DC Report's Terry Schwadron reflects on Trump and Biden duking it out over a hopelessly divided nation, saying the election results tell us little about what direction Americans want for their country

DC Report's Terry Schwadron reflects on Trump and Biden duking it out over a hopelessly divided nation, saying the election results tell us little about what direction Americans want for their country

*This article comes from DCReport and is used with permission.

By Terry H. Schwadron, DCReport Opinion Editor

Amid results that will require more days to validate, it was the American voter last night who emerged as the big winner—indeed the only winner until Donald Trump decided he won and tried to kick over the whole table.

After all, it was the dedicated individual voter who proved willing to stand in line in time for hours during a public contagion, to put up with widespread Republican efforts to squash the vote, to accept endless Democratic email solicitations, to ignore tons of misleading advertising. All was in the name of maintaining some sense of democracy.

That Americans took the moment seriously is worth its moment.

But now an impatient Trump has decided that he can’t wait for counting actual votes, and has launched us unceremoniously into a tangle of legal challenges and possibly a serious constitutional crisis.

Still, yesterday was showing us anew we are so divided as a country that despite days of huge early voting, we couldn’t easily decide on the actual contest.  Voters could not do the one thing that the election was supposed to settle—consider whether the Trump approach was good or bad.

Instead, the Election Day turnout once again turned America’s Republican White rural counties against diverse Democratic urban strongholds.

In those rare moments when the talking heads stopped the noise, we could see that Trump had effectively turned out his forces with a campaign that cared more about the ground game than care about coronavirus. And Democrats did not turn out in Atlanta and Miami in the numbers they needed to offset those rural votes.

We could understand that Joe Biden, who had been said to have lots of paths to 270 Electoral College votes was down to a pretty singular shot: As battleground state after state fell into place for Donald Trump through the night, the outcome finally was going to land right in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, all the places requiring us to wait a few more days. It might hand on a single electoral vote from Omaha, we were told.

What comes next

I’m sure I was not alone in entering the night thinking that a huge turnout meant that there was a majority out there that wanted to separate fact from propaganda, to recognize there remains a place for morality in public life, to stand up to say, “Enough.”

Instead, as the night dragged on, it seemed much more believable that the Trump fear campaign against some kind of perceived takeover of White America by people of color, an un-real believed danger of “socialism” and maybe buying that Trump is better at creating jobs.

It’s not over yet, of course. I don’t care about waiting another day for the votes—though I do care about waiting through a series of legal cases with no apparent merit in a bald attempt to stop the ball game in the seventh inning.

And I am upset about the evenness of the split in all those states.

One couldn’t help but see this night as a parallel to Hillary Clinton’s election meltdown four years ago.  Once again, the winner of the most popular votes could go down in Electoral College defeat, although that was looking less likely as late vote tallies in Wisconsin and Michigan were leaning toward Biden. For lightning to strike twice seemed highly improbable, but there we were at the end of the night with a decent chance that Trump can get a judgment in the next day or two to keep him in office—if he just lets people do their jobs.

Though Trump himself had debased the idea of counting all the outstanding ballots in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and the others, he too needs these votes to win reelection. Instead, he just asserts it.

What is certain about the election results is that they tell us little as a nation about what direction Americans want for the country. State result after result was split almost evenly between a candidate who thinks we should ignore coronavirus and one who believes we need a national emergency declaration—and likewise on virtually any public issue involving governing, character or empathy.

The two candidates themselves could agree only on the idea that they each represented a polar opposite of the other. To the last moment of campaigning, Trump proved himself devoid of the reality of public contagion, of the unequal effect of his economy, of global responsibilities of the need to fear The Other. To his last public uttering, Biden was insisting we needed to retrieve the nation’s soul from an idiotic clown.

No lessons learned

How is it possible for Americans to divide equally?

To underscore the obvious, the voting on Senate candidates split nearly evenly as well, giving neither party the kind of majority that can provide any sense of authority.

If this election was supposed to be a referendum on Donald Trump’s presidency, even a huge turnout proved a fizzle. It was neither definitively positive or negative.

Two years of vituperation, $14 billion in campaign spending, and what do we have?

We’re headed for more of the same, regardless of who finally is sitting in the Oval Office.

Meanwhile, Trump remains president, of course.

I would like to think that this kind of night might provide a splash of water to a boorish, ego-centric president, to take account of a very divided nation, whether for two months or for four more years.

But instead, we can expect that he will continue to ignore the realities of coronavirus, to take punitive actions against individuals like Dr. Anthony Fauci whom he perceives as opposing him, and to create lots more executive actions to worsen immigration, health care, environment,  income inequality and racism – all while the lame-duck Senate Republican majority shoves through more conservative federal judges with lifetime terms.

The open question is who or what will emerge as the big loser of the night. My first choice is the insistence on using flashing super-screens with red and blue that underscores that we care more about the horse race than considering the values to which we hope to aspire.

But the bigger loser for the night is trust in our democracy. This campaign has underscored our need to win at any cost, spawning lies, dark money, and a distinct refusal to separate partisan fiction from the realities of complicated problems.

We asked the American public to consider an accounting for the Trump years. The American voter gave it a good shot—and whiffed.

