Okot Nyormoi

NyormoiIn the October issue of Nile Journal, I stuck my neck out and predicted that President Trump would not be re-elected. My unstated expectation was that Trump would lose decisively. Unfortunately, that was not the case; it was a nail biter. Regardless of the narrowness of the defeat, the prediction proved to be true. However, contrary to convention, the incumbent has been reluctant to concede his loss even when the results clearly show that former Vice President Joe Biden is the President-elect. Instead, President Trump is challenging the results on the unproven allegation that the election was fraudulent.

Although the incumbent president has every right to challenge the election result, most observers think that the president is merely going through the five stages of grief: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and eventually he will accept the verdict of the people.

While the legal challenges are underway in court, 78 million voters as well as people in other countries are breathing a sigh of relief. They now expect to be spared the daily dose of lies, insults, tweets, name calling, and stoking of racial animosity emanating from the President and his enablers which they have endured for the past 4 years.

Obviously, Trump is not the only one feeling the sting of the loss. Among his nearly 73 million voters, some have taken their disappointment to the extreme. One person in Michigan has since revealed that he lied about having evidence of election fraud. Others were allegedly arrested for plotting to assassinate Joe Biden or to shoot up the building where votes were being counted. It is understandable that a loss by a slim or large margin still stings. Unfortunately, the loser has no choice but to accept the verdict if the process is free and fair.

Meanwhile the pressure is piling on the incumbent to accept his defeat. Prominent Republicans, including a former president (George W. Bush), current and former governors, and a former Chairman of the Republican party are all calling for Trump to show the evidence of fraud or concede defeat. So far, he has not paid any attention to their advice. Instead, Trump is allegedly using the situation to raise money to pay for his campaign expenses and to mobilize voters for the pending runoff election for the two senatorial seats in Georgia.

Messages congratulating the President-elect are pouring in from the European Community, Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Even some of his closest allies including Bibi Netanyahu of Israel and Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom, have already congratulated the President-elect. These are additional signs that the world around Trump, as the president of the USA, is rapidly collapsing. Hopefully, this will hasten his acceptance that he is now a one-term president.

Regardless of Trump’s bizarre election loss behavior, it is intriguing that he did exceedingly well, contrary to what the polls predicted. Many people expected that he would lose by a large margin. Unexpectedly, the Republicans won more seats in the House of Representatives and the Democrats failed to win the senate majority seats. What happened is obviously a question yearning for answers.

First, Trump’s strong performance has at least five explanations. The low-hanging fruit answer is that the polls were wrong again as they were in 2016. On the one hand, Trump voters either did not participate in the polls or deceptively supported Biden, both of which would have inflated the Biden lead in the polls in the hope of pulling off a surprise victory for Trump. On the other hand, more Biden supporters might have participated in polls because they were driven by the strong wish to defeat Trump. Furthermore, during the campaign, people were inundated with political campaign advertisements, donation solicitations, and petitions. Consequently, unless potential voters were highly motivated, they would not respond to polling requests. Besides, poll participants can change their mind when voting. Finally, last minute events may drastically alter the voter’s mind. It is difficult to rely on polling data to accurately predict election outcomes.

Second, President Trump’s support came from different groups. One of these is single issue voters. For example, there are voters who like his bombastic stands on the national question. A lot of people love his condemnation of Europe for not contributing its fair share to NATO, his isolationist views on trade or anti-immigration. Appointment of conservative judges, cancelation of many international agreements President Obama made were some of the other single issues which led some people to vote for Trump.

The third factor that favored Trump was his position on cultural issues. Despite being transactional or politically opportunistic, it did garner him strong support from sections of the population. For example, evangelical Christians consider him the strongest protector of religious freedom, a fighter against same-sex marriage, his ban on transgender people serving in the military, and his stand against abortion. Ironically, Trump’s pathological lies, misogyny, homophobia, and other violations of Christian values or that he never goes to Church are inexplicably ignored by his religious supporters.  

Fourth, Trump’s views on the ideological question of democracy/capitalism vs socialism resonates with his core supporters regardless of whether the characterization of the Democrats as socialists is accurate. Immigrants who fled from countries identified as socialist are averse to any American politician who is thought to advocate for socialism or is a supporter of tyranny. These include Asian, South and Central American, Eastern European, and African immigrants.

The fifth factor is that small business owners, farmers and others who do not like government regulations love Trump’s aggressive move in eliminating large numbers of regulations meant to protect the environment. Such voters often complain about government overreach against which they generally feel helpless. They finally found someone like Trump, who can punch their bully, the government, in the nose for them. They admire Trump’s brash, crude, and irreverent behavior towards government regulations. Similarly, they like his tax cuts even if most of the benefits go to the top 2% and not the bottom 98%. 

As for the congressional election, the Democrats thought that Trump’s toxic politics would allow them to win more seats in the House of Representatives and gain majority seats in the Senate. None of that happened. If anything, the Republicans won more seats in the House and retained all their original number of seats except two which are going to be decided in a runoff election on January 5.

US Electoral MapThe congressional election results can be explained by two factors. First, congressional elections are determined primarily by local and secondarily by national issues. This is clearly reflected in the voting pattern which shows a cleavage between rural and small urban populations vs mega metropolises. Though the map shows the presidential results, the congressional results follow the same pattern with the former being predominantly Republican (red) while the latter is predominantly Democratic (blue). This means that it is hard for Democrats to win congressional elections in states without large metropolises with ethnically diverse populations. It is difficult for Republicans to win in states with mega metropolises like New York or California. Georgia was won by Biden while Florida was won by Trump.

Second, some voters prefer a split government, which they believe has better checks and balances in governance than if one party controls all three branches of government: Executive, Legislative, and the Judiciary. In this case, the Democrats will have the Executive branch and the House while the Republicans will have the Judiciary and the Senate.

Regardless, there is a palpable alienation between the large metropolis and the rural population. Herein lies three critical problems facing the country: systemic racism, cultural, and ideological wars. Time will tell whether the gap between the two sides can be bridged to create a more perfect union or if it will widen leading to violent confrontations?