It’s the democracy, stupid

The 2020 U.S. election was characterized by extreme polarization and by the harsh personal battle between the two candidates. Above all, the pandemic had a severe impact on the elections bringing about a full reshuffle of the election agenda, posing new stakes and dilemmas to the voters, such as the protective measures against the virus, the role of public health and the accessibility to it. This electoral battle has ended with Biden winning more votes than any other in the history of the American elections.

While it is remarkable these elections recorded the highest voter turnout since 1900, it is worth saying they completely divided American society. This is evidenced through the hard fights of both electoral camps, the enormous differences in important political topics, such as the accessibility to public health, and conflicting perspectives over the characters of both candidates. Nevertheless, something more structural divides American society that is better revealed through a closer reading of the qualitative characteristics of the exit polls: For Americans earning less than $100,000 the result was in favor of Biden; For those earning more than $100,000, Trump won 54%, Biden 43%. Biden also gained 60% of those living in cities with more than 50.000 inhabitants; 66% of those who voted for the first time, 76% of those who voted for the candidate that could unite the nation, 61% of the LGBT community, 72% of those who believe abortions should be legal, 80% of those who put tackling coronavirus above the economy, 70% of those who support Black Lives Matter and 64% of those who believe that wearing a mask is an act of social responsibility. On the other hand, Trump won 54% of those living in semi-urban/rural areas, 78% of the opponents of Obamacare, 75% of those who believe abortions must become illegal, 76% of those who put economy above the pandemic, 71% of those who chose to vote for whom they considered to be “the strongest leader”, and 85% of those who oppose Black Lives Matter. Such data reveal political divisions are better understand by considering social and cultural factors.

Despite the incredible polarization, Biden emerged with 4 million+ more votes. The polls, although smeared shortly after the ballot closed, eventually showed a trend. After the closing of the ballot, there was confusion about where the results were leading. The first results were positive for Trump; analysts and staffs acted as if they had forgotten just a day before YouGov reported the intention to vote for those who had not yet voted at 69% for Trump. But for the majority who had already voted, support for Biden stood at 66%. This is exactly why as time passed the Democrats’ percentages grew and the States gradually changed color. If counting of postal votes’ was completed at the same time as the rest, the agony wouldn’t have been as fierce. Probably the initial panic is largely due to the memories of the 2016 elections.

Trump may have gained more votes compared to previous elections, but eventually he was defeated due to his platform and character. Despite exit polls record showing the economy (35%) as the most important factor influencing voter choice, other vital issues played a significant role in Trumps’ defeat, such as racial discrimination (20%), managing the pandemic (17%), the health care system (11%), and institutional deregulation.

Trump’s challenger was an uncharismatic, indifferent in terms of communication, politically centered, aged candidate, who was favored by the outgoing President’s absurd pandemic management, and the peculiar electoral campaign imposed by new health regulations. Biden made fewer appearances for a very long time with an excellent excuse. This is the candidate that Trump failed to beat in the debates, which play a crucial role in the American elections, and nor did Trump manage to control the agenda.

The result was that Trump became the third one term President of the United States of America since World War II. Trump’s campaign was supported only by his family members; Biden was endorsed by Obama, Sanders, Cortez, most members of his party, and a huge network of public figures, that staffed the VOTE movement, and supported a big anti-Trump wave. What the Democrats did not do as successfully as the Republicans, was the door-to-door campaigning. The Republicans ignored to a large extent the coronavirus measures and became particularly active in canvassing.

Trump’s electoral victory in the 2016 U.S. elections was not an ‘accident’, or the result of having an unpopular politician like Hillary Clinton running against him. Trump won because he gave voice to a frightened, xenophobic and introvert America, that did not assimilate the challenges of globalization; it dreams of a national and isolated capitalism, and finds itself in a nationalist frenzy, feeling constantly persecuted. This is America at a historic crossroad. The “symptom”, Trump, lost the election. The causes remain. Could it be that the main stake in these elections was not the economy, as exit polls showed, but democracy itself?