The United States of America is considered to be one of the world's greatest democracies, yet their past two Presidential elections have questioned legitimacy. Is it at a break point? Donald Forbes examines this issue.

The United States has undergone one attempted political coup and perhaps a successful second in the space of four years. Washington is famous for its coups in banana republics. Now, it's playing on its own doorstep.

From whatever angle these events are examined, it is a bizarre example for the world's foremost democracy to set. It's odder still that although they strike at the core of democratic legitimacy, the public seem unconcerned by what they portend for the future.

The US isn't Venezuela, but the similarities are converging. If political parties are seen to flout the ground rules of democracy, the voters' faith washes away like sand with the tide. America already has what is effectively a one-party media and political censorship of the Right by Big Tech.

The coup attempt was when Barack Obama's administration, the FBI and intelligence officials tried to prevent Donald Trump's election in 2016. When that failed, the same agencies ensured the investigation of the Russia hoax would tie Trump's presidency in knots. That much is clear.

It was the biggest single offence committed against American democracy by any government. Yet not one smidgen of blame has besmirched Obama's haloed image and probably never will. Joe Biden's first task will be to make the evidence go away so that it will be as if nothing wrongful happened.

Now there is doubt about the honesty of Biden's defeat of Donald Trump on and around November 3 in a blizzard of contested postal ballots. Trump lost in the battleground states where he beat Hillary Clinton in 2016. The odds of the Democratic party letting that happen again were always in doubt. And that's how it turned out.

Given Trump's personal unpopularity, it may be Biden would have won without dodgy votes or rigged counting software. We may never know for certain whether Trump was cheated of a second term but his attempt to shake America free of Washington's cross-party army of political vested interests is over.

Even if revenge tempts him in 2024, he'll be 78 and Biden will surely have sated Americans' taste for gerontocracy by then. Outgoing vice-President Mike Pence is probably the GOP's best hope in future.

Trump and his loyal second Rudy Giuliani, now joined by the redoubtable Sydney Powell, are still mounting legal challenges but making little progress. Momentum ebbs a little every day. Right now, he looks like a boxer sparring alone in the ring after his opponent, the referee and the fans have gone home.

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Minus Trump, the Republican Party – which could better be called the Slumber Party – can return to its job of not doing anything much more than trying to stop the Democrats doing anything at all. Since the Democrats have a very full social agenda, there's admittedly a lot to stop.

But pre-Trump, it would have been hard to identify the positive objectives of the GOP, even when it controlled both houses of congress, and it puts a question mark over the purpose of timid conservative government. Where will it be without him?

Whether Republicans will matter at all for the next two years depends on whether they can win the two open senate seats in Georgia in a January run-off and keep control of the senate. Whoever holds the senate dictates the president's space for manoeuvre.

US politics has always been dirty, and it can be claimed that its democracy is resilient enough to survive the corrupt nexus in Washington between the politicians, money, and the partisan media. As evidence, Republicans except Trump performed better than expected in the rest of the election this year and can expect to make gains in the 2022 midterms.

Then again, there's the danger of a continuing process of moral erosion and elision which makes behaviour condemned as unacceptable at one election routine at the next. Trump is himself probably the template for some future Democratic nominee hovering between politics and showbiz.

The Russia-gate special prosecutor John Durham, who is conducting a criminal investigation, will recommend whether the Justice Department should charge the main actors in the 2016 conspiracy but may not report until Trump leaves office.

Whether trials of high ranking officials take place could depend on Biden. He can risk a full accounting that would damage Obama's unblemished reputation but restore faith in the rule of law; or he could bury the whole scandal.

The integrity of any election depends on the way it is conducted and how the votes are counted. The US system is beset by claims of voter suppression, the harvesting of or tampering with postal ballots and now questions about the software used in voting machines. Can these be rigged undetectably to help one side?

Where an electorate is evenly divided and one party, the Democrats in this instance, talks openly of achieving a permanent minority, itchy fingers will inevitably be attracted by innovative ways of rigging the vote.

How America votes will become the next battleground between the two parties. Alleged voter suppression is already a huge issue, complicated by race and illegal immigration. Democrats oppose attempts to establish reliable voter verification which would be considered normal in Europe.

The election result of 2016 was the first whose legitimacy a political party refused to accept and fought with a mandate-long campaign of unprecedented capital R resistance. Democracy is elastic but at some point, elastic snaps and who knows what happens then?

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