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2020 Elections Analysis: The Winners and The Losers

Frank F. Islam

Frank F. Islam

By Frank F Islam

Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division; have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation I say it is time for us to come together as one united people.

Those were the words of president-elect Donald Trump in his acceptance speech on November 9 after it was apparent that he would be the winner in the 2016 election. Four years later, when it was apparent that he would be the loser of the 2020 election, Trump was singing an entirely different tune.

Rather than encouraging the citizens “to come together as one united people,” the divider in chief contested the results, asked his supporters and Republicans to pledge allegiance to him rather than to the United States of America, and embarked on a campaign to tear the nation apart.

By so doing, Trump revealed that not only was he the electoral loser. He demonstrated that he is also a personal loser of grandiose scope and propensity.

In contrast, Joe Biden, the winner, accepted victory with humility. He has focused on charting the path forward for the country and its citizens.

In the 2020 presidential election, Trump was the loser and Biden was the winner. There were numerous other winners and losers in this election cycle.

The ones that come top of mind for us are listed below in no particular order.

  • Losers — pollsters, high hopes and expectations, unity, peaceful transfer of power, presidential dignity, the pandemic, the Democratic party.
  • Winners — political consultants and marketing firms, democracy, the electoral process and election workers, alternative reality, sloganeering and targeted messaging, ticket splitting, Jim Clyburn

Let’s take a quick look at each of these, beginning with the Losers.

The Losers

  • Most of them got it completely wrong in 2016, picking Clinton to beat Trump easily. This time they got it even more wrong, picking Biden to win easily and projecting a Democratic landslide up and down the ballot. Wrong on both counts. The polling industry is in shambles and licking its wounds. There will definitely be changes in how it does its business in the future. We think we are right on that. If we are, remember we polled you so.
  • High Hopes and Expectations. These were shattered on both sides. The Democratic and independent voters who put their trust in the polls and traditional media coverage came away wondering what crushed their dreams for dramatic change, and where their envisioned new reality went. The Trump base who put their faith in the President’s claims, Fox News, and Facebook felt similarly betrayed as they felt the so-called “fake news” was making stuff up in order to intrude and interfere with their reality.
  • There was a slight chance that the election might bring Americans closer together. It did not. It showed the divide between us is a chasm. That divide runs across the country between red states and blue states, rural and urban areas within states, blacks and whites, old and young, and men and women. It even separates family members and life-long friends from one another.
  • Peaceful Transfer of Power. One of the underpinnings of this thriving democracy has been the willingness of the incumbent president to turn over the reins of government to a successor. This transfer has gone on unimpeded and without any major incident since the United States was founded. Most recently, Republican president George W. Bush made it easy for Democrat Barack Obama to prepare to assume office, and Obama did the same for Republican Donald Trump. Initially, Donald Trump was unwilling to transfer power, refusing to allow the GSA to give the federal money that is part of a transition and to have his national security advisors and department heads brief Biden and the incoming administration.
  • Presidential Dignity. Given Donald Trump’s petty and petulant behavior while in office, the concept of presidential dignity might seem to be an oxymoron. This has not always been the case. Merriam Webster advises us that dignity of character and the term presidential have been linked going back to the presidency of George Washington. The level of dignity has varied from president to president. With the current one, the linkage has been broken and continues to be so as the President refuses to demonstrate even the slightest shred of dignity and grace by not conceding and congratulating his successor.
  • The Pandemic. Joe Biden made confronting the pandemic the centerpiece of his political campaign. Donald Trump tried to make the pandemic magically disappear by eliminating it from most of his campaigning or minimizing it by labeling it as Democratic fake news. Part of Biden’s winning and Trump’s losing the presidency can be attributed to their respective approaches to and messages on the pandemic. That’s the short-term perspective. Longer term, given Biden’s Covid-19 advisory board and determination to make this his No. 1 priority as president, the pandemic will be the loser.
  • The Democratic Party. As the election cycle moved from summer to fall, based upon polling results, the Democrats became aggressively optimistic about capturing more House seats and state legislative seats. The results were the reverse. The final count at this point is that the Republicans have gained 179 state legislative seats and at least 11 House seats. The Democrats in the House have now formed a circular firing squad, with the Progressives placing the blame on not being progressive enough and the moderates placing the blame on being too progressive. Presently, the marching orders are ready, fire, aim. Those orders need to change to give the Democrats a fighting chance in the 2022 elections.

