Breathe in. Breathe out. Donald Trump lost the election.
Joe Biden’s win gives many a ray of hope at the end of this dark and gloomy 2020 tunnel.
Though there’s a lot to say about Biden and his validity as the Democratic candidate, this
defeat of Trump offers some reassurance that the US is returning to some political normalcy.
But as is so often the case with being on the progressive side of politics, basking in victory can only last for a short while. This time the election was concerningly close; even though Trump lost, the sheer number of votes cast for him is staggering and concerning.
Biden and Trump received more votes than any other political candidates in history. Biden won 79 million and Trump won 73 million. Those 79 million contributed to a political change, a break away from the Trump era, but those 73 million wanted a continuation, an extension of the past four years and what Trump stands for. A far clearer political pitch than what we saw in 2016.
When up against Hillary Clinton, Trump was a new figure: his difference and lack of respect for political traditions and conventions masterfully working in his favour. The comparison of him next to Clinton was clear. To millions, she was yet another bland establishment Democrat, while Trump was fresh and different, despite his extremely problematic nature. But that nature was overlooked, ignored even, because Trump gave variety to a broken system. His vague lack of policy was overlooked and his novelty allowed him to not need a comprehensive plan for governance.
This time however, Trump wasn’t this new, bald as brass figure who represented a break
away from establishment politics. He had just spent four years being the President, the
highest position in the land. With his last eight months of it being a disastrous period, tackling the Covid-19 pandemic poorly. Also, the aspects of Clinton’s campaign – from the emails, Russian interference, and the ‘basket of deplorables’ remark – were no longer there. The 73 million who cast their red votes knew exactly what they were signing up for. There was no sense of ‘let’s give him a chance’; a vote for him was a vote for four more years of his ideologies and policies. Those being nationalism, anti-globalism, closed borders, anti-immigrant sentiment and an ambiguous America-first approach.
This closeness tells us that his 2016 win wasn’t a fluke, it wasn’t this erratic political anomaly that came out of nowhere. He and what he represents had and still has support. Those feelings are there, angry with loss (many denying the loss altogether), ready to be lit up by anyone who knows what gets people angry and how best to win a campaign by tapping into division and hate.
As we often look at America as a means of reflecting on our own country, this is a warning to the UK. Those aspects of nationalism, anti-globalism, political scapegoating of immigrants and the use of simple, vague solutions to difficult problems have bubbled up in both countries.
It’s very easy to think that the political technique of inciting division and casting out any need for unity and democratic respect for one another, as used by Trump, can’t happen over here in the calm liberal UK with our (sort of) variety of parties and parliamentary democracy.
But it’s becoming increasingly evident that these political sentiments which took
over America four years ago have absolutely creeped their way into the political discourse of our own country.
In terms of vague terminology used in campaigns as policy, the similarities are unnerving: ‘Make America Great Again’ and ‘Get Brexit Done’; ‘Build The Wall’ and ‘Take Back Control’; ‘Four More Years’ and’ Oven Ready Deal’.
Looking at our Prime Minister’s trajectory – Johnson became leader, chucked out the Tory MP’s who scrutinised him, tried to prorogue Parliament, called an early election and then won it on a handful of unclear political promises.
And with his unshakeable position as PM with a big 74 majority, we’ve got Priti Patel who has overseen plans that immigrants entering the UK to have to speak English. Who’s also now trying to store incoming asylum seekers in offshore centres on Ascension Island. Furthermore, Jacob Rees-Mog now is Leader of the House, a position such a right-wing Conservative, like him, hasn’t filled for years.
The comparisons are becoming more and more equally weighed up. Those of us who
support progressive, democratic politics in the UK should look at America not as a sigh of relief, but as an example, to learn from their mistakes. Divisive, anti-democratic, nationalistic and consciously unclear policies are there for the taking and any politician determined to take power can grab them whenever they want to. Ready to tap into fears and insecurities that the public hold for all sorts of reasons.
We must never think that such an event as Trump’s election and mass support for those
ideas can’t happen over here. Take it as a warning, for Boris Johnson is a step too close towards it.
Image: BarBus from Pixabay