Opinion

How Democrats trumped Republicans

Rajkamal Rao | Updated on November 08, 2020

Eloise Lawes, 6, holds a campaign sign while sitting on top of a car with her mother at a watch party after news media named Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden the winner in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S. November 7, 2020.   -  REUTERS

While most voters punished Trump for his tweets and shoot-from-the-hip conduct, the Democrats played the Covid card well

With the major networks calling Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 US presidential election, Donald Trump joins George HW Bush as the second Republican in 40 years not to win a second term.

Losing by 3 per cent in the popular vote totals and at least 20 votes in the electoral college, Trump was a lot closer to win a re-election than the pundits predicted. Major media outlets were expecting a 10-point Biden win nationally and in some states, like Wisconsin, by 17 points when it ended up being just 0.7 per cent.

But as in sports, a close second in politics doesn’t count, so what propelled Biden to victory?

Most Biden supporters voted against Trump rather than for Biden. All that mattered was that he was not Trump.

This fact can potentially have serious consequences for the 46th president because Biden cannot claim a mandate to govern as the extreme Left, which today controls the Democrat Party. Biden will likely be frustrated by other arms of America’s vast government machinery, which will stifle any major policy that he attempts to push through.

In the House of Representatives run by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Democrats lost five seats. The Republicans will likely retain control in the Senate. In state elections, the Republicans not only did not lose control of any state, but they also flipped control in New Hampshire and the Governor’s mansion in Montana. The Supreme Court, with the ascension of Amy Coney Barrett, boasts a solid 6-3 conservative majority.

Most voters punished Trump for his exaggerations, tweets, and shoot-from-the-hip behaviour, which attacked anyone that criticised him. Egged on by the liberal media and entertainment industry, America now prefers non-aggressive politically-correct speech in public discourse.

Biden cleverly went along, saying nothing controversial. For months, he didn't speak publicly at all, hiding in his Delaware basement under Covid’s pretext and letting Trump continue to talk and make unforced errors. The media was more than happy to cooperate, throwing Biden softball questions and not chasing damaging stories.

Better than expected

But on election day, more than 70 million people voted for Trump, even more than who voted for Obama in 2008. Trump expanded his coalition as more urban Black men and Hispanics voted for him, sending shock waves through the Democrat party.

Trump’s supporters like his brash talk. They liked his ‘Make America Great Again’ message of putting Americans first in all policy decisions, deeming it patriotic. They adored him for standing up to China and loved his stance on limiting illegal immigration, for not starting a war, and drawing down troops. They cheered peace accords between Israel and several Arab states. They loved the Trump economy, with the lowest Black and Hispanic unemployment rates since 1960. They appreciated Trump’s executive actions, which helped America become a net energy exporter. They were floored when he named conservative nominees to the federal judiciary, getting nearly 230 judges confirmed, nearly a third of the total bench. In America, judges are confirmed for life so that these young judges could put a stamp on court decisions for the next 40 years.

Trump was a shoo-in for re-election with such a record, even more so because the Democratic Party was in shambles without a leader. Kamala Harris had dropped out of the primaries before a single vote was cast. Biden had lost the first three nominating contests to other liberals, such as Bernie Sanders.

Two magical things happened.

Covid hit America with a vengeance. And Black leaders in South Carolina rescued Biden’s candidacy by delivering an overwhelming victory. The day before the South Carolina primary, Biden’s main rivals endorsed him in an open revolt against Bernie. The party had united.

Hit with a once-in-a-100-year pandemic, Trump struggled as did most world leaders. The media aggressively questioned every action that he took. After locking down the economy for an unbelievable five weeks, he urged friendly Republican governors to reopen. The Democrats cried foul, saying that Trump was placing his re-election prospects above Americans’ health.

For all the negative press that Trump received for America’s 220,00+ deaths, nearly every state hit hard by Covid voted for Trump.

Covid also created a golden opportunity for the Democrats to expand ballot access through universal mail-in voting. Like Washington, Colorado, and Oregon, some states vote only by mail and have invested in state-of-the-art equipment and staff training to process all ballots by mail. Security systems check incoming ballots for names and signatures against updated voter rolls.

Hastily passed laws

But many states run by Democratic governors hastily passed laws to allow universal mail-in balloting to fight the pandemic and keep voters at home — even though these states never had any experience with large volumes of ballots mailed in.

Nevada passed its new laws 80 days before the election. In states like Pennsylvania and North Carolina, where Republicans controlled state legislatures, Democrats skilfully used the courts to authorise relaxation of voting rules, seeking a pandemic exemption.

The Trump campaign is now filing legal challenges in multiple states, saying that signatures of hundreds of thousands of votes — the only remaining tool to authenticate the voter — were never verified. It alleges that even dead voters cast votes in key cities.

The official certification of the winner will happen on December 14. It is most likely that Trump will concede before then, paving Biden’s path to assume the presidency on January 20, 2021. But the country’s 51-48 divide will stay cemented.

The writer is Managing Director,

Rao Advisors LLC, Bedford, Texas

Published on November 08, 2020

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