While the US election results were music to Democrats’ ears, some of the takeaways may not be what the party expected.
Far from fulfilling the Democrats’ expectations, this election undermined assumptions the party had made based on race and gender. The prevailing narrative, over the last few years, has been that Donald Trump’s power base was white and male.
But exit poll data from this year’s election call that into question – and suggests that, at best, it was naïve to tar all Trump supporters with the same brush.
Polls showed that while most Black men supported president-elect Joe Biden, his level of support from Black male voters was significantly lower than it was for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 – signalling a shift towards Trump.
While the shift may be unexpected, it should not be viewed, as a political paradox. It was just a wrong call: the reality is that more minorities voted for Trump than for any GOP candidate since 1960.
Have identity politics had their day?
Statistics suggest that Trump’s term of office was good for some Black Americans’ employment and livelihoods. And lowering taxes, integral to the Reaganist credo of Trump’s politics, is likely to have been another key factor for swaying the working class, of all ethnicities, in Trump’s favour.
The Democrats should have been more cautious. While emphasising identity politics, they hoped that after George Floyd, Black voters would flip to Biden.
But Black Americans are far from homogenous. Scholar Thomas Sowell, an economist and social theorist, is a prominent example of a stalwart Republican who is also Black. He refuses to see Black republicanism as a paradoxical phenomenon and shuns affirmative action and racial quotas which he believes corrode the self-determination of minorities.
Sowell is unflinching in his criticism of the Democrats. In an essay published in 2010, he asserted that more Republicans than Democrats voted for the Civil Rights act. He claims it was progressives who spearheaded the eugenics movement, which later developed into “Planned Parenthood”.
A Biden victory, in Sowell’s view, will culminate in an alliance with a radical left whose rallying cry is “defunding the police”. Meanwhile, according to a recent Gallup Poll, only 19 per cent of Black Americans were on board with the idea of “defunding the police” – indeed, 20 per cent wanted increased police presence.
A deep wound
The Democrats’ labelling of Trump’s supporters as “deplorable” was an ill-judged strategy which alienated the very minorities they were courting.
When Michelle Obama tweeted, on November 7 as the results of the election became clear, “Let’s remember that tens of millions of people voted for the status quo, even when it meant supporting lies, hate, chaos, and division,” it was hardly reaching a hand.
Democrat Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez went further, asking followers on Twitter to archive the posts of Trump “sycophants”.
Meanwhile, columnist Jennifer Rubin said there was a need to “collectively, in essence, burn down the Republican party”.
The absence of respect for the 70 million citizens who cast their vote for Trump, as well as the indiscriminate labelling of Trump supporters as racist, will be a festering wound.
Donald Trump may go, but his presidency will leave a lingering message: that the Democratic Party, in its hasty attempts, to tarnish anything related to Trump, missed the realities under its nose.