The 2016 election result can no longer be dismissed as a one-off, a temporary aberration in American political life. More Americans voted for Trump in 2020 than in 2016. So 2016 was no accident – seventy-four million Americans voted for Trump in 2020.
Seventy-four million Americans were prepared to vote for a climate change denying serial liar. It’s as simple as that. Seventy million Americans are happy to see their country retreat from world leadership on a wide range of issues. Seventy-four million Americans voted for a man who showed a complete disregard for America’s democratic laws and principles by declaring victory before it had been secured, used legal measures to try to halt counting where he was in front and wanted to extend counting where he was behind. Seventy-four million.
Trump’s most consistent policy direction has been to undo everything Obama did – the dog whistle sub-text being that no black American president should have any legitimacy. Seventy-four million Americans are apparently comfortable with that.
Trump’s Covid-19 denial has become the stuff of legend, even as the daily new cases total soars above 100,00 and the deaths total approaches a quarter of a million. Seventy-four million Americans are apparently comfortable with that.
The idea of the 2020 election as a battle for the soul of America became a theme for both campaigns, as though a deep-seated dysfunction could be remedied by just a single round of voting. Seventy-four million Americans put paid to that idea.
Look into the dark recesses of America’s soul and it is now possible to discern a different reality: an atavistic revival of Civil War and Jim Crow attitudes where voter suppression by whatever means is a legitimate political tool; a blatant disregard for fact, logic and science; a rabid refusal to accept the outcome of a legitimate political process.
There are lots of excuses out there for anybody interested in hearing them: ‘people voted for Trump just because they thought they might be better off’; ‘people voted for Trump as a rejection of a political establishment that they felt had not served their best interests for many years’; ‘people voted for Trump, irrespective of his negative personal qualities, because they felt that other politicians just weren’t listening to them or showing an interest in their problems’. There are these and many other attempts to take seventy-four million Americans off the hook of guilt. They are meaningless – equivalent to the doomed legal defence argument of ignorance of the law. There can be no excuse for turning a blind eye to Trump’s multiplicity of dishonesties, malfeasance and nepotistic absurdities.
We are left to conclude that the approval of Trump, expressed through the ballot box, represents a kind of recognition: ‘there goes a guy who thinks like I think, does the kind of things I’d like to be able to get away with, acts like I’d like to act…’. Seventy-four million Americans have gone through this thought process. No matter who is in the White House, the poison of their attitudes is etched in the American soul, deeply rooted for generations to come.
Trump’s vote count makes him the second-highest vote earner in American history.