By Hal Burdett | 17 November 2020
The Capital Gazette
In the 2020 presidential election, voters had the choice between dignity and deception, competence and chaos, healing and hubris. They chose instead to split the difference.
In two months, there will be a Democrat in the White House, but the party was unable to gain a clear Senate majority and lost seats in the House of Representatives.
The wild ride of the President Donald Trump administration will conclude or be interrupted with campaign analysts needing months, maybe years, to sort out what happened. More important, whether the past four years were an aberration or the new normal.
Joe Biden holds a 70-plus electoral vote lead over President Donald J. Trump — a sufficiently impressive margin, seemingly, to slam and lock the door on the most exhaustive episode in the history of American governance.
Biden’s 77 million popular votes are more than any U.S. presidential candidate has ever garnered. Trump’s 72 million votes are the second most any contender for president has ever achieved, leaving him to claim with no credible evidence the election was rigged against him.
On Jan. 20, Biden will take the oath of office. Trump will likely be playing golf and vengefully tweeting the vilest insults his incendiary imagination can muster.
Unreliable as early election autopsies tend to be, such conjecture is nonetheless appropriate this time around. Biden’s contention that the election was “a battle for the soul of a nation” resonated with 51 percent of voters who preferred his vision of that construct.
Trump’s stunning numbers were accumulated despite his embrace of the most brutal authoritarians infesting the global landscape — including one who ordered the butchering of a journalist for an American newspaper and another who offered bounties for killing American soldiers — and after he downplayed, then mismanaged a pandemic that has claimed some 250,000 American lives, a total that may double by next spring.
In winning the 2016 election, Trump tapped into a segment of the population that has been ignored, abandoned, and underestimated by both major political parties, most markedly since the mass exodus of American industries that substantially reduced overhead by relocating beyond U.S. borders; the steady encroachment of automation, and the concomitant evisceration of labor unions that once successfully championed a broad array of workers’ rights.
Trump’s pledge to bring back manufacturing appealed to the vast blue-collar contingent that had seen their livelihoods vanish as factories shuttered over the years. At least he was recognizing them and making promises other politicians would not.
Despite the president’s four years of failure to deliver on resurrecting industry, many of his supporters have remained loyal because he has convinced them he is still trying even with little evidence of such effort.
Slightly more than half the electorate now believe Trump is a grifter, who has taken his shell game to a grand scale, and slightly less than half feel he has the secret sauce recipe for turning their most improbable fantasies into reality.
The overriding priority of the Biden presidency will be fighting the coronavirus pandemic by putting scientists in charge, listening to them, and following through on his advice. But much of his agenda may be countered by a Mitch McConnell-led Senate manipulating and obstructing at a magnitude inconceivable when Biden was in the Senate.
Biden’s skills at conciliation and compromise will be tested as never before, as Trump weighs seeking a second term in 2024. The latter option risks the possibility of once again losing what he may actually believe he fraudulently lost this year.
Trump is a narcissistic showman, precious few of whom can resist the lure of the limelight even when it is clearly time to retire to the wings. Count on him to take Dylan Thomas’s advice and “…not go gently into that quiet night.”
The preceding article originally appeared in The Capital, a newspaper published in Annapolis, Maryland USA.
Republished with permission from the author.
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