The world over, we’re seeing elections impacted by COVID-19. Typically, Joe Biden’s attempt to unseat Donald Trump is the most extreme example.
A new expression entered the political lexicon in 2020: The Covid election. Around the world, prime ministers, presidents and premiers were judged by voters on how they had managed the coronavirus crisis. Had they handled it or mishandled it?
Across the ditch, Jacinda Ardern handled it so well, her Labour Government was returned with a clear majority for the first time since they brought in their weird MMP voting system designed to boost minor parties and make majority rule nigh impossible.
Two elections ago, Winston Peters, leader of New Zealand First, lost his seat but still became Deputy Prime Minister. It’s nuts, but that’s for another day. Back home, in Queensland, Premier Palaszczuk’s tough border control stance impressed the locals and she won. Her message that ‘we kept you safe’ resonated in the electorate.
My argument gets a bit wobbly when we shift to the United States presidential election which some observers (shades of 2016) predicted to be a wipeout for President Trump. As I write this, Joe Biden is within the grasp of the Electoral College magic number of 270, which will get him the keys to the White House.
ELECTION LATEST: https://t.co/puEcrXwnpg
– PA Sec. of State says counting “ahead of schedule.”
– Outstanding vote in GA from Democrat-leaning counties.
– Pres. Trump appears to make up a bit of ground in AZ.
— ABC News (@ABC) November 5, 2020
I say ‘wobbly’ because the exit polls showed that Trump’s abysmal and tragic handling (non-handling) of the coronavirus crisis was not a major issue in voters’ minds. Even though more than a quarter of a million Americans have died. Even though new daily cases are hitting 100,000. Even as places like Wisconsin reported a surge in cases after Trump held more of his narcissistic super-spreader rallies. Even after Trump told a rally he would fire his virus expert, Anthony Fauci, after the election. He boasted he would sack probably the most respected man in the country.
And, as the daily Covid cases rose, Trump told his mask-less cheer squad, at rally after rally, that ‘we have turned the corner’. And, for months he claimed the US would have a vaccine ‘soon, very, very soon’. Then, as if to prove a reckless point, Melania Trump, the First Lady, turned up to vote in a $30,000 Gucci dress and no mask.
In the midst of all this, I liked the Twitter contribution from one Jake Nelson who stole from Kermit the Frog’s Rainbow Connection to pen: ‘Some day we’ll find it, the Covid election, the coughers, the fevers and me’.
So back to what really happened in the ‘landslide election’. Trump is a brilliant campaigner. No doubt. The uncle dancing to the Village People’s YMCA to show he was fitter than old Sleepy Joe. He again surprised the experts by winning Florida –as he did against the odds in 2016.
Painting Biden, and especially his running mate Kamala Harris, as socialists. That really worked with Latinos. Especially when people turned up at rallies wearing Che Guevara t-shirts to prove a point. Trump peeled away Latino voters who had voted for Hillary Clinton.
The most unedifying time in this cliff-hanger of a presidential election was Trump’s late-night ranting from inside the White House. He claimed he had won. He hadn’t. He claimed states he hadn’t won. And he said that if he lost it was because of the Democrats’ voter fraud. The president of the Free World said he would go to the Supreme Court to stop votes being counted.
The most unedifying time in this cliff-hanger of a presidential election was Trump’s late-night ranting from inside the White House. He claimed he had won. He hadn’t. He claimed states he hadn’t won. And he said that if he lost it was because of the Democrats’ voter fraud. The president of the Free World said he would go to the Supreme Court to stop votes being counted in states like Pennsylvania and Michigan. The irony was not lost on some observers. Remember when the US would send observers, even uninvited, to Third World countries to protect voters’ rights in corrupt regimes?
His Supreme Court bullying threat had karma written all over it. I had fearful late-night emails and tweets from worried people pointing out that Trump had stacked the Supreme Court 6-3 with his latest appointment days before the election. That’s where karma comes in. The newest Supreme Court Justice, Amy Coney Barrett, is a constitutional fanatic. I believe if lower court judges rule that Trump’s dummy spit is unconstitutional she will vote with them and against the president.
In stark contrast to Trump’s petulance, Joe Biden made two brief, dignified, appearances in 12 hours as America teetered in presidential limbo-land. He did not claim victory. He was confident he would win ‘but that’s up to the American people’. He sounded presidential. Which is what a savagely divided America needs right now. Not four more years of a narcissistic TV reality show host.
Also on The Big Smoke
- We’re politicising the biggest health emergency in a century
- Jacinda Ardern won over her harshest critics…her own people
- Abbott putting money ahead of morality is something out of Nazi Germany
- Don’t blame COVID-19 for the aged care crisis
A salient point in the analysis of where and how Trump lost the White House. I believe he lost some older voters because of his dismissive attitude to Covid. But, as CNN kept stressing on their whiz-bang maps, Trump lost the suburbs. The ‘suburban housewives’ he won in 2016. Just remember his rally begging in 2020: ‘Please love me’.
As the results unfolded, you would see Trump polling strongly in rural areas in many states. But then the cities would kick in and the suburbs and his lead would shrink, and in some states disappear. And there goes the ballgame.
The polls weren’t that wrong even though you’ll read otherwise. Biden got more than 70 million popular votes. That’s more than Obama got. When people are asked how they are voting nobody mentions the Electoral College.
PS: At least, in all this, I learned a new word: psephology. It’s the statistical study of elections and voting trends.