COLUMN: A turbulent election, a divided country

After a contested presidential election, the American political future looks bleak.

Noah Wright is a sophomore constitutional democracy major at MU. They are an opinion columnist who writes about politics for The Maneater.

After a drawn-out election week mired with controversy, Joe Biden has been declared President-elect. The polls were wrong again, and the predicted Biden landslide came down to just a handful of states. Democrats lost seats but kept the House, and control over the Senate will come down to a Georgia Senate seat runoff in January.

America slides further down the authoritarian slope

After months of laying the groundwork for contesting a Biden win, President Donald Trump demanded states stop counting votes on election night in key states like Nevada, Michigan and Georgia. The following Wednesday, the Trump campaign filed legal challenges in four states: calling for a recount in Wisconsin, challenging the handling of ballots in Georgia and demanding that the remaining votes in Pennsylvania and Michigan not be counted. These legal battles are showing little promise for the election-fraud narrative pushed by the Trump campaign.

Trump has repeatedly called into question the validity of mail-in ballots, which were used in record numbers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though Trump himself uses mail-in ballots to vote, he has made many unfounded claims about mass voter fraud stemming from their use.

Democrats were more likely to use mail-in ballots than Republicans, with some polls suggesting the difference to be as high as 25%. This trend led to Biden gains in key states later in the week. Regardless, the president called into question the integrity of the election, and the effects of this on American institutions will be incredibly consequential.

By demanding that votes unfavorable to him not be counted, the president reached a new authoritarian level. His strategy of using doubt and fear in the months leading up to the election, and then contesting results through the power of his office and legal team, is out of the strongman playbook.

Even if he unsuccessfully contested the election results, Trump signaled to his most ardent supporters that the election was fraudulently stolen by Democrats. This move was decried by several prominent conservatives, ranging from Ben Shapiro to former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.

Protests erupted across the country, split along party lines over whether to “Stop the Count.” The possibility of political violence from right-wing militias emboldened by their leader is a truly horrific thought. Civil unrest is likely to increase amid this divisive election and the biggest loser will be what little faith Americans have left in our democratic institutions.

President Trump’s attempted coup should concern every American. There is no evidence of mass fraud in this election, and mail-in ballots have been used without issue by many states since the ‘80s. Never before in U.S. history has a sitting president rejected the results of an election to this extent. This move must be met with mass protest and public outcry from citizens across the political spectrum.

The Democrats are weak. Progressive policies are not

Democrats have tried their best to lose another election. Despite the fact that Trump is one of the most unpopular presidents of all time, responsible for the deaths of over a quarter-million Americans and an unprecedented economic crash, Biden barely scratched out a 306 electoral vote win. Trump gained about 10 million more votes in this election than he did in 2016.

According to exit polls, Biden underperformed Hillary Clinton among voters of color. This should cause panic for Democratic party strategists who arrogantly believe that people of color will always vote Democrat, and therefore their vote is unnecessary to pander to. These results are unsurprising when Biden’s history with race is taken into account, namely his authorship of the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act and his failure to adequately address any of the demands from Black Lives Matter organizers.

Another disappointment for Democrats has been down-the-ticket races. Democrats kept their majority but lost seats in the House of Representatives. The Senate remains to be called, but it is safe to say that the Biden presidency will have to work through a divided Congress.

An obvious conclusion is that the Democratic platform is unappealing to voters. However, after examining other election night trends, it’s clear the candidate, not the policies, were unpopular.

Florida, a state Trump won by over 300,000 votes, approved an amendment that will raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Oregon decriminalized the possession of hard drugs. Conservative states like Montana, Arizona and South Dakota voted to legalize marijuana.

These trends, in addition to public polls that show a majority of Americans support ‘radical’ policies like a livable minimum wage, Medicare for All and climate action prove the issue resides with Democrats pandering to the right. If the nominee had been someone who supported these popular policies, the election would not have been close.

If the Democrats ever hope to win back support from an angry working class, they must incorporate a party platform that addresses their material concerns. The DNC nominated a moderate, despised career politician in 2016 to combat the populism of Trump and lost. They tried the same tactic in 2020, and for some reason expected a resounding victory.

Former Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill cited cultural issues as the reason Democrats lost so many seats. After using a transphobic slur, she called for Democrats to return to a meat-and-potatoes working family approach.

The idea that the Democrats have to throw LGBTQ+ people or Black organizers under the bus to win elections is not only ludicrous, but a spineless attack meant to deflect blame from the fact that Democrats are terrible at campaigning. Instead of listening to losing candidates like McCaskill, strategists should look to progressive victors like Cori Bush, who was elected through grassroots support.

A candidate with left-wing, populist economic policies can win. The corporate wing will try to smear the progressives of the party as too radical for most voters, as they have always done. If establishment Democrats want to win elections, they will stop accepting the Republican framing of their platform.

What’s to be done

As the fallout of this election settles, pro-democracy Americans must remain vigilant. Neo-fascist politics are popular. About 73 million people voted for Trump. We must continue to persevere against the face of mass opposition and fight to put this ideology back in the ground.

We must protest, organize and strike. Anti-fascists must protect vulnerable Americans from hateful attacks in the coming weeks. Trump’s authoritarian moves may drive some of his supporters away, and the left needs to provide an alternative message to these voters.

As part of our commitment to social justice initiatives, we at The Maneater encourage you to consider making a donation to Philadelphia Community Bail Fund, an organization committed to ending bail and assisting the incarcerated amidst Black Lives Matter protests. The link to donate is https://www.aplos.com/aws/give/PhiladelphiaCommunityBailfund/general

Edited by Sofi Zeman | szeman@themaneater.com

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