It is likely that in under two weeks we will know the outcome of the US presidential election. The last four years have been like no other in presidential history and there is a feeling that should Joe Biden win, with his platform of making politics boring again, America can take a big sigh of relief and move on. This, unfortunately, is unlikely to be the case.
In 2016, Donald Trump ran on two key principles. The first was that he was not an establishment figure, he had never held public office, was not part of a dynasty and he was going to ‘drain the swamp’ of these types of figures.
The second was his infamous ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan, a phrase used previously by Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. These ideas spoke to the spirit of the American dream, that anyone can reach the top with enough hard work and determination. Lots of people who were not typically Republican voters, particularly Blue-collar workers, could get behind these ideas. Trump managed to engage people in politics who had felt left behind in the Obama years. Four years later, these people passionately support Trump and are fighting for his re-election.
Biden has been presented as the moderate face of America, the antithesis of Trump. His campaign has not been about policy, it has been about personality. It is felt that Biden will bring a certain gravitas and decorum to the oval office that has been lacking during Trump’s tenure. The Democrats understand Biden is not going to motivate those who have not voted before, but in comparison to their 2016 candidate, they have someone with significantly fewer skeletons in their closet.
America is a deeply divided country which is highlighted by how different the two candidates are. Both candidates recognise the presence of this division but have taken different approaches to it. Trump relishes the divisions just as any populist would, he sows seeds of division at any chance he gets, whether it be positing that the riots are a great example of what a Biden America will look like, or praising the wild followers of the conspiracy of QAnon. Biden sees a country that is hurting and wants to bring the nation back together. He wants to appeal to traditional Republicans put off by Trump’s behaviour, Blue-collar workers lost by Hilary in 2016, as well as his loyal base.
Whoever of these two candidates wins, there will be no healing taking place any time soon. Since Trump’s election, both sides have veered closer to the more extreme ends of their side of politics. The Republicans have overall supported Trump throughout his tenure, whatever decisions he has taken. They have shown they are more than happy to embrace his views and leave tradition at the door if they keep winning.
The left and Biden have undoubtedly moved further toward less mainstream views, highlighted in Biden recently coming out in support of children identifying as trans, something that was not on the agenda four years ago. His running mate has also faced criticism for her views on abortion with many surmising she believes pregnancies should be terminated up to the due date of birth. All of this is taking place in the shadow of groups such as Antifa, and the alt-right. The centre-ground, that traditionally both candidates occupy in a presidential election, is nowhere to be found.
Should Biden win, he will be faced with a large swathe of Trump voters trained to view him as the enemy and a Republican party who witnessed the nation’s appetite for Trumpism and have been happy to let it take over their party. He will also have to manage the criticism and opposition of the more extreme wings of politics in a country that has never quite got past the Cold war ideology of fearing socialism and communism.
It is unlikely Trump will give up his Twitter addiction after his presidency either, adding to the list of likely dissenting voices. A Trump win would mean four more years of his divisive, populist rhetoric. His politics will become more entrenched within his party and its voters.
America will continue to be divided long into the future no matter how the results unfold next month. The election in 2016 looks to have opened a box that cannot be easily closed, and one that will remain open for this election and likely those that follow in the coming years.