The American Election – A View from Wales

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Dave Beese November 13, 2020

Trump Trumped?

After a tumultuous four years of the self-congratulatory, ego-driven Donald Trump show, President-Elect  Joe Biden has seemingly delivered what much of America and the free world had been praying for. Against the odds, he’s managed to break the grasp on power of one of the most controversial figures in American political history.

As the drama unfolded, it would be the postal vote that would provide the coup-de-grace and you wonder if it could have been part of a masterstroke tactic to activate the anti-Trump vote even if the official line was that it was to facilitate COVID awareness protocols.

The ‘Math’

Trump and his supporters didn’t know what to make of it accusing the media channels of picking the president when the mathematical formulas suggested that there were not enough votes outstanding for Trump to reclaim Philadelphia. Cue the gun-toting vigilantes, conspiracy theories, claims, allegations and the refusal to accept defeat even though outstanding results may render court action meaningless and polling officials stating that everything was above board.

Fake News

Trump has always levelled the charge of ‘fake news’ at anything he disagrees with or if it disagrees with him, the irony being, that he basically invented and legitimised the use of it as a political tool. Press conferences and rallies were nearly always incoherent with no thread, no punctuation, no reason, no substance and therefore no real meaning as he felt around the room for the faithful hoots and hollering relying on spurious statements to stir up support. Marmite may do well to introduce his name as a flavour because there is no middle ground when it comes to his standing – you either love him or hate him.

Targeted Demographic

It’s fair to say that he always targeted a defined demographic which seemed to swallow absolutely anything he said as fact, proudly boasting that they didn’t need to listen to any counter-arguments as Trump never lied – apart from over 25,000 Tweets and forms of social media and press releases that have indeed been proven to be nothing but lies. Many commentators will argue that Biden has saved democracy in the USA after it had fallen into an insipid cesspit of bluster, insults, rhetoric and invective producing a toxic atmosphere which has split the population of the most influential country on this planet.

The ‘Ever faithful’
Trump has revelled in insulting and marginalising ethnic groups, Mexicans, women, religious groups, the disabled, the media, war heroes, the Vatican and countless others. He displayed a penchant for mixing with dubious company which included dictators and autocrats (even Tweeting a quote from Mussolini) and fracturing long-standing relations with border countries as well as European partner countries which play a part in the defence of America itself.

Worrying Behaviour

His relationship with the media has been strained to say the least with neither side trusting the other, the only major supporter being the Rupert Murdoch owned and controversial Fox News. The rather amazing phenomenon of watching Trump supporters validate his every move and comment has been disturbing with a siege-like mentality totally blinding them to the absurdity of their blind devotion and the incredulous and absurd replies when questioned around Trump’s policies and actions.

Inherited Business Empire

So how is it that he could conjure up the largest vote of any US president seeking re-election, especially when he boasts so much about his wealth which puts him into a different world than any of his supporting faithful? Many saw him as the financial saviour of the American economy because of his business success, overlooking the fact that he had inherited his fortune from his father who had to bail him out to the tune of $9 million dollars when it turned sour.

How did Trump do it?

How is it possible that someone who was caricatured as a joke on The Simpsons as President of the United States because he was the most unlikely person the writers could think of – get to become the leader of the free world? Solving one of the great riddles of the 21st century takes some digging. Such was the outcry, more than $30 million over two years was spent searching for Russian collusion and produced almost 450 pages trying to solve the Trump enigma but found no such collusion.

Exit Polls
Unfortunately, Exit Poll data taken from 2016 shows that it’s not as easy as it might look taking into account that Trump has seemingly somewhere, managed to identify himself with the working

  • White voters who don’t have a degree: 67% – 28% voted in favour of Trump (These demographic makes up 40% of the total electorate)
  • White college-educated voters: 49% – 45% voted in favour of Trump (Clinton was confident of carrying this group for the first time in decades)
  • In the countryside:  Clinton had 88% of the vote but Obama had 93%
  • Roughly 2/3rds of the population who earned $50,000+ voted for Trump
  • White women without college degrees  (17% of voting age population) voted 62% – 34% for Trump
  • Overall men vote: 53% – 41% in favour of Trump
  • Overall women: 54% – 42%
  • Voters aged 18 – 29 yrs Obama had 60% – Clinton 54%
  • 37% said Trump was fit to be President
  • 53% said Clinton was fit to be President
  • 70% said they were bothered by his remarks about women

    When you start to look at the stats, they don’t seem to offer a clear picture of how Trump managed to win thanks to several mixed signals. We know that marginal states were targeted with large rallies which paid off in terms of getting people to vote and where there were strong undercurrents of dissatisfaction. He managed to tap into the anger of the moment with not all fuelled by issues such as racism – Clinton managed to lose in Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania where Obama was the stronger among white voters in the previous two elections.

