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Biden faces uphill battle to restore trust in US democracy

From partisan rift to voter fraud claims, Trump legacy looms heavy

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden will inherit a deeply divided country when he takes office on Jan. 20.   © Reuters

WASHINGTON -- Joe Biden, formally chosen as the next U.S. president by the Electoral College on Monday, faces the complex and arduous tasks of healing a country torn along political, racial and economic lines and restoring public confidence in democratic institutions.

"The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago," Biden said Monday evening in an address to the nation. "We now know that nothing, not even a pandemic or an abuse of power, can extinguish that flame."

The Democrat repeatedly stressed the importance of democracy and called for the country to come together.

Biden received 81.28 million votes from the public on Nov. 3, the most for any presidential candidate in U.S. history. This translated to 306 votes when each state's Electoral College members met to cast their ballots, well above the 270 required to win. The Electoral College result needs to be formally certified by a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6 before Biden can take office on Jan. 20.

Some prominent Republicans noted Biden's victory. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell congratulated Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris Tuesday morning on their election victory.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, among Trump's staunchest supporters, said the previous night that he recently spoke with Biden regarding cabinet appointments.

"It's a very, very narrow path" for President Donald Trump to overturn the election result, Graham said.

But a yawning partisan divide remains in the U.S. Though Trump lost to Biden by 7 million votes, over 74 million people cast ballots for the Republican incumbent, more than any other sitting president seeking reelection. Trump still enjoys strong support from those who felt left behind by society before he became president, while social media reinforces "bubbles" of opinion that block out differing viewpoints.

Trump has repeatedly disputed Biden's victory, alleging that the Democrats stole the election through widespread voter fraud. His baseless claims have rapidly eroded the public's trust in elections, the linchpin of any democracy, and over 70% of Republicans now question the outcome of the vote. A significant segment of Americans may refuse to accept Biden as a legitimate leader come January.

Many Republican lawmakers also appear more interested in supporting Trump than in safeguarding democracy. Only about 10% of House and Senate Republicans said they accepted Biden's victory, according to a survey by The Washington Post.

Biden has vowed to bridge the divides exacerbated during Trump's presidency. The U.S. saw widespread civil rights protests this year sparked by police violence against Black Americans. The street demonstrations came amid the coronavirus pandemic and economic downturn afflicting the country.

The ongoing political turmoil, which occasionally has resulted in violence, looms heavy over the future of American democracy. Trump loyalists clashed with anti-Trump demonstrators at a "Stop the Steal" rally in Washington this weekend, while there is speculation that Trump will announce his candidacy for the 2024 presidential election to coincide with Biden's inauguration in January.

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