US Election: Comment

It’s not who wins, it’s who loses that counts

He did it.

Cries of a joyful revolution against the suits of Washington D. C., or abject horror at the state of American democracy? Depends on who you ask.

November 8th, 2016. He did it.

And the reality is what unfolded that faithful night could repeat itself this November 3rd and in spite of what the polls might otherwise say; we know how much we can trust them now…He did it, again.

Cast an eye back and its difficult, almost impossible, to find another individual who has single-handedly defined the previous four years as much as President Donald Trump. A  testimony, I suppose, to the power of his character and the fire of his rhetoric. Since his inauguration Trump has attempted (and failed) to build a wall across the US-Mexico border, banned transgender people from serving in the military, signed a new $738 billion dollar defence bill, establishing the comically named ‘Space Force’, and signed the First Step Act of 2018, providing meaningful criminal justice reform in a number of years. Trump’s Record: erratic, at best.

The most significant legacy of the Trump presidency however, certainly without intention has been the vocalisation of a feeling of dissatisfaction across the United States with its central democratic institutions: the Electoral College and now the Supreme Court. It’s a compelling narrative. Since his populist victory, defeating then Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton in spite of popular vote, studies have consistently found US citizens have grown less and less confident in the legitimacy of Electoral votes and in the branches of government which seek to serve its citizens, and whilst Trump is the most obvious target for blame, like a buffalo stomping across the Great Plains, he alone is not solely to blame. His victory merely brought the feeling to a crescendo.

Shift sights just a little to the left and the origins of such disillusionment can be found with the shortcomings of the previous administration and the attitude and actions of the opposing party throughout the previous four years. HOPE – that was the word running with Obama throughout his presidency, but when the eight years were over much of the so-called Rust Belt were left, as they are often, in the dust. After Trump took office, the Democratic party’s obsession with the ultimately fruitless impeachment trial did nothing but further dig the cracks between those Washington suits and the below-the-line average Americans.

The question arises then: what are the possible solutions to this crisis? One particularly radical author of The Atlantic Sentinel has argued for the abolition of the electoral college, the Republican and Democratic parties, and for new states to be added to the Union. Is this likely? At the moment, no. In a piece published last month by our very own Concrete, another author suggested a far simpler solution: Biden wins, America saved. Simple? Not so I’m afraid.

Is Biden better than Trump? Probably. Is Biden the caretaker to restore faith in American democracy, akin to a Gerald Ford post Richard Nixon? Maybe. Are Trump and Biden both racists?

“You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. Well, I tell you what, if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me… then you ain’t black. You get shot walking to the store. They have no education, they have no jobs. I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty. Poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids. Oh, look at my African-American over here. Look at him.”

Absolutely. Why? Can you tell the difference?

Now – this is not to suggest there aren’t substantive differences between the candidates, either in terms of policy or presidential style. There are. What it does suggest, however, is a victory from either candidate is less of a definitive solution to this crisis of American democracy then we are so often lead to believe. The only viable, realistic solution is for the other side to lose, and lose well.

I mean this statement less in terms of raw votes and more in relation to style and character. We all know of Trump’s concerning remarks claiming he will refuse to vacate power if the election doesn’t go in his favour, and of course Biden’s insistence on packing the Supreme Court in his favour if he wins the election. Both speak to the partisan climate of the US at the moment and both point equally to a willingness of either side to disregard the previous two-hundred and forty-four years of gentlemanly agreements upon which democracy is founded. Outside of the candidates, conspiracy theories about rigging the election or the viability of postal ballots has led to a situation where, at least in theory, one candidate could win on November 3rd but, as votes are counted, the other could take the lead a few nights later.

My fear is, without some return to normality or change in approach from either candidate, American democracy will be rotted away by the very people who wish to uphold it. The short fear is more protests. The long-term fear is blood. 

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Tristan Pollitt

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May 2022
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