Motivation

Trump motivated people to vote and the truth did not get in the way. It’s one thing to spread falsehoods but it’s another to carry it off convincingly. He empowered people who felt their voices were not being heard and he had boasted that if you tell enough lies, they will begin to stick. He was a one-man-band whose brash, outgoing, no-nonsense personality took no prisoners when blaming the troubles of the country on those who he opposed.

Emotional Rallies

Brits are not comfortable with the evangelical style of political rallies in the USA but not even Americans had seen anything like this – there were literally no rules and anything was fair game. Rallies were raucous, intimidating and touched a nerve with those who were disaffected, empowering them to echo the thoughts of their great redeemer without fear of recriminations. He knew his target audience, something that the Democrats had hugely underestimated and he injected a level of emotion into American politics that the country had never seen before.

Cambridge Analytica

Much has been said about the role of UK firm Cambridge Analytica in the election and the subsequent miss-use of data but the company insists that it was primarily labour and expertise that was provided with the actual data in question, never used. Most of the $5.9 invoiced services were purportedly for advertising and the company admitted that they were behind the ‘Defeat Crooked Hilary’ campaign.

The Outcome

The result was both unthinkable and unexpected in many diplomatic quarters with Trump getting over the line even though Hilary Clinton polled more actual votes. America had spoken and Trump had not only managed to touch a nerve, he had also charismatically persuaded the faithful that their voice would be heard and he would deliver on his manifesto pledges. The world may have looked on in horror but he had taken the temperature of the nation and called it right.

Trumps Achievements

Donald Trump was democratically elected to be the 45th President of the United States and love or loathe him, he was elected on the back of his promises to reform and re-broker the position of the USA on the international stage so how did he fair? Here are some of the more significant things he will be credited with in terms of actions and intentions:

  • Changing the terms of a trade deal with China which has resulted in tit-for-tat tarrifs
  • Changing the terms of a trade deal with China which has resulted in tit-for-tat tarrifs
  • Withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and applying sanctions.
  • Questioned the U.S. contribution to NATO as excessive and threatened to withdraw
  • Cut number of troops in Afghanistan in order to bring troops home
  • Withdrawn from Paris Climate Deal
  • Re-sited U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem which has dived the Arab world
  • Re-opened negotiating ties with North Korea
  • Re-organised the judicial system appointing 53 judges
  • Overhauled immigration system
  • Re-structured the U.S. tax system
  • Overturned Obama CARE
  • Pulled out of the World Health Organisation & U.N. Human Rights Council
  • Signed bills to compensate the Spokane Native Indian tribe for lost lands

Depending on your personal views and which side of the political fence you are sitting on, these will have a perceived positive or negative effect on the U.S.  With only one Trump term in office, you get the impression that the outside world at least, will be hoping that many will be overturned quickly.

Delivering on his Election Promises

There is little doubt that Trump believes his ideas are best but whether they are and what motives prompted them is perhaps another argument. His supporters will maintain that he has delivered on his election promises and 72 million of them so far have voted to show that they wanted more of the same which splits the U.S. straight down the voting middle and opens a huge chasm for Joe Biden to cross.

Huge Vote

The size of Trump’s recent vote proves that America does not as a country, reject his ideas, modus operandi, persisting lying or his marmite personality which will be a huge concern for a Democrat administration. The balance of power in the Senate lies on a knife-edge and if it does not swing to the Democrats, sweeping changes may remain a pipedream although Biden has long held cordial relations with Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell which brings hope of shared agendas for the good of the country.

Who is Joe Biden?

er whether anyone outside of the U.S. thought that Joe Biden would present a serious challenge to the re-election of Donald Trump. Early indications were that things were not going well for the challenger but Biden had encouraged his supporters to vote by post to assist with COVID awareness protocols and as they were counted last bringing a dramatic finale to proceedings. Biden holds the distinction of being one of the youngest Senators elected to the Senate at 30 yrs of age and is set to be the oldest President to be elected at 78. He will be the 46th elected President of the United States.

The Early Years

Joseph Robinette Biden JR. was born in 1942 and raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania and New Castle County, Delaware. He studied at the University of Delaware before gaining his Law Degree at Syracuse University and rising through the political ranks by being a long-time member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before becoming its Chairman.

Serving on several committees through his career, he would be re-elected to the Senate on six occasions and was the fourth-most senior senator when he resigned to serve as Barrack Obamas’s vice-president in 2008 – both Obama and Biden were re-elected in 2012.

Personal Tragedy

His life has been marked by personal tragedy losing his first wife and 13 month-old daughter when a tractor-trailer hit their car also hospitalising his two sons. Rather than move to Washington, D.C., a devastated Biden decided to journey by train daily so he could spend time with his sons. Biden would marry schoolteacher Jill Jacobs in 1997, with whom he would have one more daughter.

Further tragedy would strike in 2015 when his 45yr old son Beau died from brain cancer. It’s also interesting to note that he has suffered from stuttering all his life and initially chose to deal with it by reciting poetry in front of the mirror. He cites his impediment as a strength in terms of how he deals with the problems that life throws at you.

