United States: Trump's race election polarises the nation

November 9, 2020

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the winners of the 2020 presidential election. The Democratic candidates won more votes than any ticket in history. However, Donald Trump won the second most votes, indicating how close the election was.

Harris is the first woman, and the first person of colour (she is of Black and Asian heritage) to be elected to the second highest post.

The presidential election did not go as the pollsters predicted. As happened four years ago, Trump won millions more votes than the polls and the Democratic Party establishment expected.

Under the Constitution, the president is not elected by popular vote. Instead, an Electoral College, composed of electors from each state, elects the president. Each state is allowed a number of electors, corresponding to the number of Congressional seats in that state, for a total of 538. A majority of at least 270 is needed to win.

Biden/Harris passed that threshold on November 7.

What has become the norm in 48 states is that all Electoral College votes are pledged to the winning candidate in that state. In two states (Maine and Nebraska) the votes are allocated differently. The Electoral College will meet on December 14 to rubber-stamp the outcome.

The defeated candidate, Trump, has filed several lawsuits to reverse the results before December 14. Trump said before and after the election that it was “stolen” from him and he is the president.

The Democrats lost seats in the House and the Republicans may end up holding the majority in the Senate. At the time of writing, both parties have 48 Senators and two other Senatorial seats are still being counted. There will be two run-off Senate elections in Georgia in early January. The outcome will determine which party controls the Senate.

The key voting bloc to elect Biden and Harris were African Americans in cities in key battleground states — Detroit (Michigan), Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) and Atlanta (Georgia).

Trumpism will not go away

There is a deep polarisation in the country.

An increasingly radicalised white supremacist right-wing wants a strongman to institute “law and order” to keep Black and Latino people “in their place”. It sees Black Lives Matter protests as anti-American riots.

On the other side, Black, Brown and many white people are terrified of Trump and his policies.

This polarisation is expressed by the historic turnout for both candidates.

Trump, the white supremacist who separates children from their families and who oversaw the deaths of more than 240,000 Americans from COVID-19, won about 71 million votes.

In 2016, Trump received about 62 million votes and Hillary Clinton won nearly 65 million votes, with 55% of eligible voters going to the polls.

This year, Biden won 75 million votes, with about 66% of registered voters turning out.

When Trump says the election was stolen from him and he remains president, many tens of millions of Americans believe him, and are enraged by the election result.

Trumpism — white supremacy coupled with a drive toward authoritarianism, with a mass base — will not disappear, whatever happens to Trump as an individual.

Where did Trump win his votes? He targeted his base of white voters and whites who do not normally vote. He got them. This is the reason why the national and state pollsters were so wrong.

Overall, the number of whites voting increased but as a percentage of the total vote, it was about the same as the 2016 election.

Trump also targeted Blacks and Latinos. The goal was to increase his support to offset a rise in Black and Latino voter turnout. Many Black men are tired of being taken for granted by the Democrats. Trump appears to have won a larger share of the minority vote than any Republican since 1960.

He won more Black men and women than in 2016. Roughly (at the time of writing) 18% of Black men voted for Trump. In 2016, it was about 11%. Black women, the strongest voting base of the Democratic Party, also gave him more votes. In 2016, only 4% of Black women voted for Trump. In 2020, he won around 8%.

His support among various Latino communities was not homogenous. Cuban Americans (3% of the Latino population) gave Trump a large turnout in South Florida. South Florida is also home to Venezuelans and Nicaraguans who left their countries over their opposition to governments they considered “communist” and “socialist”.

Answering critics who say that people of colour “underperformed” for the Democrats, Democracy Now! co-host Juan González said: “The main story is that people of colour, especially Latinos, flocked to the polls in numbers that far exceeded what the experts had expected, while the total number of votes cast by white Americans barely increased from the last presidential election.

“How come none of the experts are asking why white voters underperformed for the Democratic Party?

“There does appear to have been some areas of the country where there was an increase in the percentage of the Latino vote for Donald Trump,” said Gonzalez. “Specifically in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and in the Miami-Dade County [in South Florida], both of which … have always been relatively conservative areas of the Latino community in terms of voting.

“Even though South Texas is largely Democratic, it’s always been a moderate to centrist or conservative Democratic voting bastion. But my analysis of the numbers shows a completely different story when you look at the country as a whole.”

Charles Blow, an African American columnist for The New York Times, observed the day after the election: “After all that Donald Trump has done, all the misery he has caused, all the racism he has aroused, all the immigrant families he has destroyed, all the people who have left this life because of his mismanagement of a pandemic, still roughly half of the country voted to extend this horror show.

“Let me be specific and explicit here: White people — both men and women — were the only group in which a majority voted for Trump, according to exit polls. To be exact, nearly three out of every five white voters in America are Trump voters.”

