The Trump era is drawing to a close. Even though a lot of votes are still to be counted, we can now safely say that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are headed for the White House.
It was a tense election because the stakes were so high and those initial results were alarming for those of us desperately hoping for a Biden victory.
If American election happened at the same speed as British ones, this would be classed as a ‘thumping victory’ for Biden. But because it’s taking so long and votes have swept the country in waves, first the Republican which made it look like Biden was in trouble and then the Democrat in the days after, it seems to have downplayed the achievement of those responsible for defeating Trump.
The reason for this weird process is because of the different campaign strategies. Trump told his supporters not to trust the postal vote system (to lay the foundations for his latest conspiracy theory), yet Biden urged his supporters to vote by post because it was better for public health during a pandemic.
In-person votes were counted first, followed by postal votes, which is why the first results were so distorted. I tutted to myself as some social-media commentators rushed to write Biden off. Patience!
Even though this is still unfolding lets consider the scale of what’s happened and consider the scale of what’s happening:
Biden has already received more votes than any presidential candidate in history, and they’re still counting! He has decisively won both the complex electoral collage – the tally of points given for winning each state – and the popular vote which is the total number of votes across the country.
Biden got millions and millions more votes than Trump.
He’s won back most of the so-called ‘rust-belt’ states that Trump took in his shock election victory in 2016, and it looks like he’s pulled off the stunning achievement of winning in Georgia which has a Republican governor and is Republican from top-to-bottom.
The other thing that leaps out at me is that Biden and Harris have performed much better than the Democratic Party as a whole: don’t forget they’ve been electing members of congress and the senate too, but local candidates haven’t done nearly as well as the presidential one.
The reason all this is important to me is because the president has a nickname for our prime minister: ‘Britain Trump’.
Trump is in a league of his own but some of his leadership hallmarks are shared by Boris Johnson, like frequent lies, use of racist, sexist or homophobic tropes to attack people he doesn’t like, and rank disregard for the actual business of governing which has led to catastrophic failures in the core business of any government which is to protect its citizens from harm.
So I’ve been watching the American campaign very closely, I want Labour to repeat the success of our sister party in America.
Populist politics is like a virus. An entire complex rich colourful world of political life boiled down to its absolute core. It’s emotional rather than factual, it offers simplicity in a world of complexity, and you don’t need a degree from a posh university to understand it. Superficially it feels like you’ve been brought into a world of answers rather than the one most of us inhabit which is filled with questions and challenges. You don’t need to understand things at all – why go to the bother when there’s someone at the top who tells you what the ‘truth’ is. All you have to do is believe, and as we’ve seen both here and in the US, a lot of people do believe.
There’s a lot of early lessons for Labour, the party I represent here in Hove and Portslade. First is the most important: people like Trump can be beaten.
Democrats didn’t chose an equal opposite to Trump, someone at the other extreme of the political equation. They were clever and listened to the priorities of voters in areas where they’d lost support and chose a candidate who could reflect their priorities whilst remaining true to Democrat values and principles.
In other words, they didn’t count on the country turning against Trump to win them the election, they went before voters with candidates for president and vice-president that had broad appeal, values and principals that were recognised by mainstream America as well as well as rooted in those of their political party.
Many of us will still be shocked that so many Americans did end up voting for Trump who’s attitude to women, lies, and indignity in office were such an affront to the best of their country. We’ll have to wait to fully understand what motivated people, but my hunch is that the core political dividing lines in America over gun control, deregulation, and abortion probably played a part.
Exit polls showed that the economy was a more important factor than covid, which was also noteworthy. And finally it’s possible – possible – that with Biden leading in the polls so decisively, many Americans felt able to vote Republican thinking it wouldn’t lead to Trump winning.
Anyway, today feels like an important moment. Trump’s meltdown on TV last night will, I’m sure, be reflected upon and referred to by countless generations to come in history classes and discussions about democracy. I felt sickened by his words but happy that it was the watershed moment which hopefully marks his fading as a political character along with the bile which accompanies it.
So enraptured have I been with this election that I even went to my office in parliament at 4.30am on Wednesday so I could watch it unfold!