On Tuesday (AEDT) the members of the Electoral College met in state capitals across the US to officially certify Joe Biden as the winner of the presidential election.
“In this battle for the soul of America, democracy prevailed,” Biden said in a speech to the nation after the results were confirmed.
“We the people voted, faith in our institutions held, the integrity of our elections remains intact.”
Offering his sharpest criticism of US President Donald Trump since the election, Biden said: “In America, politicians don’t take power — the people grant power to them.”
Biden described the Republicans’ legal argument to change the election outcome as “a position so extreme we’ve never seen it before — a position that refused to respect the will of the people, refused to respect the rule of law, and refused to honour our constitution”.
California’s 55 electoral votes put Biden over the top, clearing the 270-vote mark that affirms he will be the nation’s next president.
All the electors reflected the popular vote results in their states, awarding Biden 306 votes to 232 for Trump.
The certification of the results would usually be regarded as a formality and attract little attention. But this year, it took on a new symbolic power because of Trump’s refusal to accept defeat.
The Electoral College vote came on the same day the US administered its first COVID-19 vaccinations outside clinical trials. Americans watched two major stories playing out on split screens: a testament to the power of science alongside an affirmation of democracy.
The sight of healthcare workers being vaccinated offered hope that the pandemic — which has now claimed 300,000 American lives — would eventually be brought under control. (The Associated Press put the milestone into perspective, saying “the number of dead rivals the population of the cities of St Louis, Missouri or Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is more than five times the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War. It is equal to a September 11 attack every day for more than 100 days”.)
The images of electors casting their ballots offered reassurance that America’s democratic institutions were strong enough to withstand Trump’s efforts to overturn the result.
To be sure, there has been much to be troubled about in the six weeks following election day.
Trump has continued to make baseless and fabricated claims of electoral fraud, aided by conservative media outlets that amplified his complaints. As a result, tens of millions of Americans believe an election that turned out to be surprisingly trouble-free was illegitimate.
Importantly, only a handful of Republicans in Congress have publicly acknowledged Biden as the President-elect.
As well as challenging the results in court and complaining on Twitter, Trump also met state legislators in an effort to convince them to override the will of their voters.
Last week Texas’ Republican Attorney-General filed a lawsuit asking the Supreme Court to invalidate the results in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Georgia, thereby swinging the election to Trump. Remarkably, 18 Republican-led states backed the suit, as did more than 100 Republican members of the House of Representatives.
But in terms of affecting the outcome of the election, these efforts were proven spectacularly unsuccessful.