What does the fact that over 70m Americans voted for Trump mean?
Donald Trump may have lost the 2020 presidential election, but a significant number of Americans voted for him, which indicates that Trumpism runs rampant in the United States.
The following commentary has been written by Hamid Dabashi, Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, for Aljazeera.
“Donald Trump’s crushing defeat in the 2020 US presidential election was a psychological triumph for humanity at large. The peoples of the world needed catharsis from the terror of Donald Trump that Americans perpetrated upon them, so they wished for his humiliating defeat. This collective wish had nothing to do with his rival, Joe Biden. It had everything to do with humanity’s desire to return to sanity and reason after being subjected to Trump’s thuggery for four calamitous years
On the morning of November 7, when Joe Biden was finally called as the winner of the election, there was a sigh of relief audible across America and the world. But the respite was brief. Now Americans and the rest of the world are wondering how some 70 million people could vote for Donald Trump, after his racist thuggery was on full display for so long.
The 73,701,667 Voters Question
“How can 59,054,087 people be so dumb?” The question a British tabloid asked on its front page when delivering the news of George W Bush’s re-election in 2004 is perhaps one of the most memorable phrases in the contemporary history of US presidential elections.
The world had witnessed Bush’s invasion and occupation of first Afghanistan in 2001, and then Iraq in 2003. It had seen what kind of a man he was and how much damage he could inflict on humanity at large. Still, Americans had re-elected him as their president. So the British tabloid’s question was brutish and rude (especially coming from a country that was then being led by Tony Blair), but it was also legitimate.
And the questions persist in 2020. As of November 21, 73,781,603 people voted for Trump, which amounts to 47.2 percent of the total votes counted. The same statistics tell us 79,816,557 Americans voted for Biden, which is about 51.1 percent of the total votes counted.
These are not bad numbers – a majority of American people, especially Black people and other marginalised communities at the mercy of this country’s historic, systemic and incurable racism, voted Donald Trump out of office. There is much reason to celebrate that fact. But there is much reason for soul searching too.
Even when you look at the so-called “blue” states, like my home state of New York, you see thousands if not millions of determined Trump supporters. Trump lost New York in the 2020 election, but only 58.3 percent of New Yorkers voted against him. A solid 40.4 percent of voters used their ballots to demonstrate their support for a racist criminal who denies climate change and has the blood of more than 200,000 innocent Americans on his hands for failing to lead the country through the coronavirus pandemic. That is four out of 10 people I cross paths with every day on my way to work or my local park. This is a frightening fact.
Do not be fooled by these “blue” and “red” states. There is red inside every blue state, and blue inside every red state. There is no separate country somewhere between Ohio and Idaho, North Dakota and Texas to give to Republicans while the Democrats live their bicoastal lives in peace.
How to read the frightening fact
Democrats had declared the 2020 election “a battle for the soul of the country”. The fact that some 70 million Americans voted for the diabolic charlatan that is Trump has prompted many Americans to wonder what exactly is this “soul” they think they are fighting to save.
On November 5, the New York Times published an op-ed by Roxane Gay with the headline “This is America”. A day later, however, the headline was changed to “I am Shattered, but Ready to Fight”. This peculiar headline change was the embodiment of the anxiety that has engulfed not only the masses of Americans who did not vote for Trump, but also the so-called “paper of record”, in the wake of the presidential election. New York Times editors clearly do not know what to do with the millions of Americans who voted for Trump even after witnessing the range and depth of his evil character for four long years.
Though the headline was changed, the troubling fact remains in the body of the text, Roxane Gay writes: “This is not an aberration. This is indeed our country and who the proverbial ‘we’ are. The way this election has played out shouldn’t be a surprise if you’ve been paying attention or if you understand racism and how systemic it really is.”
Roxane Gay is not the only American who has started this soul searching. Living in a country where basically half of its people voted for a xenophobic freak who ordered babies to be snatched from their mothers’ arms and put in cages, four years after all such cruelties were on full display, is not an easy task.
“I think it’s a mistake to convince ourselves that Trump, or Trumpism, is easy to defeat,” Noah Berlatsky wrote in the Independent. “The truth is, as we are learning again, Trump, in all his incompetence, brutishness, and cruelty, embodies one powerful, ugly, and persistent version of the American dream.”
There is a problem with all such honest assessments, however. They all leave the Democratic Party off the hook. The corruption, incompetence and downright reactionary disposition of the Democratic Party cannot be ignored when trying to make sense of these catastrophic numbers. The Democratic Party told us Biden was the safe choice, and he almost lost the election to a racist brute, for Americans lacked a truly visionary choice befitting their dire circumstances.
There is no over-reading the results of this election. Americans were given a choice between a Republican crook and a worn-out Democrat – half of them choose one and the other half the other. What’s strange about that? Garbage in garbage out – as they say. “He may be a son of a b***h, but he’s our son of a b***h.” That’s what President Franklin Roosevelt is believed to have said about Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza. Well, what goes around comes around. That is evidently what Republicans think of Trump, too: He’s their son of a b***h.