Even though I delayed writing this blog in the hope for a relatively clear official indication of who will be the next President of the USA, the results remain in limbo. The outcome hinges on the results from Pennsylvania and Georgia where President Donald Trump's holds an unsteady lead and in Nevada and Arizona that are trending toward former Vice President, Joe Biden. With counting of votes in a shifting race, the verdict in all cases, is “too close to call”. With 270 being the required number of Electoral College votes for victory, the projected scenarios include a probable win for Biden, a possible though narrow path for Trump and the prospect of a 269-269 tie, leading to a constitutional decision. My call is for a Biden win.
But here is the deal (as Joe Biden is used to say). Indications are that Donald Trump will refuse to concede defeat and with his Republican associates, engage in a series of disputes requiring settlements in the Courts. Both instances may result in delays which could drag on inordinately. Despite evidence to the contrary, the President is defiant in his claims of electoral fraud associated with mail in votes, which has been predominantly in favour of his Democratic rival. This is not only consistent with President Trump's penchant for undermining the integrity of the American electoral system, but it is not an augury for a peaceful transfer of power.
How such a close election?
What has caused the whittling away of the landslide predicted for Biden by the polls will have to be analyzed very carefully as political scientist and party strategists seek to explain voting patterns across the electoral domains of so-called Blue (democratic) Red (republic) and Purple (marginal) states. At first glance — looking at the granular results from districts within states — neither candidate has made appreciable inroads in the distribution of votes by the respective states in the 2016 elections when Donald Trump defeated Hilary Clinton. The major factor has been the projected high level turnout of the electorate, estimated at 66.3% surpassing the previous highest, 65% in 1908 and compared with 60.1% in 2016 and 61.6% in 2008. Already both Biden with popular votes higher than any Presidential candidate in the history of US elections and Trump with a similar acclaim among Republican candidates, have contributed to this record. In fact, the data show that Donald Trump is the most effective Republican electoral candidate since Ronald Regan especially with his high level of support in rural areas. A compounding factor is that Democrats have retained control of Congress and Republicans, the Senate, with little, if any change in the composition of the both Houses.
Did Issues really matter?
The prominent issues to emerge were COVID-19 and the Economy. They did not seem to make a difference in partisan support at the polls. The glaringly devastating rate of the coronavirus pandemic afflicting over the past eight months and the established mismanagement of the Trump administration that led to a record average of 102,000 cases per day coinciding with Election Day were estimated to give the Biden campaign an overwhelming advantage. At the same time with Trump’s higher rating on the economy was estimated to be accompanied by the highest unemployment, and even downturn on the stock market.Yet partisan electoral cleavages for the most part remained steadfast. It is ironic that during the last two weeks of the campaign, Donald Trump mounted mass rallies across many states with many supporters without masks, wearing 'Make America Great Again' red caps and jerseys demonstrating vibrancy of the Trump “tribe”. This no doubt has had a psychological impact that spilled over to votes beyond his “loyal base”. The optics of these events conveyed the image of a President caring more about the adulation of supporters and winning votes and much less that many of them may contract the coronavirus and even die.
Among the other issues that featured on platforms during the campaign were institutionalized racism highlighted by the Black Lives Matter movement, law and order, health care and climate change. They resonated differently with various constituents but seemed to have had less impact on changing voter behavior. They also consolidated already formed attitudes and preferences, shifting the pendulum of support imperceptibly from one party to another one. How else to explain the extraordinary electoral vote of 48% received by President Trump?
Trumpism Overpowering the conservative traditions
The 2016 Elections set US on course toward isolationism and tribalism. At his inauguration Trump announced his policy of 'America First' Trump's apparent endorsement of white nationalism which according to an insightful study, Caste:The Origins of our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson highlights its close association with institutional racism and the persistence of a caste system in the USA that preceded Donald Trump but which he fueled.
Caste (Oprah's Book Club): The Origins of Our Discontents ...www.amazon.com › Caste-Origins-Discontents-Isabel. Accordingly 2017 was deadliest time for mass shootings in modern American history that magnified racial hatred. They occurred in parking lots, public schools, city streets superstores. Las Vegas accounted for the largest massacre. A white supremacist drove into a crowd in Virginia killing a young white women leading to President Trumps famous statement "they are good and bad guys on both sides". In 2018, eleven worshippers were slain in the worse anti-Semitic attack on a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburg. Nowhere was tribalism more visible than in 2019 when President was impeached by the House and acquited by the loyalist in the Senate, and subsequently in the vitriol accompanying the hearings leading to the appointments of Supreme Court Judges, Brett Kavanaugh (2018) and Amy Coney Barrett (2020).
The major propensity of President Trump for blatant falsehoods seemed not to have phased his electoral base and was overlooked by the high numbers who voted for him. If this scars the moral fabric of our accepted norms of leadership, The New York Times Fact Tracker revealed the stark reality of Donald Trump's character. According to its data, between his inauguration January 20, 2017 and September 30, 2020, Donald Trump told of an average of 15 lies per day. Readers may be interested in the book by the Washington Post Fact Checker staff Donald Trump and His Assault on Truth: The President’s Falsehoods, Misleading Claims and Flat-Out Lies. They drew on the database to compile a guide to Trump’s most frequently used misstatements, biggest whoppers and most dangerous deceptions. They detail how Trump misleads about himself and his foes, the economy, immigration, the Ukraine controversy, foreign policy, the coronavirus crisis and many other issues.
The reality is that the roots of Trumpism did not begin nor will it end with Trump. They are connected to pervasive economic and political currents affecting much of the world
Who will reach the 270 Electoral College votes to claim the Presidency?. We await the results of the votes from 5 battleground states -- Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina and Pennsylvania-- all still too close to call. The delay is mainly due to the magnitude of the mail-in ballots propelled by the safety requirements imposed by COVID-19. Since the close of the polls on evening of November 3, 2020, the President has railed against the extended vote count, tweeted conspiracy theories and vowed to appeal to the Courts. His ugly rhetoric is a direct attack on American democracy. It could leave a poisonous legacy of bitterness among his supporters and erode the legitimacy of the U.S. political system.
While Biden is expected to emerge victorious, the Republican party appears to have retained control of the U.S. Senate, added seats in the House and gained ground in a number of state legislatures.
Two weeks ago, we reflected on the implications of the 2020 elections for a Post American World. We were concerned about the diminished global presence and stature of America with another four years of Donald Trump. The casting of gloom by this prospect could mean erosion of America's democratic governance structure and even its civilization.
So what's the deal? The first hand in the ultimate deal is whether Republican leaders will dissociate from the President and even speak out against vile maneuvers to reverse legitimate election results. The second, is immediately restoring the balance between health and economics in the height of a flaming coronavirus pandemic. The third is the need to focus on the healing of the nation. And the fourth, revolves around repurposing US foreign policy to rescue the nation from the brink of a Post American World.
Edward and Auriol Greene Directors, GOFAD.