The Two Popes

November 10, 2020 Updated: November 17, 2020


Between 1378 and 1417, Christendom had two popes. In what’s known as the Great Schism, two men both claimed to be the rightful pope. And they each excommunicated one another. (I remember visiting the beautiful city of Avignon, France, where one of the two popes resided. The other ruled from Rome.)

But the historical details aren’t important to this story. Enough to say that the schism was eventually healed, and other popes then came and went through history in the usual way—that’s to say, one at a time.

Where this historical oddity is of interest today is in reference to today’s fraught election quagmire: It seems that we now have two “presidents” each declaring victory and demanding that the other renounce his claim to supremacy.

This is more than a little bit peculiar. Joe Biden watches as the votes all move—rather mysteriously—his way. President Donald Trump has trouble concealing his profound consternation, as what looked like a certain victory appears to be steadily slip, slip slipping away.

In what amounts to a media putsch to evict President Trump from the White House, mainstream news agencies are rushing to announce in favor of Biden. However, those major networks have lost their credibility with the half of the country that supports Trump, so their endorsement doesn’t count for much.

By the same token, some world leaders are recognizing Biden as the new president, but some are holding off until the result is certain. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is typical of that cautious group—he refuses to recognize a winner until all legal challenges have been concluded.

So, the Supreme Court is clearly where this is headed. The president has launched lawsuits in all the contentious states. Those lawsuits will all have to first pass through the lower courts before the ultimate arbiter—the Supreme Court—rules.

How will all of this end up? It’s anybody’s guess.

One thing is certain: Regardless of who ultimately wins, between 2016 and 2020, Donald Trump has profoundly, and probably permanently, changed the trajectory of American politics. Only a week ago it looked likely—if you believed the polls—that the Democrats would both add to their congressional seats and take the Senate. There would be a “blue wave.” They would then be able to launch the “transformational” regime that would remake America. The “Green New Deal,” the packed Supreme Court, new states like D.C. and Puerto Rico, multi-trillion dollar tax increases, completely remaking what they imagine to be a “racist” and truly awful America, and more such leftist fantasies were all on the table. Now they’re not. Instead, the Republicans have added new congressional seats and likely kept the Senate. There will be no revolution.

Because Americans don’t want a revolution. In fact, Americans love their country as it is and don’t want it radically changed. This election is proof that the vast majority of Americans are moderates, centrists—they reject extremism. Yes, there are things that should be changed—but carefully and in a fair way. And, yes, racism is a bad thing that everyone must work hard to combat. But there are no people on earth who have worked as hard as Americans to expunge the evil of racism. If you compare the United States of 1950 to the United States of today, you can see how far the country has come. The United States is neither a “racist” nor “systemically racist” nation.

And yes, new forms of energy will be found. But not by pipsqueak politicians, but by the genius of American scientists and business people. Today’s America is not only energy independent but also has lower emissions than before. Americans know that they would be daft to give up that energy independence.

They also completely reject the notion that they’re living in a bad country that no longer works. The truth is that the founders of the country knew exactly what they were doing. Yes—like all of us—they were flawed humans. But they were also—unlike most of us—geniuses. They created a nation that could withstand the earthquakes and tornadoes of our ever-changing political disagreements.

(How the Democratic Party will come to terms with the electorate’s clear rejection of their progressive half’s leftist wish list will be the subject of much hand-wringing and opining soon enough. But I digress. That’s a different column.)

So, the lawsuits will wind their way through the courts until the Supreme Court will probably have to decide the fate of the presidency. That court clearly doesn’t relish that role. But they’ll be asked to dig deep into what appear to be deeply disturbing election irregularities, and give a final verdict. Will the Supreme Court allow the late-filed absentee ballots? How will the court view what appear to be partisan electioneering and even outright election fraud in cities such as Philadelphia and Detroit? Will suspicious votes be disallowed, or elections overturned? Will the court order recounts, audits—or both? Was the large-scale mail-in voting authorized by Congress a virtual recipe for abuse? Was the apparent collusion between the mainstream media, pollsters, and the Democratic Party election fraud? The Constitution mandates the Supreme Court to answer such questions. It has the final say.

And there should be no mistake—Donald Trump will not “go gently in the night.” That’s not his nature. Instead, he will “rage, rage against the dying of the light.” He and his team of legal experts will vigorously pursue the case. And who knows, he might still win. He has been in seemingly hopeless places before, and defying all odds he has emerged victorious. We will see how many of the Republican congresspeople and senators—who owe him so much—will fight at his side. The half of the country that strongly supports the president are demanding answers to these troubling questions.

The Supreme Court carries this enormous responsibility on its broad shoulders. If half the country sees the election as illegitimate, the road ahead is a rocky one. The court knows that and must set things right. The country awaits the decision.

Until then, Americans should once again take pride in their country. For all of its flaws and current difficulties, the “American Dream” remains the best hope for the world. Never before in human history have people lived so long, so well, and in such freedom as in present day America.

And when the court ultimately decides who will be president, all the people should welcome that decision.

Because, the last time around, the half of the country who didn’t get their way failed to do that. It cost the country dearly. The decision by Democrats in 2016 to refuse to accept the legitimacy of Donald Trump as president hurt the country deeply. Years were wasted on “Russian interference” conspiracy theories, while the enemies without danced with glee, and an evil virus sneaked into the country amid all the distraction. “Trump Derangement Syndrome” (TDS) became a national pastime—a pure waste of energy and opportunities. It’s a national shame that most of the mainstream bought into that narrative, and sacrificed their objectivity to do so.

That refusal to accept the legitimacy of an election also set a dangerous precedent, because if Biden does prevail, the Republicans could do the same thing. They could insist on squandering another four years claiming “Russian collusion” or some such at the expense of the proper running of the country. That’s the destructive precedent that they set: keep insisting that the president is illegitimate, and obstruct until you get your way. And it worked!

If the precedent continues to apply, it will cripple the country. And yet the temptation to subject Biden to the same treatment that was accorded to Trump will be strong. Much depends on what happens in the Supreme Court. If the public is satisfied that the court has carefully examined all legitimate complaints most of the population will probably accept the court’s decision and move on. It’s to be hoped that this will happen. The alternative is a permanent internal division and gridlock that benefits only America’s adversaries.

The country needs a strong president with the support of the people. And just as the Catholic world can have only one pope, the United States can have only one president.

Brian Giesbrecht is a retired judge and a senior fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.