Begin typing your search...
Editorial: Trump versus Trump in America
Today, the United States of America votes to elect its next President in what is possibly the most acrimonious election in its history. Of course, millions have already voted through mailed ballots, but what happens on November 3 will determine who enters or remains in the Oval Office.
The contest between President Donald Trump, who is seeking a second term, and former Vice-President Joe Biden, occurs against a most unusual backdrop.
There is the pandemic, of course, that has caused almost 2,40,000 American deaths, inflicted huge damage on the economy, and resulted in a surge in unemployment figures. At the same time, there has been a wave of anger in the black community over perceptions of systemic racism in the country, a sense of resentment that spawned the Black Lives Matter movement, the purpose, and resolve of which was unfortunately deflected by those who used the unrest to engage in rounds of arson and violence.
With Trump’s handling of the coronavirus nothing less than shambolic and with the economy – his major selling card – floundering in the face of the pandemic, the advantage he held over rivals late last year has vanished. Every opinion poll has shown Biden ahead and if one were to go strictly by the numbers, very comfortably in the lead. This is not so much a result of Biden’s popularity; even his supporters privately agree he has been somewhat insipid and confused as a challenger. What this election has morphed into is a battle between Trump and Trump – that is, between his admirers, who strongly and somewhat blindly support him for a second term and his detractors, who find his behaviour abominable and his persona simply unsuited for the presidency.
The poll numbers, however, may not tell the whole story. For one, they show that the race is much narrower in battleground states – those that tilt an election is determined by the electoral college vote and not by popular count. For another, it seems likely – as many Trump disparagers admit – there exists what has come to be known as the shy Trump vote, made up of those who are reluctant to declare their preference for him for fear of social disapproval. This certainly existed in 2016 and was one of the reasons why Trump prevailed over Hilary Clinton in the face of opinion polls, and various pundits, who predicted the opposite.
The physical ballots will likely be counted first in most states, which may result in its own complications. Trump is perceived as having the edge here since Republicans seem more enthusiastic about getting out to vote than Democrats, who prefer the postal route. So, this is an election where the result may see-saw in unpredictable ways and take longer than usual to be called.
But more importantly, it leaves open the possibility – in the event of a large discrepancy in the pattern in physical and postal balloting – for claims that the election has been rigged. Democrats fear that Trump may try to block the result in the event he loses by saying as much. As for Trump, he has been far from clear about whether he will go so far, stopping at saying he will accept the result of a fair election. There is a possibility therefore that the story about this US election will end only well after the last ballot has been cast today.