Why did Hispanics, Blacks and Muslims, besides Whites, vote for Trump?
Trump bungled up Covid response and didn’t fulfil his promises. Yet he gave Biden a run for his money. Imagine what would happen if a more competent and disciplined Republican demagogue runs in 2024
While the votes are still being tabulated in most of the states as I write this, Joseph Biden Junior is all set to become the next president of the United States. All the hand-wriggling and attempt to mount a judicial coup by the Trump campaign will ultimately come to nought. This is done and dusted for all practical purposes.
Having said that this doesn’t feel and sound like a win that the Democrats wanted. Agreed, by the time all votes are tabulated at the end of this month, Biden will have a five-point lead in the popular votes and more than 300 Electoral College votes in his pocket. On the face of it, Biden also appears to have not only rebuilt the Great Blue Wall of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania; he has also wrested the Sun-Belt states of Georgia and, most likely with a sliver, Arizona. He also appears to have added a buffer in Maine and New Hampshire. Then why does it not feel like a win?
For starters, Trump was predicted to lose it by a landslide. He clearly appears to have over-performed here. The gap in the popular vote shall be around five per cent and not nine or ten as most of the polls had predicted. Even in the Electoral College, Biden has won Wisconsin and in all probability Georgia, Nevada and Arizona by the slimmest of margins. Michigan and Pennsylvania might be a tad better but barely. And that’s just start of the bad news. Republicans will retain their majority in the Senate and will severely curtail Democrat majority in the House of Representative. In short, while Trump has lost, Trumpism has not.
Let’s look at why this win is at the best Pyrrhic. Republicans have won the majority in the State Legislature even in states where Biden pipped Trump in the Up-Ballot. Democrats were confident of picking up seats in Texas, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, all currently under Republicans. They ended up not only performing poorly in these states; they lost New Hampshire on top of that. Why is that detrimental to Democrats? Let me explain.
That who controls the state legislature in the US determines who controls the eventual Gerrymandering (Or delimitation, as we call it in the Indian context). Republicans controlled majority of these state legislatures when the last US Census in 2010-11 was done. They gerrymandered the seats in such a way that it burnt the Democrats in the 2014 Mid-Terms and rendered President Obama a lame-duck. He couldn’t do anything post that, not even appoint a liberal judge in the US Supreme Court. The same Gerrymandering has also helped Republicans outperform Trump in the current polls. And now they again hold the majority of it as new Census Data is about to unload next year. Therefore, come 2024 Polls, Democrats will face the familiar hurdles unless by some miracle they perform well in the 2022 Mid-Terms.
However, that’s not all. There’s the small issue of Democrats not gaining any new group of electorate and bleeding in some of those it already held. Let’s talk about the latter first. Donald Trump appears to have improved his acceptance remarkably among Hispanics and by a much smaller margin among the African Americans; two groups who were the primary targets of his racial diatribes and dog-whistles. This is a big cause of concern for Democrats. Data suggests that gone are the days when these groups broke along racial lines to vote for Democrats. The class factor has started to come in to play now, and ironically it is disfavouring Democrats. A sliver of lower-class among the African Americans and a big chunk of the same among the Hispanics have started to see Centrist, Pro-Wall Street Democrats—of which Biden, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi are Totem-Gods—as intrinsically opposed to the interests of the working class. This is similar to how the White Working Class started to feel in the run-up to the 2016 Polls. Republicans never walked the talk on the economy but despite always being considered a Party of the elites, they have managed to wean the White Working Class away from Democrats on the back of their insincere but attractive rhetoric vis-à-vis free-trade agreements and tariffs. Consequently, Biden managed to win back only an extremely insignificant number of them in the 2020 polls.
Democrats in general and Biden and the gang in particular, are seen as representing the interests of the proverbial “one per cent” now. Sadly, in the four years to come, Biden is not expected to steer the Party away from this perception. The push from the Progressive Wing of the Party to do so will be severe but equally severe will be the pushback from the Centrist Democrats to toe the right-of-centre line. What’s worse is that the latter will have the uncritical support of the liberal media ecosystem that has almost without an exception demonised the former.
Then there’s the issue of what battles to choose. Democrats believe that all the groups they represent believe in one set of ideology. Nothing can be farther from the truth. For example, a big chunk of Hispanics who have come to the US through legal means, and African Americans, consider illegal immigration as something detrimental to their interests. When an illegal Mexican crosses over and finds a job who do you think he pushes out? Not the rich White folks. Mostly they push out Hispanics and Blacks already at the bottom rung of the economic pyramid struggling to make their ends meet. Therefore despite clear racism coming out of the Republican Party, a section of Hispanics and Blacks broke towards them in these polls like never before.
A progressive like Bernie Sanders has the power to not only hold these demographics but to even wean the White Working Class away from Republicans. Issues like Medicare for All, Incremental Taxations, Abortion Rights etc are popular among the majority even in the polls conducted by Fox News. It is a fallacy to assume that those voting for Republicans are all social conservatives.
Having said that, Social Conservatives among the minorities are becoming an additional headache for Democrats. The Party is now solidly in the hands of hyper-educated people who don’t have ears on the ground. They think that all the culture wars they wage against Republicans have traction among the wider population. No, it doesn’t. For you, gender-neutral pronouns and recognising 34 genders will be a matter of life and death but for most Americans, it is not. At least not unless you also raise the issue that concerns them; issues like raising minimum wages, improving their standards of living and sticking it to the banking and corporate interests. Since you cannot deliver the latter they are not willing to be part of the rainbow coalition to fight your battles for you. No group in the United States was more demonised by Trump in the last four years than Muslims. Not even Blacks. Conservative estimates suggest that around 30 per cent of Muslims still voted for the Republicans. Why? Because a section among them is socially conservative, and will only ally with you if you raise the issues that matter to them. Issues like not attacking their old country and improving their economic conditions; something that Democrats can’t promise. If you abandon them in their fight for the latter, they don’t give a damn about your gender-neutral bathrooms or pronouns. The same is true with Hispanics as well. A big majority of them are Catholics. Republicans’ stance against abortion resonates with them. However, they are ready to compromise on this issue if you deliver the economic goods. If not, they or Muslims or even religious African Americans will increasingly abandon you. That spectre looms large.
Unfortunately, Joseph Biden will only entrench the Party along these fissures. DC is abuzz with the rumour that a rank warmonger like Michele Flournoy, Obama’s Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, whose rulebook created American attack on Serbia, Libya, Yemen, Syria and the likes is going to be Biden’s pick for Secretary of Defense. Other unsavoury characters with deep links with the Security State are also being sounded out for other important roles. This will doom the Democrats for the foreseeable future.
Donald Trump is a clown. He bungled up Covid response and delivered on none of his promises. Yet he gave Biden a run for his money. Imagine what would happen if a more competent, charismatic and disciplined demagogue takes the war to the Democrats in 2024. Imagine Tom Cotton. Or Tucker Carlson. Imagine.
Published: 09 Nov 2020, 7:17 PM