Election 2020 will not be over until January 20,2021. Although Joe Biden has won enough votes for all major mainstream media outlets to declare him President-elect, President Trump in is the process of filing numerous lawsuits, five of such in Pennsylvania contesting the lawfulness of the vote counting process.
Leading the battle is the president’s trusted advisor Rudy Giuliani who has filed the claim that Republican ballot counters where pushed out of the room where the official mail-in ballot counting was happening. As of today, the legality of Pennsylvania’s vote counting is further in the president’s crosshairs with a newly filed lawsuit against the state’s secretary of state and seven counties, claiming that there where two different standards implemented depending on if a person voted in-person or by mail, and thus an illegal tally of the state’s total votes.
It is important to note that before the election occurred, President Trump has been saying that Pennsylvania’s newly minted law that allows mail-in ballots post stamped by November 3rd to continue to be counted after the election is unconstitutional.
President Trump contesting fraud in the Rust Belt and swing states adds to the anti-establishment fervor that fuels his politics and lends to further delegitimization of America’s democratic system. It would truly take a wild array of evidence for the president to prove faulty vote counting in key states such as Wisconsin, Michigan, Nevada, Arizona, Georgia. Currently, none of the various lawsuits that the Trump Administration has filed have proven valid in court. This expedition for election fraud will not provide political leverage for the president’s claim of stolen victory, but serves to harden his supporters into rejecting and further denigrating not only America’s pluralistic society, but the social contract they oblige into when they engage in using the voting system to express their voice. Sadly, Trump’s supporters are being led to view the American voting system as faulty if it doesn’t reflect the will of a rancorous mob.
The fact that the legitimacy of our election is stridently contested by the president himself is incredibly damaging to the process of validifying political leaders. The declaration of election results is a ritualized event, and in modern times it is formalized by the tone of major news outlets. Donald Trump as president has broken so many norms in American politics it is not hard to believe that he is willing to break the legitimacy of the election as an institution on his way out. President Trump has thrived on a whole political identity of anti-establishment rhetoric and stage shows, promulgating fear of a Deep State and strong arming his enemies with theater- like bullying humor.
At the end of the day this election was a nail biter. Joe Biden only received 5 million more votes than President Trump, hardly a mandate for Democrats. The battleground states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin will likely be even harder to win in the next few years if the Democrat’s party platform gears too much to the Left. If Democrats cannot figure out how to rebuild a strong cultural identity with bule-collar Whites while promoting policies that aid in industrial regrowth, Right-wing populism will always win their vote.
President Trump’s strain of populism is not gone and not irrelevant.
And being in a pandemic, people likely voted for the Biden-Harris ticket as a vote against the dysfunctional leadership and crass divisive rhetoric of President Trump.
An important insight after seeing the election results proves that neatly half of the country rejects Trump’s tribal and autocratic-lite politics and the other half has fully embraced it. Polls show that President Trump gained more voters than in 2016, with added Black and Hispanic votes. Most interesting to note when looking at the election results is the higher percentage of non-college educated Whites who voted against President Trump. This is a clear-cut rebuke of the philosophy of far-leftist identity politics and a rejection of its viability as a modern political bloc. It should be obvious that people in America do not vote based on a racial or religious monolith, nor do they enjoy being force fed a worldview centered on emotional sensitivities that forces people to accept certain opinions on policy because of the racial or social box in which they belong.
This should be a point of inflection for Democrats. This election was very much about Trump no matter which way a person voted. In the Republican Party, populism has taken full hold while the Democratic Party is in the process of holding them back. President-elect Biden will have to contend with the Progressive faction and decide how much of their policies can be accepted by people who live in Middle America while also being economically feasible. This will be a difficult task as the Republican Party has been remade under President Trump to become more of a worker’s and blue-collar party. Although Progressives seek many reforms that can effect positive change to Middle America, e.g. $15 minimum wage, their image is interwoven with statue toppling and Critical Race Theory. A pressing reality that has been obfuscated by President Trump’s fiery theater toward his middle-class base is that if he were to bring back manufacturing from China, the industry and infrastructure needed to gain these jobs does not exist in the Rust Belt states that have been destroyed by globalization, and it would be unlikely these incoming jobs would go to them. The areas that need regrowth the most are those that do not have the existing infrastructure that can manage not only the technocratic but the high cost of operation.
President Trump has done a lot to speak for those in the de-industrialized zones that have lost hope in the future of their livelihoods and communities, but he has not delivered. If Democrats do not speak up for and deliver a infrastructure package for Middle America, President-elect Biden will surely be the last of the establishment moderates to win the presidency. On both the Trump and anti-Trump side, Americans feel enormously strong feelings, feelings guided by a sense of economic displacement and cultural animosity. There on now populists divided between the Right and Left, economically wanting similar policy reforms that protect the American worker from large corporations that have too much power and displace the American workforce, but culturally divided on how they define American patriotism.
With public trust in mainstream media at an all time low and a president willingly trying to bend the law to keep the presidency, Americans remain wary of the legitimacy of their country’s major democratic institutions. If Americans find their media to be filled with fraudulent claims, they will find other sources online that reflect their feelings and are in the process of doing so. People are finding websites online that fill their emotional and psychological needs, and most of the time they are finding sites that fuel conspiracy theories. In a time when the elites and their institutions are disliked, people will search for other sources of comfort and collective being. People are looking for simple answers to complicated issues, and unfortunately will find alternative news sources that will know how to use their insecurities and program a worldview that is based solely on their emotions and fear.
This is the new age politics in America. One where people only trust their tribe and ideology becomes an existential matter. Where the establishment has regained (will retain?) the presidency as two different strains of populism remain on the sidelines waiting for their time to consolidate power. How populism will look in the next few years will be formulated by the Democratic Party’s ability to implement Progressive policies that are not deemed too radical and poll popular with majority of Americans, with the big winner being if they can push back against policies that provide incentives to corporations to divest in the American worker. Adding to a barrier test and maybe breakage of America’s democratic institutions is President Trump’s possible final act of self-pardon.
The stage is set for more turbulent times ahead, with President-elect Biden seemingly having the legitimacy of his presidential win put on trial by Trump loyalists and having around 70% of Republicans believe in the president’s claims, democratic and civil society of America will continue to be erased. We cannot continue on a path where one party’s political leader is looked at as existential to the other side. President Trump is an impetuous and uncouth figure to many on the Left, but it must be understood why so many fell for his demagogue stage shows and firebrand politics. There is a strain of contempt in many Americans that is not being listened to by those in power, and Donald Trump was the ultimate manifestation of popular grievance. But President Trump was no populist leader, and he divided Americans in ways that may be too challenging to overcome. If we don’t figure out how to bridge the divide in the coming years, we will risk becoming embittered in low-level civil war, political cold war between the Blue and Red states, and eventually cratering into a possible form of fascism.
Without a common sense of cultural heritage and respect for the Constitution as our binding civic order, American politics will always feel like a battle that cannot be won.