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America, you blew it

The US is sliding into oblivion as a failed state, and the election of Joe Biden won’t save it

A pro-Trump demonstrator with the slogan ‘We The People’ tattooed on his arm carries a semi-automatic at a protest in Detroit on 6 November. A Michigan judge rejected the Trump campaign’s request to halt the count of mail-in ballots, ruling the claims were pointless because the tally was almost over in a state where Biden has already been declared the winner. Photo: Emily Elconin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

AMERICA, you blew it. You had four years to prepare to deliver a comprehensive repudiation of Donald Trump and Trumpism and show the rest of the world he was an aberration, and you fucked it up.

Joe Biden will be the next President of the United States, but it will be a hollow victory because the tight result is just as much a win for Trump’s brand of fascism. It leaves the US more divided, more polarised and more violent than it was four years ago.

Hunter S. Thompson got it right all those years ago when he wrote shortly before Richard Nixon’s second election win in 1972: “This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it — that we really are a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.”

In fact, Thompson was probably being generous, but those were more innocent times. 2020 is the year when America finally confronted the reality that it is a nation of racist bullies who really don’t give a fuck about anybody else. They’re happy to rape and pillage the planet for their own profit, to watch their fellow citizens live in poverty, to sit by while a disease kills hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens, and bomb the shit out of anyone who pisses them off.

Far from an outlier, Trump is the embodiment of how many Americans like to see themselves and how millions of them would like to be. He is both their inspiration and their creation.

This year’s election was a referendum on Trump but rather than a disavowal of him and everything he stands for, about half the population decided they were quite happy with what he represents.

What was needed was a landslide against Trump, but instead he increased his vote from 2016 and has solidified his popularity with his base.

The election has gone pretty much as predicted. Biden will win the popular vote by something between 4 and 5 million and he will comfortably secure the 270 electoral college votes needed. The counting is agonisingly slow, like being on a death watch, but he has already flipped Wisconsin and Michigan, Pennsylvania is strongly trending his way, and he should flip Arizona. He has a slight lead in Georgia, which might disappear after a recount, but either way he has given the Republicans a hell of a fright there.

But the electoral map will look mostly similar to how it looked in 2016 with more red states than blue states, and the Republicans have built on their vote back then. In Florida, for instance, they strengthened their position. There are dangerous signs of Hispanics and Black males splintering from the Democrats.

The Democrats have gone backwards in the House of Representatives, and they will fail to secure control of the Senate. The state races are mostly unchanged, and the Supreme Court is now strongly conservative thanks to Trump’s three appointments. Trumpism suffered a setback on Tuesday but it was not defeated; far from it.

From day one, Joe Biden will be a lame duck President, mostly powerless and unable to pursue his agenda in the face of an intransigent Senate. There are even suggestions that Mitch McConnell will oppose Biden’s Cabinet selections during nomination hearings.

But if we set aside the electoral outcomes from Tuesday, the state of the nation is even more dire. Trumpism is stronger now than it was in 2016, and it will only get stronger over the next four years. The partisanship that has crippled the US for a decade or more will worsen. The conflict, division and violence that we have seen in recent weeks is just a taste of what is to come. America’s slide into oblivion will continue unchecked.

Biden will restore a semblance of decency, dignity and honesty to the White House, but all his talk about uniting or healing the nation will come to nothing. This election has only served to highlight the widening fractures in America, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the way the two sides have reacted to the result of counting.

Objective facts tell us that Biden will emerge with slightly over 50% of the popular vote and possibly 306 electoral college votes to 232.

A record 133 million votes have been counted and Biden’s tally of almost 74 million is also a record. In normal times, that would be a clear and indisputable mandate for change. But Biden is unlikely get even a day’s rest before the Republicans begin to sabotage his administration.

Even before voting had closed, Trump and his supporters were delegitimising the outcome. They embarked on the most blatant voter suppression operation in history and when that failed, they have openly refused to accept the result.

Trump has attempted to disenfranchise tens of millions of Americans by seeking to prevent their votes being counted. These include not only absentee ballots, early pre-polls and postal votes, but US citizens living overseas, including hundreds of thousands of military.

He has begun challenging the results of that counting in the courts and sowed the seeds for weeks if not months of civil unrest by baselessly claiming voter fraud. Trump supporters have attempted to violently stop the counting and physically attacked counting stations. This is the kind of behavior we usually associate with undemocratic regimes like Russia, Zimbabwe or Turkey.

