Over the decades, demographic waves crash upon our shore during our elections. The last four US Presidential elections offers the best evidence of the ebb and flow of these cross currents. The demographic changes showing up in the increased population of non-white residents enabled the election of the first non-white President. It cannot be overstated how much this stirred up the undercurrents of racism that were always present in this country. It was expressed overtly through pronouncements like that of Senate Leader McConnell, whose sole ambition was to make President Obama a one-term President. It was expressed covertly, through the growing popularity of racist forums on the internet, where the theory of birtherism was bandied about broadly. It finally resulted in the popularization of its most ardent proponent, and thus Trumpism was born.
The Newtonian response (to every action is an equal reaction) to the emergence of the demographic alliance expressed in Obama’s election, came in the form of the Trump campaign of 2016. In that election, the wave that emerged gathered up the scum from the bottom of the ocean of the population, and the filth that washed up upon the shore stayed in service to the new President. It represented the last, great gasp of the portion of the demographic pie that refuses to accept changes to the nation they apparently believe they, and they alone, own. The trends in the economy that preceded Trump continued during his term, and he was more than happy to accept responsibility for good things. His re-election looked secure, despite the damage he was inflicting to the nation and its reputation.
Then came that once per century occurrence, a pandemic. Much has been written about how this nation squandered the only potential advantage we had – time to respond before we were overwhelmed. The growth of the epidemic became obvious during the months of February and early March. This was truly an exponential growth rate, and strong action was needed to nip this early in the growth phase of the pandemic.
Here is where Trump’s famous gut instinct failed him. He believed that the emotional response of the population to a pandemic would cause the electorate to reject him this fall. Thus he insisted upon proclamations of strong action, and magical disappearances of this contagious virus, and even nonsensical solutions of internal irradiation and chemical cleansing, while simultaneously disavowing any responsibility for the response. The time that could have been used to produce and procure protective equipment fled, and thus we were treated to pictures of nurses wearing garbage bags in a futile effort to keep the virus at bay. As time went on, it was obvious that this President had no answer to an enemy that did not respond to bullying, to name-calling, to blame-transference. As the second peak wave receded this summer, a false sense of security boosted his ratings. But then the third peak began its inexorable rise, and once more the electorate could see that this emperor had no clothes. We will see where this third (hopefully last) wave goes since we have months to go before any effective action can be taken by the new administration.
The reactive wave to Trumpism was already in motion. The coalition of population segments necessary to defeat this President at the polls swung into action. Yet the power of the personality cult of Donald Trump held out strongly. It was only in the last few returns from urban centers in Georgia and Pennsylvania when it became obvious that Biden had an unbeatable lead. Still, those who have clung to Trump for access to power are crying that this election was stolen, and legal action can reverse this trend.
It should be obvious that since 2000, the Electoral College and the popular vote are no longer in synch. This was very nearly the third election out of six this century where the winner of the popular vote did not win the election. That is evidence of the change in the demographics we are witnessing. Though Biden won more counties than Hillary Clinton won, the vast majority of counties, even in states where Biden won, were colored red on the electoral maps of the television networks. We are seeing a schism between Norman Rockwell America, and the new America of the urban centers. The Republicans have held onto power through their machinations with redrawing of legislative and congressional districts. Some of those districts will be redrawn after the current census, but many will still favor the Republicans inside of states. But by getting rid of the parasite-in-chief, there is an opportunity to revise government policies to be more responsive to the needs of the governed, rather than the needs of the 0.01% of the population at the top of the income and wealth statistics.
The coalition that defeated Trumpism will prove to be ephemeral, and short-lived. Any alliance that contains both Angela Davis and Bill Kristol is bound to come apart once the existential threat that bound them together, is returned into the wild. But the problems we face are truly immense, and the economic damage wrought by the pandemic will take many years to overcome. First, though, deal with the pandemic, since economic healing cannot occur until the physical healing from the covid virus happens.