation, they were met by protesters who denounced the alleged Russian interference and called Trump a Russian stooge.
Suddenly for the American liberals and the left, the CIA and the other US intelligence agencies had gained credibility despite their false reporting of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to justify Bush’s plan to invade the country, a falsehood that was written in blood costing tens of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars.
The hacking of the Democratic Party computer systems and the publication of internal correspondence and other documents does not seem to have affected Clinton, whose support level before the publication by Wikileaks in fact rose slightly to 48.4 per cent by the time of election.
Trump is heading into his inauguration publicly unperturbed by the Russian allegations, which is claimed by the media and politicians smarting under Clinton’s defeat as a direct intervention by President Vladimir Putin.
At thank you rallies around the nation, Trump has been expressing his gratitude to his various supporters, among them Indians and Hindus.
At a rally in Florida last Friday, Trump singled out the two communities pointing out to them in the crowd and said: “They were fantastic.”
He has been outlining his policies in broad terms, mainly a throwback to his campaign rhetoric that he had in the post-election interviews even though he had smoothened them on issues like mass deportation of illegal immigrants that he had walked back on.
Now with key cabinet posts filled and an outline for bold policy changes, he has to confront the legitimacy issue over the alleged Russian electoral involvement, and the ethical issues arising from his extensive business interests at home and abroad and his family involvement in government.
But the biggest challenge of all is uniting a polarised nation — a seemingly impossible task given the depths of animosity on both sides.
(Arul Louis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org).—IANS