“Not only did a majority of white men vote for Trump, so did a majority of white women. In 2016, exit polls also showed that a majority of white women had done so, but later an analysis of validated voters by the Pew Research Center found that a plurality of white women voted for Trump, not a majority.

“In any case, white women voted for Trump at higher rates than all other women, despite the fact that Trump has spent his first term, indeed his whole life, denigrating women.”

In other words, white men and women voted for Trump (a white nationalist and supremacist) consciously. He represented the white majority and its concerns better than anyone else. The fear of the “other” is strong among this group.

The racial polarisation was also seen among gay men.

In September, the global gay social network Hornet published the result of an opt-in survey of 10,000 of its users that found that 45% of its 1200 self-identified American gay men planned to vote for Trump. Ten percent also said “they ‘do not support [Donald Trump] at all’ but will vote for him nonetheless”.

Two members of the far right cult, QAnon, were elected to Congress. QAnon champions the conspiracy theory that the Democrats and all who oppose Trump are part of a vast pedophile underground organisation. Some go further and charge that this cabal kills and eats children. Six of their members planned to gun down voting workers who were counting votes in Philadelphia, before they were stopped and arrested by police.

Their presence will push the Republican mainstream even further to the right.

The election was held while the pandemic is accelerating. Most Trump supporters refuse to wear cloth masks. They believed Trump when he said the virus was not that serious. When Trump counterposed jobs and the economy to health and defeating COVID-19, they supported him.

What a Biden presidency will look like

Biden’s campaign did not stress other issues apart from Trump’s deliberate failure concerning the pandemic and the need to throw him out.

He distanced himself from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, including representatives such as Alexandra Ocasio Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib (“The Squad”) and Bernie Sanders, as well as Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) candidates who stood for the Democratic Party and won. These representatives all won reelection after previously defeating establishment Democrats.

Biden opposed Medicare for All (national health insurance) and the Green New Deal. “I defeated those guys” who supported both proposals in the Democratic primaries, Biden boasted.

Biden pledged to find common ground with Republicans, which means he will move further to the right, and justify this as the need to compromise.

Some Democratic Senatorial candidates who were expected to win and gain control of the Senate lost. If the Republicans keep control of the Senate, Biden will likely shift even further to the right to appease conservative “Never Trumpers” who supported him.

Police reforms demanded by the Black Lives Matter movement will be even less likely. Expect more funding to the police, not less.

One issue where there is little difference between Trump and Biden is foreign policy. The pro-imperialist policy of Trump is a continuation of the previous Democratic and Republican administrations. 

The Democrats are pro-Israel, and support Trump’s moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, support the Saudi war on its people and Yemen, and its drone attacks in the region.

Even on China, Biden is just as hostile as Trump. Style may change. That’s about it. Ties to European allies may improve but fundamental imperialist foreign policy will be the same. Expect a harsher tone toward Russia.

Undemocratic system

It is important to understand the unique aspects of the US electoral system. The Founding Fathers wrote a Constitution to prevent the common workers and farmers from having any real political control of the country.

Only white men with property had the right to vote. Slave holders were given extra votes and powers by having their human property (slaves) counted by three fifths of a person to give them extra representation in Congress, the courts and White House.

Popular protest and eventually a new revolution, the Civil War in the 1860s, gave former slaves and all people born in the country citizenship (except First Nations peoples).

The House of Representatives was created to give the common people some representation but only for white male property owners. However, the Senate was a check to that body. Initially, it was selected by each state legislature. Most importantly, each state gets two Senators. Today the most populous state, California, with nearly 40 million people and the state of Wyoming, with just under 580,000 people, have the same number of Senators.

The Electoral College has loopholes. Legal action could throw the election to the Congress and even the Supreme Court, as occurred in the 2000 election. Then, the Court gave the election to the Republican candidate George W Bush by a 5 to 4 vote. Democratic candidate Al Gore accepted that decision to prevent civil unrest.

Trump seeks the same outcome. He has made clear he will never concede, and his supporters will do anything to enforce his position.

What happens next is unknown. Is the ruling class ready to test the people? Mass protests will come from both sides.

Finally, most Black people have few illusions in the racist system. They have always been a minority dominated by a white majority.

Glenn Ford, executive editor, of the Black Agenda Report noted before the election results were known: “Whoever wins the Electoral College, race-based politics will continue to allow the corporate rulers to ignore public demands for relief from the Race to the Bottom and endless war.

“The 2020 election thus confirms the tentative verdict of 2016: that majorities of whites will vote their race — side with the White Man’s Party — when the electoral contest is waged mainly on racial terms.

“The Electoral College system, which was baked into the US Constitution to protect the interests of slave states, continues to give white “race” voters an oversized punch in national contests.

“Trump bets that he could replicate his 2016 Electoral College win over Hillary Clinton even if he still trailed by nearly three million in the popular vote, as he did the first time. Win or lose, Trump’s racial calculation was well-grounded and rational — as proven by the tightness of the 2020 race.”

How true.

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