His refusal to gracefully concede defeat is both a product of his ego and a sickening blow to democracy. Democracy can only survive if the participants play by the rules, but Trump has shown he has nothing but contempt for the rules if they don’t go his way. Like a cheap tinpot dictator, he is putting himself above the will of the people.

Has Trump lost all grip on reality? His unhinged rants suggest he has descended into the realms of madness.

But it’s more likely that in his heart Trump knows he has lost and his actions are part of an elaborate excuse for becoming one of the few one term Presidents in American history. I won but I was robbed by corrupt Democrats, he seems to be saying.

But there is also a longer-term strategic objective of stirring up his base now so they will continue to cause havoc over the next four years. The mythology of the “stolen” election is an important part of that narrative. Trump is feeding his base’s rage now so they will make the next four years as difficult as possible for the Democrats.

Competing visions: Democrat supporters in Philadelphia demand counting continues (photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images); pro-Trump supporters claim election fraud in Detroit (photo: Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images).

Joe Biden won this election because despite superficial similarities in age, race and gender he is the opposite of Trump. Biden represents all the qualities that are lacking in Trump.

Yet the fact that there was no landslide and almost 48% of Americans were prepared to vote for Trump despite the scandals, incompetence and corruption of the past four years tells us something is seriously wrong in America.

Biden faces a Herculean task as he will be confronted from day one with the deaths of a quarter of a million Americans from a virus that will still be spreading, an economy in recession and a world that is wary of the US after four years of abuse from Trump. And he will have to deal with these crises without any assistance from the Republicans.

The cold reality is that the US is doomed to four years of political deadlock as any positive policies put forward by Biden will be bogged down in the Senate and Supreme Court. This will simply feed even more disillusionment with politics will grow creating the mood for the next anti-politician like Trump to exploit in four years time.

The forces Trump has unleashed will be impossible to control and it’s hard to see how America will avoid a future of senseless political violence and domestic terrorism by the far right groups he has nurtured and given encouragement to. Their goal will be a total right wing takeover of all levels of US government, and they will use whatever means they deem necessary to achieve it. This is the “legacy” Trump will leave.

Politics is now so toxic in America and the divides so wide that they cannot even agree about the best way to handle the pandemic, which takes no account of political allegiences. An act as simple as wearing a face mask is endowed with political and ideological significance, another skirmish in the culture wars.

The last time the US was in this situation was in the 1850s and we all know how that ended.

It’s hard to see how the Democrats would have done any better with Bernie Sanders as their candidate. Sanders would have been electoral poison in moderate states, and there is no sign of Democrat turn out being softer because of Biden. And Sanders would have found it even harder to advance his agenda against a hostile Senate. But there is also little about Biden to inspire hope or optimism.

Inside the Capitol and on the streets of America’s major cities, the Democrats will be under siege from the Right. The movement Trump has created will be well-funded and well-organised, with Fox News as its propaganda arm. They won’t give an inch; they would rather destroy their nation than hand it over peacefully to the Democrats.

When the result is officially declared, we can celebrate for a day or so because at least the worst, most despicable person to ever hold the office will no longer be President of the United States. That would usually be the first step on the road to recovery.

But let’s not pretend for a second that the underlying conditions that allowed Donald Trump to become President in the first place have been eliminated by this election. If anything, the forces that got him there have only solidified over the past four years, and they will be whipped up into a frenzy over the next four.

The next Trump will be smarter, wily enough to avoid the dumb emotional responses that caused Trump to turn every victory into a defeat but equally adept at whipping his base up into a frenzy.

The decline of America, which is rapidly become a more unequal, more divided, and more violent nation with every passing day, will not be halted by the replacement of one 70-something white man by another 70-something white man.

The deep flaws in America’s economy and society were hardly discussed during this election campaign, and Joe Biden is neither equipped, nor does he have the political influence in a Washington where the Senate remains in the hands of Mitch McConnell, to address them.

There is something very sick about America: it has a deadly virus and its chances of recovery are slim. Its democracy has collapsed and it teetering on the precipice of becoming a failed state. 2020 was the big chance to draw a line in the sand, repudiate the essence of Trumpism, and set the US on a new course. And then begin to repair the damage.

But instead, America blew it and we will all pay the price.



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