Whilst the US President may not think that the election is settled, the rest of the world continue to dissect what the election of the 3rd of November tells us about American politics. The broad-brush strokes of what has emerged as now almost settled, barring a significant upset in Georgia America will have a split Government with a Democratic President, a Republican Senate and Democratic Congress.
Already the narrative of American divisions has been accelerated by record turnouts for both the Biden and the Trump vote. Those close to Biden are frequently asked what plans he has to ‘heal’ American divides. I would argue that a democratic system that can peacefully process the demands and identities of a nation of some 328 million people through the prism of two major parties is a pretty good template. What is more concerning however, is that the identities of the two major tribes of America’s body politic are being increasingly defined by their marginal and extremist elements.
While political ‘centrism’ is supposedly dead we surely must recognise that a world that understands Americans as either attendees of Trump’s rallies or mask wearing members of Antifa is simple false and a incorrect minority report as to the health of the nation.
There is arguably no better time to be a fringe player in this political psychodrama. The rise and rise of political social media could mean that an individual composing conspiracy theory on twitter from the safety of his own home, could suddenly be retweeted by Trump himself to some 80 million followers. Likewise, events like the march for Trump over the weekend see coverage focused on the handful of clashes at the fringes of a fringe event. It is almost as if algorithms of modern news reporting are fuelling a story of deepening difference and irreconcilable political identities.
This is made significantly worse by the culture around attack ads that dominates the media and social media airwaves. The Democratic party is licking its wounds after losing Congress seats and already a debate is raging as to whether they lost votes due to their association with the radical policy position around defunding the police.
Yet this was never Democratic party policy, but instead almost a by-product of Republican attacks looking to tie more progressive members of the Democratic party to the most extreme ideas of the political spectrum. In short it is political strategy for many to paint a picture of such stark divisions and demand that voters take a side.
It is continually fascinating that voters could have turned out in such high numbers for President Trump despite his cack-handed response to a pandemic that has killed close to a quarter of a million Americans. Yet the analysis of issues that Trump voters responded to – particularly law and order and the economy – were almost more existential terrifying than the virus itself.
Whilst headlines and social media clicks are dominated by those on the far left and the far right how can more centralist and representative voices cut through? Well President Biden may be about to demonstrate one answer to that conundrum. His digital footprint is radically different from his predecessor. Gone are the days where the world will hold its breath waking from Trump to wake up and tweet a 360 reversal of a previous US policy position.
Biden is a self-styled consensus politician who ran as a ‘proud Democrat’ but promised to Govern on behalf of all Americans. The trust he will need to establish for those worried that he is going to immediately lockdown the country, shut down the fossil fuel industry and defund the police is going to be aided by the fact that those things were never genuine fears in the first place.
Meanwhile news networks, and more importantly social media networks, will have to get a lot better at not being driven by covering the most extreme actors. The Steve Bannons of this world have already been kicked off Twitter for and you can almost speculate as to whether we will see Trump kicked off the platform once he loses his privileges as President. The Biden-era may be the majority report overtake that of the minority.
by : jamse danselow