The much-hyped 2020 United States presidential elections have ended. At least the voting is over. But in the midst of the post-election shenanigans and unseemly political behavior by the Republican Party's establishment, there remains one quintessential question: How did over 70 million mostly white Americans, mostly women, vote for Donald Trump after his boorish and brutish behaviors of the past four years? In fact, this question continues to perplex more experienced pundits than me, and have dumbfounded many scholars and political strategists alike. I'm going to take a shot at it through the eyes of an ordinary working-class Joe eschewing the highfalutin semantics of the pundit class, and sundry meritocratic talking heads, and their condescending responses.
Let me start with the elections. Besides the fact that the defeat of President Donald Trump was a psychological victory and escape valve for millions of Americans and the world at large, at its core was so much more. For one thing it was a signal that Americans opted in for a return to sanity and to distance themselves from the white supremacist thuggery of the past four years. And the collective progressive American vote was about a rejection of Trumpism and the need to send a man who visited the worst cruelties and inhumanity on the peoples of the world the overpowering urge to send him unceremoniously packing from the White House. If America and the world waited with bated breath on the declaration of Joe Biden as winner and President-elect, the euphoria was short-lived.
That's because of the fact that it has become crystal clear that Americans voted in very significant numbers for Donald Trump. And even as Biden won the popular vote, Trump's tally was a mind-blowing 73,701,667 votes - the most by any Republican presidential candidate ever. This shocking and undisputed number literally paralyzed the body politic and forced one jarring question to the fore: how could so many people vote for a man whose scorn and contempt for women, Black people, the "others in American society," and whose petty thuggery and strutting faux-strongman tendencies were on full public display for four long years? And to add insult to injury, as of November 21 (final counts not yet certified), a total of 73,781,603 people voted for Trump. That's a whopping 47.2 percent of the total votes counted to date and as of the time of this writing. The same statistics tell us 79,816,557 Americans voted for Joe Biden or about 51.1 percent of the total popular vote counted.
Looked at another way: a majority of Americans, especially Black people and other marginalized populations still at the mercy of America's historic, systemic and incurable racism, voted Donald John Trump out of office. But dig deeper into these numbers and you find some cause for real concern. The reality is that even in "blue" states, like New York, the 2020 elections revealed that even here, there are thousands - if not millions of determined Trump supporters. True, Trump lost New York in the 2020 election, but only 58.3 percent of New Yorkers voted against him. A solid 40.4 percent of New York (mostly "upstate" and Staten Island in the New York City) voters used their ballots to demonstrate their solid support for a racist who denies climate change, and today has the blood of more than 250,000 innocent Americans on his hands for failing to lead the country through the COVID-19 pandemic. Campaign/election math says that this is four out of 10 people that you'll meet every day.
And even as the hand-wringing and soul searching continues and the shock of EXACTLY what went wrong to allow Trump to build and garner so much support, for many there are no easy answers. So, let me start from the fact that historical and pervasive American racism is the very foundation of the republic. It has endured in its rudimentary forms and over the years morphed into sophistication culminating in winning the presidency of the United States. To act all surprised that millions of Americans - white Americans - still embrace racism in all its odious and banal forms is just plain hypocritical. At the core of "American Exceptionalism" IS American racism.
The way the 2020 election unfolded and played out should therefore come as no surprise to anyone. Perod. For example, consider this: The Christian Right that voted in the 83 percentile for Trump in 2016, remained TOTALLY SILENT as his xenophobic and racist impulses ran red hot and ended with the separation of thousands of refugee children from their parents and ramming them into cages like so many animals. Four years later this same group came out in droves all across the nation and cast their vote for a man the world condemned for such cruelties. "I think it's a mistake to convince ourselves that Trump, or Trumpism, is easy to defeat," Noah Berlatsky wrote in the Independent. "The truth is, as we are learning again, Trump, in all his incompetence, brutishness, and cruelty, embodies one powerful, ugly, and persistent version of the American dream." I agree 100 percent. Amen to that.
But what of the Democratic Party? Is it blameless in this rise of white supremacist behavior and far removed from its ugly consequences? The party comes at this from a different perspective than the Republican Party because it covers up and skillfully masks its own internal racism, arrogant meritocratic shortcomings, and its utter contempt for rural Americans. Its elitist corruption, incompetence and downright reactionary disposition cannot be ignored or swept under the table. The party's opportunistic compromises oftentimes have it shooting itself in the foot. The party told Americans that Joe Biden was the ONLY safe choice to beat Donald Trump while shoving aside ALL other candidates that it saw as "Left or too Progressive" and therefore unacceptable to the so-called American center.
Of course, this was not the issue on the Republican/Trump side of the equation. In the end, Americans were given a pyric choice between a Republican political con-artist and a worn-out Democrat - half of them choose one and the other half the other. But still, let me try and parse this situation. Fact is a very significant section of those who voted for Donald Trump are hopelessly and irredeemably racist to their very core, and are eager to have a fellow white supremacist in the White House. They are the toxic and enduring relics of a horrid history of racism that is, and will always be, definitive of this country. For them there is absolutely no cure. But there is also a significant part of this Trump constituency that, in my view, is redeemable, and their vote for Trump is a revealing index of something very recent in America's history.
Since the 1980s American politics have been steadily shifting to the right. During that time a curious thing happened starting with Democratic President Bill Clinton. The party started a corresponding rightward shift so that, politically and morally, it could not challenge the Republican excesses as Clinton attempted to best the GOP with his politics and policies of triangulation. He moved the party from center-left to center-right and then right. The party demonized any moderate voices culminating in its rabid dislike for even modestly progressive politicians today like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), Ilhan Omar and company as if they're somehow died-in-the-wool, raving commies.
It is this modern pathological Democratic Party's provincialism that must be addressed and resolved if the Democrats are to win over independents and undecideds. It's the arrogant meritocracy that is in bed with Wall Street, and the top-down leadership of the party - the Left version of the "Right" Republican Party - that must be destroyed. The old boys (and girls) "elders" of the Democratic Party will not be so lucky in the next presidential elections if it does not change course. The hope here is that it will take this coming four years to re-connect with its abandoned and rejected base - the vast sections of the American working classes, indigenous peoples, struggling middle class and the confused, angry but winnable Trump voters and supporters - and form a truly progressive coalition. These groups held their noses and voted for Joe Biden over Trump. Given the fact that Trump is an impeached, corrupt, inept, incompetent and failed leader - the absolute worst in American presidential history - any candidate, except Satan, would have been acceptable to the American People.