Well here in Australia it is November the 3rd, although over in the ol’ US of A it’s not quite. But that does depend on when you are reading this post I guess! I must admit that I find myself drawn to politics, not so much from position of really liking one candidate or party, but just from an interest in the process and what the result will/could mean for not only America but indeed the entire world.
For any Americans reading today wondering just what this year’s contest looks like from the outside, I have to say it looks like two grandpas yelling at each other. One a little more politely, the other more screaming in your face, but I think the question that a lot of non-Americans have when they look at this race is this – how are these two the candidates? Is this the best America can offer its people?
People’s objections to Donald J. Trump are pretty known. But in many ways the argument is simply – ‘he’s a bad person’. He treats anyone not in his corner as basically scum. He’s a stranger to the truth (which surely proves that he IS a politician) and he can’t get off Twitter. But I think what people are probably missing here is that without the pandemic I would say he would walk, nay saunter, into a second term in office.
Generally whilst the economy is humming along and the unemployment figures are good, it’s virtually impossible to oust a sitting American President. And despite being down in the average of polls, Trump has a magnetic appeal to a lot of people, he has a core base who will not jump off the Trump bandwagon for any reason, which he has pointed out on many occasions.
Joe Biden on the other hand… I mean really? Look, nothing against the guy, but he is 77 going on 90. In the times we’re in right now if the Democratic Party could have found someone a bit more youthful who could raise a bit of excitement, they would have it made I guess. I watch Biden and at times he seems to look like he wonders why he’s bothering – especially in that first debate!
What is interesting to me is the way Trump coins phrases, often about his opponents, like ‘Sleepy Joe’ and you hear everyone suddenly using it. Especially journalists, albeit probably mostly the ones on Fox News. He only had to say ‘Wuhan Flu’ once and it was used everywhere! The guy knows how to ‘go viral’.
Look to the actual contest. Biden hammers Trump on Covid-19 and his response. I wonder sometimes whether it’s the rhetoric rather than the response that has been the issue in the USA. You can talk all you like about social distancing, wearing masks, sanitising hands etc, but the fact is that America by nature and by design values FREEDOM over everything else, and telling people what to do generally generates a ‘F&*^ You!’ response from people in most countries, and in America that is magnified. How would America cope with tougher and wider spread lockdowns? I don’t think it would to be frank. It would turn into riots pretty quick.
Joe Biden. He’s okay. Seems like a decent guy. He’s had eight years White House experience which presumably counteracts the worry that he’s not quite up to the job. Trump is trying to criticise him from every angle, business dealings, his son Hunter – with one of the least credible stories I’ve ever heard of involving a laptop that might have been his that Hunter apparently took to a repair shop in Delaware with sensitive information, but never picked up, but maybe it wasn’t him because the store owner is technically BLIND, I’ll stop there – fracking, a whole lot of other stuff. Trump sees one way to stay in the White House which is to discredit Biden enough that people will be turned off voting for him. He’s not actively trying to win any new votes, he’s trying to stop those who were leaning Biden from bothering to vote at all.
The world is keenly watching, and following polls in the swing states and looking for late swings back to Trump in say Pennsylvania, Arizona and other places and watching it all click into place for a result is fascinating. In 2016 Clinton won 2.8 million more votes than Trump, and if the polling is even slightly accurate Biden will garner even a higher margin in the ‘popular vote’. But what seems odd for non-Americans, that figure isn’t important, you might even say it’s a load of ‘malarky’, it’s the ELECTORAL COLLEGE that determines the winner. If you don’t know, each state is awarded a number of electoral college votes. You win the state – be it by 0.3% as Trump did in Michigan last time or 30% as he might do in a dyed in the wool Republican State like Alabama, you get all the electoral college votes. The bigger states are worth more electoral college votes, but the distribution is not even according to population. For example in California has nearly 40 million people and 55 electoral college votes, one vote per 727,000 people. Wyoming has around 590,000 people and three electoral college votes, which means one vote per 193,000 people approx.
While it doesn’t seem fair and I guess it isn’t, as far as I know no-one has really tried to change the system, and it means election night is far more interesting because they can keep updating on the various states and then call them when the time is right building up to the final result. Last time Trump won Michigan by 0.3%, Wisconsin by 1%, Florida by 1.2%, and Pennsylvania by 1.2%. With such wafer thin margins the results can be up in the air for a number of days for recounts and the like, and this year will be no different. Apparently it takes longer to count early and mail in voting, and so if the margins are similarly tight this time around, it could take quite a while to know the result.
But it makes for a gripping, exciting situation too. Honestly, after the last 4 years, can anyone even IMAGINE a world without Trump? What would that even be like?
If I have a complaint about the affect of modern American politics on the politics on the rest of the world, it would be that it seems have to turned political contests into sporting contests. It’s all about your representative winning, about cheering, about barracking. I’m not sure this is the way to go. Do we want to see more celebrities in politics? Because what we see with Trump is truly ‘populism’.
In some ways I have to marvel at Trump. He’s reinvented politics and has turned it into a show. And in some way you could argue that has made a lot more people interested in politics. In fact – you could argue this works on both sides because people are motivated because they love and HATE the guy. I read a story of a guy in Pennsylvania who voted for Biden this time around because he decided not to vote last time and regretted it, because he doesn’t like Trump. Doesn’t think that much of Biden either, but can’t stand Trump. And ironically I guess, this is probably the reason right now that Trump sits where he does in the polls.
What is sad from both sides of politics here is that people aren’t voting for the inspirational candidate, because frankly there isn’t one. They are voting because they don’t like the other side. And there are only two sides. Which we see here to a lesser but still clear extent in Australia. This constant back and forth with Left versus Right, constantly failing to acknowledge that actually they agree on more than they disagree on, this divisiveness, this identifying as one or the other, it’s gotten so much worse in the last 20 years. People rarely have a nice thing to say about the other side. People won’t say “I like Trump’s policies on this, but prefer Biden for that”, because Republicans and Democrats are demonised by the other side.
Should Biden win, I think most looking on think he’s a poor choice for candidate. Yet still preferable, it seems, to Trump. If it seems like I’m pro-Trump, I’m not. But I’m trying to be balanced here and I’m looking it from a stand point of a non-American.
I do hope the result doesn’t take days or longer to become clear. And I hope whatever happens, it goes smoothly. I fear America is so divided right now neither side will be able to accept the result. Biden wants to bring the country together, I’m not sure he can. Trump frankly doesn’t want to.
America, you have a big choice on your hands today. Whoever wins, I hope they are able to heal some wounds. Will we see the ‘Trump Show’ roll on, or what will a Biden-led America actually be like? Because I find it very hard to imagine.
Thanks for indulging me today. Wherever you are, please take care. I would LOVE some discussion, civil discussion of course, but I’m sure that’s what I will get. May the Journey Never End!