WHEN I WENT TO BED on Nov. 3, the outcome of the U.S. Presidential election was uncertain. By the time I awoke, the only thing that had changed was that incumbent President Donald Trump had declared himself re-elected. None of the political commentators I checked were willing to agree that either Trump or Biden could yet declare victory.
Fox News, like NPR, has projected 238 for Biden, and 213 for Trump. Millions of ballots are yet to be counted, so the outcome, no matter whose projections are used, it is too close to call.
Voters aside, the fact that Trump has already declared victory lends fear to those who think he will seize power no matter the electoral outcome.
If the race was a strong win for Biden, that might seem an impossibility. But as of this writing, according to Fox News, Biden has secured 50.1 per cent of the votes (69,401,135).
Trump has secured 48.3 per cent of the votes (67,001,620). In the U.S. electoral college model, a majority of votes is not required to win a majority of electoral seats, so even with less than the popular vote Trump might be able to return to power legitimately. With strong arm tactics, Trump might squeeze in regardless.
Whether or no Biden or Trump secures the White House, there is a clear, almost equal divide between their supporters.
I am left to wonder how Trump garnered half the popular vote. How so many have continued to support a president who was impeached, continually lied, is misogynistic, bigoted, and self-serving? How could a president who bungles natural catastrophes like hurricanes that ravaged Puerto Rico, or who locked up hundreds of migrant children be supported? How could a president who watched 230,000 people die from a pandemic and blocked public health measures be trusted by so many for another four years?
Whether or not Trump returns to the White House, close to half the electorate have supported him. It seems that there is a lot of anger and fear in the U.S.
Many see Trump as someone who acknowledges their anger. He has tapped into an undercurrent of fear, anger, and resentment. A huge proportion would rather follow Trump, who makes targets of migrants, China, and Democratic governors than work collectively to improve health care to reduce the ravages of COVID-19.
A huge number of voters would rather have a president declare that empty factories and declining wellbeing as the fault of Canada, Mexico, China and other trading partners, rather than investing in new technologies and more education to stay competitive. They would rather blame Antifa, and BLM for civil unrest than acknowledge that far-right White militia groups are the largest source of U.S. domestic terrorism.
What we can only hope is that Biden is elected. But his job will not start in the White House, but out in communities, trying to bring two sides together. And as much as possible, he must acknowledge the anger of Trump’s supporters, and then channel it to the positive.
Trump did not create the Rustbelt and the declining manufacturing sector. He did not inherit the growing disparity of incomes between the one per cent of extreme wealth and the rest of Americans. Migrants were coming from unstable and impoverished Latin America countries long before Trump arrived. The health care system was broken long before COVID-19. But Trump tapped into people’s anger, and nearly half still see him as the solution.
If, one can only hope, that Biden is elected, he must take that anger and use its power to effect change. With close to half the voters following Trump despite his reprehensible behaviour, it is clear that their anger is deep. But anger can be used to spur change for the good as well as bad. May Biden have that opportunity.
May we live in less interesting times in the weeks ahead.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.