If Modi asked his Brad Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes,” he damn well would. In fact, Modi wouldn’t even have to ask. Shah would see to it that Raffensperger’s counterpart delivered. Besides, votes are nothing. Shah is a master at making opposition legislators switch sides through inducements and intimidation, and thereby flipping elected state governments. In several states once ruled by opposition parties, that’s how power has been transferred, without violence, or even elections. Indian commentators are right—there’s much to learn here.
India’s ever-expanding ruling party, legislature and government have become an extension of the personality of one man, who also has expanded control over notionally autonomous bodies such as the central bank, the election commission, the bureaucracy and investigative and regulatory agencies. Even the judiciary is not immune to his overarching influence. Trump can only wish he had that kind of power, but the soundness of America’s institutions wouldn’t let him.
The U.S. judiciary remained non-partisan throughout the post-election saga. Of the 60-odd legal challenges to overturn the election result, Trump lost all except one. Neither the 53 judges he appointed to the federal appeals courts in four years, nor the three he sent to the Supreme Court (where the conservatives enjoy a 6-3 majority), helped. Judicial propriety triumphed politics.