Updated: Nov 9, 2020
The new Democrat commander-in-chief needs to move America from Trump and his causes, not resting complacently on the reclaimed and still rusty blue wall
The president-elect reached the White House by a whisker as Trump once again quite successfully contested expert polls at the polls and collected an otherwise handsome slice of the American pie. Alas for Trumpists, it was ‘otherwise handsome’ because it wasn’t enough to win the White House; Trump’s presidential era is closing.
But Trumpism is not, necessarily, or at least its causes are still bobbing along, which may prove even more momentous during the COVID economic despair than at the time of Trump’s bid for the presidency. Although a win for the Democrats, this election (occurring in the context of America’s disastrous COVID crisis) shows plenty of signs of concern for them. Trump lost Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia by razor-thin margins but collected big swing states like Florida and Ohio with clout. The markets responded positively to the potential of continuity as the odds of Trump winning lowered during election night. Although Obama set much of the train in motion, the US economy prior to COVID was performing relatively well. And while Trump was no saint in the world he observed some improved foreign relations and was even nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Liberals were right to have reservations on the personality and temperament of one of the most powerful men on Earth, but they were slow to give some credit and were frequently pedantic while dancing to Trump’s tune.
The new president-elect called for healing and unity in his victory speech, but he will do well to note the causes of Trump’s ascent, offering clear and solid support for communities such as those in his reclaimed ‘blue wall’ of rust belt states while distancing himself from patronising comments which fell into Trump’s lap.
Trump did not win in 2016 because America was a racist or sexist country, a ‘basket of deplorables’ that it now suddenly is not or was not before. It elected Trump because Americans, particularly de-industrialised ones in swing states like Michigan and Ohio, felt left behind by a rotten continuity in Washington the incumbent exploited with his Drain the Swamp, Crooked Hillary and Make America Great Again merchandise. He flogged and imaged a tacky brand that tapped into a very real discontent. There’s no reason to believe this reality has disappeared or will necessarily do so under ‘sleepy Joe Biden’, so anti-Trumpists are far from out of the woods. The strength of the economy or perhaps, more importantly, the dispersal of its fruits proves a foundational reason for (re-)election in peacetime. Thus, to not be complacent and avoid another interregnum these anti-Trumpists and Liberals with their new President need to respond to the COVID crisis with notable support for already alienated communities in the rust belt.
America needs to unify, for sure, like us all. But Biden should be careful if by ‘heal’ he means complacently taking it back to the media-friendly Obama days. Trump got in for a reason, and like much of history, that reason originated in the days before him. As this election has shown, there are still many millions who prefer him to Biden. Heal maybe, but the new president perhaps mostly needs to build something that will prevent another Trump (or worse) if he has the long-term interests of Americans in mind.