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After the Election: Division Not Unity

After the Election: Division Not Unity

Thursday, 5 November, 2020 - 08:00
Robert Ford
Robert Ford is a former US ambassador to Syria and Algeria and a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute for Near East Policy in Washington

Americans on Wednesday woke up to some good news: the voting process from Florida to Hawaii went well. I myself was a member of a civil society observer team here in Maine and we visited nine polling centers on Tuesday. There were no problems anywhere, no intimidation, no demonstrations, and in our small towns no long lines of people waiting to cast their ballots. The polling center directors all said the number of ballots received by mail was at least double the number in 2016. On a national level, it appears that participation might reach 66 percent of the voters, the most in 100 years.


But Americans also learned bad news: more people voted for Democratic Party candidates and more people voted for Republican candidates. Biden already received more votes than Hillary Clinton in 2016, and Trump received more votes in 2020 than he received in 2016. Despite all the accusations against Trump it is easy to imagine that he would have won the election easily except that the coronavirus at the end of his term helped the Democrats a little. And polarization in America is growing. In Georgia, a Republican Party candidate (female) won her election easily despite her implicit calls for violence against Democrats. She also supported a group called QAnon that has millions of followers on the internet that asserts Democratic Party leaders like Hillary Clinton of child-sex trafficking, murder, and Satan worship. This accusation is ridiculous, no security or judicial agency confirms it, but millions of Americans believe there is a conspiracy, and now this woman is a member of Congress. Meanwhile, leftist Democrats in Congress like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez from New York also won reelection easily.


In the best scenario now, we will not know the preliminary presidential election result for days. Biden urges citizens to have patience while the votes all are counted. President Trump on Tuesday night claimed he had already won and demanded that counting of votes arriving by mail must stop. He said these votes, which are favoring Biden, are “a major fraud” and he promised to raise court cases to stop the vote counting in Pennsylvania and other states. So, remember, dear readers, that the preliminary results this week will not be the final result. Watch court cases in places like Pennsylvania. And here is another thing to watch: if Trump continues to warn about fraud in order to take away any legitimacy from a Biden victory, how will rightist militias react? An independent analysis organization warned last week that the risk of violence from rightist militias is greatest in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Georgia. These are the same states that on Wednesday were still counting votes, especially mail votes that favor Biden. Some Republican Party politicians are urging Trump to stop his statements that implicitly incite militia violence, but Trump has never paid these Republican politicians much attention.


If Trump finally does win, politics in America won’t change nor will there be any reconciliation between the two political camps. The Democratic Party still controls the House of Representatives and there will be more sharp political battles about budgets, taxes, immigration law, and corruption. Trump’s foreign policy won’t change. And the Democratic Party will move more to the left after the moderate Biden fails.


And if Biden finally wins, this Democratic Party victory will be very important but also limited. In 2020 the Democratic Party had hoped to capture the majority of the members of the Senate. Instead, it appears that the Republican Party will maintain control. Biden will have difficulty receiving approval for the members of his cabinet and his top officials from a Senate under Republican control; approval will take months instead of weeks. The Republican Senate will block Democratic Party initiatives from the White House and the House of Representatives on social justice reform, police reform, tax reform, and health sector reform. The Republican Party will fight expensive new government programs in order to reduce the national budget deficit and embarrass the Democrats. With a divided Congress and an increase of polarization, it is not clear that either a Trump administration or a Biden administration could find compromise and agreement between Democrats and Republicans on fast new economic measures to help the American economy as the pandemic gets worse in the winter. I am losing hope that the national government can solve America’s problems. Here in Maine and in towns across the country citizens continue with their lives and go to work and raise their families. We see political divisions, but also people sometimes cooperate and find practical solutions. More and more I think our political solutions must come at the level of localities and states, not from Washington.


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