More Set-backs

Biden has served as U.S. senator for Delaware and as vice-president, focussed mainly on economic and foreign policy issues. Eight years as chair of the Judiciary Committee and four years as chair of the Foreign Relations Committee helped to make him a forceful contributor to U.S. politics although. However, on a presidential bid in 1987, he was accused of paraphrasing part of a Neil Kinnock speech and using it as his own and having admitted with other ‘borrowed’ phrases, he withdrew from the race. Soon after, Biden was to collapse from a life-threatening brain aneurysm undergoing two surgeries and taking seven months off to recover.

2020 Candidacy

In April 2020, he announced his presidential candidacy characterising the election to come as a “battle for the soul of this nation.” His long career has seen him develop into a popular politician using the art of diplomacy to forge relationships across the political spectrum although his detractors would say that he is something of a political chameleon. His long career has also seen him forge global relationships with many of the statesmen and stateswomen across the world which will no doubt put him in good stead for the intricacies of foreign policy.

Vice President-elect | Kamal Harris

Biden’s running mate and vice president-elect Kamal Harris breaks her own new ground being the first Black and Asian American woman to be named on a major party’s ticket. A senator from California, she initially campaigned on her own ticket for the presidency and had challenged Biden on issues of race during debates for the Democratic nomination. She was announced as Biden’s running mate on August 11, 2020.

The Job Ahead

The scars of the election will run deep and with such division, Biden will need all his diplomatic skills to heal a nation in political turmoil. Trump will not go gracefully and it will be interesting to see if there is any mileage in challenging the election results through the courts or whether senior colleagues, friends and family step in to say ’enough is enough Donald.’ Trump’s behaviour has encouraged a generation of people to use bigotry and hate as weapons with no regard for the social norms that modify human behaviour. American psychologists have suggested that many Americans will need to come to terms with this particular period of their life where they were afraid to discuss their politics and allegiances for fear of falling out with family, friends and colleagues.

Foreign Policy

America’s standing in the world is at a low ebb. Its credibility as a beacon of democracy has been challenged and the foundations it was built on have been rocked. Its influence has waned as world leaders struggled to take Trump seriously with Germany polling just 10% of its population having any faith in U.S. foreign policy.

His lack of dignity, basic manners and empathy coupled with his ignorance of historical and geographical knowledge has meant that America has lost the respect of the world at large. The election scenes have allowed both China and Russia to openly mock the concept of democracy and champion their own authoritarian systems of government to be far more viable propositions.

International Insults

Mexico, Germany, Australia, France, Canada, The European Union. South Africa, Sweden, El Salvador and the African Nations are just some of the targets of Trump’s brand of un-diplomacy with either their leaders or the country itself being insulted by Trump. There will be a global sighing of relief as countries line up to reaffirm relationships with the U.S. in the hope that the concept of democracy will have firmly taken root gain.

Four-year Vacuum

The four-year reign has left international order rudderless with Trump’s nationalistic approach sowing seeds of mistrust and producing a vacuum filled with uncertainty, suspicion and fear. The U.S. has diplomatic ties with all U.N. member states bar for Syria, North Korea, Iran and Bhutan and has 169 diplomatic missions placed around the world who will no doubt be tasked with strengthening ties with their host countries.

A Divided Nation

Biden has a job on his hands and God only knows if he’s up to it, he’s going to need all the help he can get. But if America needed someone who is willing to reach out and start the healing process then just maybe, he’s the man to do it. Half of voting America were embarrassed to have Trump as a president, a huge proportion probably won’t have a word said against him.

The Priorities

He has already cited COVID as his number one priority and has set about building a task force. The economy, racism, international relations and security, climate change, immigration, healthcare, education, drugs, corruption etc, are all there to be tackled but does he have the credentials? On the face of it, who would want to be President of the United States at this time? This election may have been tumultuous but was it centred on policy? Or was it more about whether you liked and trusted Donald Trump? Will his legacy talk about the substance of his policies or the divisions he created?

Peaceful Transition?

Will Trump go ‘Quietly into the night?’ That isn’t likely, as he will be smarting from the defeat. He does not take defeat gracefully and will be desperate to get his pound of flesh; any bets against he or Trump junior running for president in 2024? Much of his fan base are proud to boast that ‘He says it as it is,’ but that couldn’t be further from the truth as time after time he has displayed the traits of a pathological liar. He is not going to make it easy for this administration and both America and the outside world will pay the price.

What Next?

There was a palpable sigh of relief around the democratic world when Biden reached the finishing line but America is left with the fact that Trump attracted the largest vote of any president seeking re-election, something he has been keen to point out and something that is clearly rankling him. The opposite view is that Biden polled the largest vote of any president in history to ensure Trump didn’t get back into power. Sort that one out.

Good luck Joe, you’re going to need it.

 

PS I didn’t write this post to fan the flames of division, more to try and understand the Trump phenomenon myself.  The thoughts are my own and more than open to scrutiny. In a polite manner, please free to contest or give another perspective, it’s a democracy after all.