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26 Comments

the divided states of america is about to be born.

congratulation!

14
up

So tired of this "divided" nonsense. Of course it is divided it is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, democracy. You know, what makes it strong.
If you don't want divided go live in China.

Zachary,

You are correct, at least partly. Its diversity has been a strength, though its treatment of Afro-Americans represents a dark stain on its story. However, and this predates Trump, these tensions, which are not unique to the US-just think of the huge differences between the North and South of England or Italy say-are turning into chasms. All Empires fail and we may be witnessing the beginning of the end of the 'American Dream'. Personally, I hope not. I would like to see it somehow regenerate itself, but I am not optimistic.

So tired of this "divided" nonsense. Of course it is divided it is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, democracy. You know, what makes it strong.

Yeah but despite this diversity, they can't do house price bubbles like us self-effacing Kiwis. What's more, cannabis was legalized in 4 states y'day. Shows ol' Cindy Ardern and middle NZ a thing or two about progress.

Yes Kate I was aware of that too. To be honest, it probably saves much police and court time.

My god, we are less progressive than South Dakota, Montana and Arizona! Shame on you NZ voters.

True. Look at us go - less than a month since we elected a majority government for the first time in 24 years and we're already judging other countries for being "divided".

It's just a naming convention - we like to call our MMP-led divide " political diversity".

Yeah I guess it’s nothing compared to some of the divisions in the past, slavery etc. I’m still not sure why some of the states put up with the others though.

Not a bad piece, but the writer misses the overpopulation, resource draw-down, lessening of opportunities world in which the US was the last Empire (there being not enough planet for any to take its place; we're out of time).

The other thing worth us noting, here, is the similarity between 'Make America Great Again', and 'Let's rebuild the Economy'. There is no difference; both are attempts to reboot an unattainable past. The first one to articulate a valid narrative which is future-applicable, will win the candy-floss. Until then, all political posturing is akin to asserting the earth is flat.

We should be grateful that we have the privilege to live in NZ and not in that US cesspit.

Read my post.

Carefully.

Where the USA is going
We go.
We are a band of.....
Bother.

We might be going to where the USA is but not as fast. They are already in a world of trouble, its really doesn't matter who wins this election.

Granny Herald does a good job at reinforcing that attitude.

We’ll need to align with either US or China.

China does seem a harmonious happy society without social unrest and political ructions so perhaps they are better for NZ than the US?

Yes, indeed, delboy, with Trump's demise all hope for Western civilization is gone burger.

I did warn people about a rising dragon in the East years ago on these very threads but the response was, "You just posted cringe, bro!"

All empires fall and I believe we’re now watching the demise of the US and rise of the Chinese empire.

Good grief four US states just yesterday legalised possession of heroin and cocaine so maybe aligning with conservative China is a better option.

Cocaine, my god, next you’ll tell me they allow people to have guns!

If not mistaken, P is also allowed and I'm not so sure about the past proposal to have military grade ordnance in hand of civilians, in US most citizen is encourage to be creative all the time, I lost count as how many things originated from US..& being used/consumed worldwide.

Quite the opposite, Trump is the demise of the US. Instead of trying to compete with China by being better (technology etc), he’s trying to bring the low wage jobs back to the states via tariffs. China are trying to progress their way towards prosperity like Japan and Taiwan did, meanwhile Trump is trying to take the US back to 1960.

Trump is trying to remodel the USA to be more like the EU.

at last -- someone writing about the actual issue in this election -- it no longer matters who actually wins -- when we are talking about at least three states where a handful of votes could change the overall outcome -- the election only proves how divided the country is -- an empire about to collapse from within!

So, no change then?

I have a slight hunch.. that USA will be more diversified, inclusive as soon as becoming a DSA (Divided States of America) - they are in the fore front of this collective human endeavor. Honestly, not in negative way - grew up since childhood among them.. and pick up quite a good traits from them, 'United' have been followed throughout history by the Romans, British, German, Russia, China etc.. eventually they'll rotten off. The USA could be in choosing future, more dynamic democratic mechanism.. imagine in DSA.. one state concentrating for military production, other state is in healthcare, other is actually where consume addicts to be located - and yet? they're all patriotically announced as America. The words united we stands divided we falls, need to be revisited.. remember stands is never a good position to be during storm

It took Bush/Gore 2 months to get from the ballot box to a decision in the Supreme Court. We have just had Act I, "A Vote Occurs". Now for Acts II through XI the lawyers will fight. And then we will have Grande Finale where one of the worst people in the world will win.

I wonder how many people who post here have ever spent any significant time in the US? I lived and worked there for six years and travelled widely with my work. The people are generally very friendly and incredible hosts. Unfortunately many have a very narrow view of the world. My observation was that this was government driven through the media. The USA is huge and the people change markedly from state to state. Although I think Trump is a halfwit, having seen first hand some of the gutting of US manufacturing and the consequent gutting of the middle class I can fully understand why he is very popular.
Those who are writing off the US as a world force are naive! The US provided most of the groundbreaking tech of the 20th century. Very smart people! They have many issues to sort out but they will eventually. When they put their minds to solving energy issues and the myriad of other issues the world faces then they will again lead from the front.