The Winners

  • Political Consultants and Marketing Firms: An obscene amount of money was raised and wasted in this election cycle. In some instances, the primary, and sometimes only, beneficiaries were the consultants and marketing firms that took the money and ran while the candidates they ostensibly supported lost. Charles Lane documents the extent of that plundering in his Washington Post article, in which he points out that as of mid-October, Democrats and affiliated groups had spent $6.9 billion compared to a Republican expenditure of $3.8 billion. Lane also highlights the futility of that spending in Senate races lost by Democrats, such as the Jaime Harrison campaign spending $104 million to try to beat Lindsey Graham in South Carolina and the Amy McGrath campaign spending $73 million trying to beat Mitch McConnell in Kentucky in their respective races. Harrison and McGrath were both trounced in spite of their massive spending.
  • Democracy: It’s no secret that the many were fearful that re-electing Donald Trump to four more years in the Oval Office would spell the end of the American democracy. Although democracy won, it won by just a hair. Biden carried Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin by a combined total of a mere 44,000 votes. Trump was not re-elected by the American voters but he is still attempting to make the wishes of the voting public irrelevant for this election by frivolously claiming fraud, bringing suits, demanding recounts, and trying to persuade the Republican legislators in the battleground states to seat electors favorable to him rather than those legitimately selected by the people. If he is successful when the electoral college votes are cast on December 14, democracy will not be a winner. It will die.
  • The Electoral Process and Election Workers: Due to the diligent and impartial work of election officials and election volunteers in all of the states in these United States, with assistance from the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), these elections went off smoothly and were essentially fraud-free. After the election process and results were analyzed, Christopher Krebs, former director of CISA, announced the election wasn’t rigged. On November 17, Trump fired him for speaking the truth. And shortly thereafter, Joseph diGenova, an attorney for Trump’s campaign team on a talk show declared, “He should be drawn and quartered. Taken out at dawn and shot.” To the contrary, Krebs should be given the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the thousands of election employees across the country should be saluted and given high fives for their valiant contributions in the face of so much unwarranted disinformation and criticism.
  • Alternative Reality: Two days after Trump entered office, on January 22, Kellyanne Conway used the term “alternative facts” on Meet the Press to describe the false claims that Press Secretary Sean Spicer was making about the attendance at Trump’s inauguration. Those alternative facts were just the beginning of Donald Trump’s construction of an alternative reality, which has gone on for four years now. In that reality, the fake news, lies, and innuendoes that Trump propagates through tweets and public pronouncements, regardless of how preposterous, are embraced and endorsed by many Trump supporters as the truth. As his time in the Oval Office draws to a close, he continues to perpetuate the development of this alternative reality with what have been proven to be baseless claims of massive fraud in the election. Those claims may be baseless but they are also base-centric — designed to keep those in what some have labeled the Trump culture, and others have called the Trump cult, allegiant to their master. The strength of Trump’s alternative reality show was demonstrated by the more than 74 million votes he received this election.
  • Sloganeering and Targeted Messaging: Many politicians struggle to create a message box to communicate their point of view or priorities. Donald Trump did not. He is a message box. Even if the mainstream media did not always accept the accuracy or acidity of his messages, Donald Trump never swayed from them. He knew whom he was speaking to and what he was speaking about would resonate with them. Calling out and labeling Joe Biden and all Democratic candidates communists and socialists definitely had an appeal with those of Hispanic heritage, as shown in Florida and Texas. Creating the fear of a lawless society with police forces defunded and riots in the street had a racial and a senior appeal. Stopping illegal immigration had an appeal to many immigrants who had come here legally and played by the rules. Stating that he created the best economy ever, and that the Democrats would destroy it forever, had an appeal for the working class.
  • Ticket Splitting: One of the more interesting aspects of this election, was the extent of Republican ticket splitting. Trip Gabriel of The New York Times (The Times) reports that in suburbs and districts across the country, Republicans voted against Trump because of their “disgust” for him but voted Republican in their down ballot races. Thomas B. Edsall cites Gabriel’s piece and others in his excellent synthesis and analysis of the ticket splitting for The Times, and cautions that the liberal Democrats should not confuse this as a mandate or a sea change in party allegiance. The vote of moderate suburban Republicans for the Democrat at the top of the ticket was a vote against Trump and not for movement toward acceptance of a more progressive agenda.
  • Jim Clyburn: Finally, there is this 80-year old Congressman and House Majority Whip from South Carolina. Congressman Clyburn almost singlehandedly changed the course of electoral politics in 2020. When he endorsed and came out so forcefully and powerfully for Joe Biden during the Democratic primary, he changed the trajectory of Biden’s candidacy. Biden went on from his stunningly large victory in South Carolina to secure primary victory after primary victory and become the Democratic candidate for President. The Democrats should be thankful to Clyburn for that because it is highly unlikely that progressives such as Senator Bernie Sanders or Senator Elizabeth Warren could have secured the cross-over votes required to defeat Donald Trump on November 3.

The people have spoken. The verdict is in.

On December 14, the electoral college electors will cast their votes. On January 6, Congress will officially count the vote. And, on January 20, 2021, Joe Biden will be inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States of America

After that, on January 21, this nation will begin a new journey. In starting that journey, we should remember the words of Donald Trump that opened this blog:

Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division; have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation I say it is time for us to come together as one united people.

That was sage advice in 2016. By following it in 2021, we can reverse the downward trajectory of the past four years and make a united America the winner and a divided America the loser.

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