You sometimes have to wonder how the Americans do it. Somehow, they are enduring through one of the most chaotic political eras in modern times. But it must be exhausting. What once might have been fascinating political theatre has been rendered negligible by a recessive economy and an oppressive pandemic. Beleaguered on all sides, it seems, Americans are limping their way to an election that may prove more tumultuous than what they have already endured.
Most commentators have prophesied a bloody battle come November, and they will likely be proved right.
A scenario exists, however, that requires more consideration. Its chances are slim but its optics are intriguing. What if the Democrats take the House, Senate, and the presidency? Hardly the political trifecta pundits are expecting, but it is not beyond possibility.
Key to this is the voting preference of those citizens without post-secondary degrees. Traditionally a Republican bastion, as seen again in Trump’s 2016 election, their predilection for the current president has declined significantly. Donald Trump may feel their loyalty, but polls suggest he is losing them – not for political reasons, but economic ones. Many of them make up that 36% of Americans who have lost work in this pandemic and who won’t get their jobs back. All that touting of Trump’s mastery of the stock market has little effect on those who lost employment in the factories, farms, and small businesses.
The president has lost considerable support among military members, including veterans, and has seen a decline in the shallow support he once held among suburban women.
The country is not only hopelessly divided politically; it is also ideologically at war and has been ever since the 2000 election. That’s the main reason most see this as a surely close election call. The heightened state over the next Supreme Court seat only adds to this outlook.
Yet again, recent polling shows that the cramming of judiciary seats with right-leaning judges (300 since Trump was elected) has begun to ripple through voter preferences, especially among undecided Independent voters. And the rush to appoint Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s replacement prior to the election has energized the Democrats like little else. It is viewed as a rabid Republican move, toppling all legislative protocol.
Regardless of the outcome of a Supreme Court appointment, it has turned the popular vote ever more towards Joe Biden. The polls show it, and his outmatching Trump in the fundraising department appears to confirm it. Polls taken shortly after Ginsburg’s passing showed a clear majority thought that any selection should wait until after the election and be made by its victor. Republican refusal to respect protocol and procedure could well turn the country against the party, even if their candidate ultimately wins.
So, yes, a scenario, slight as it might be, exists that could pave the way to a Democratic sweep. But it’s not all about Donald Trump. Admittedly, he represents a new kind of chaotic political dynamic that seeks authority above all else, yet it is a political movement that has already lost to some remarkably powerful forces. COVID’s victory over a willingly ignorant Republican constituency seems more or less complete with its infection of their top man in the White House along with numerous other Republican senior officials. The economy has flattened – some say tanked – and racism is at last facing an outcry unseen since the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.
If Republicans lose in a big way, it will be more because of these underlying and oppressive issues rather than any particular leader. In this sense, former US national security adviser H.R. McMaster was prescient this past week when he said, “There is a strange tendency in the U.S. to hold Trump responsible for all evil. He certainly contributed to the division in American society, but he is more a symptom than the cause. If Republicans and Democrats are constantly at each other’s throats, we will not be able to solve our country’s most pressing problems or strengthen our response to adversaries.”
The American journey has hit a rough spot and some kind of reckoning could clearly be on the horizon. Former Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, outlined this in his famous “House Divided” speech:
“If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do and how to do it.”
It remains a difficult thing to know just where the American people are one month from their national election, but they have endured much and they know they are bitterly divided. Some 210,000 of their fellow citizens have paid the price for bad politics and ideological divisions, and those who remain are surely alarmed. Their combined challenges are daunting, and they have lost the leadership of the free world. These are serious times, but sweeping winds of political change have come about through much less. Don’t count the sweep out just yet.