By Martin Woodley
From April 25 when Joe Biden became the Democratic Party nominee for President the national opinion polls have given him a sustained lead over sitting President Donald Trump. Yet the gap in the vote share between that of Biden and that of Trump has turned out to be smaller than that between Hilary Clinton and Trump in 2016. At the time of writing Joe Biden’s share of the vote is 49.72% whereas Trump’s share is 49.02%. In 2016 Hilary Clinton’s vote share was 48.0% compared to Trump’s 45.9%. National polls clearly showed that as the coronavirus pandemic has progressed, Biden’s lead increased, reaching 14 points in early October. This should have heralded a landslide victory, whereas the result has essentially produced marginal diﬀerences with 2016, the big diﬀerence being that the Democratic Party won the Presidency this time around. In 2016 Hilary Clinton polled three million more votes than Trump but lost the Electoral College due to narrow losses in the industrial Midwest. In 2020 Biden won almost 5 million more votes than President Trump and won the Electoral College. However Trump also expanded his margin of support, collecting over eight million more votes than he did in 2016.
While former President George W Bush and three Republican senators have congratulated the president- elect, most other party leaders have stayed quiet or urged President Trump to fight, and US Attorney General William Barr has authorised prosecutors to investigate ’substantial allegations of vote irregularities’, although no evidence has been produced. Clearly the hard right revolution that has been progressing in the Republican Party since 1964 still has the power to dissuade elected oﬃcials from alienating their base.
There are still four states to declare including the battleground states of Georgia, Arizona and North Carolina, but the Electoral College stands at 279:214 in favour of Biden. In the Senate the seat count is 48:48 with four results still to declare. Of these two are likely to be retained by Republicans, while two will go to run-oﬀs in January. Therefore, the best that Democrats can hope for is a tied Senate in January with Vice-President Kamala Harris wielding the casting vote. In the House the seat count stands at 218:201 in favour of the Democrats with 16 seats still to declare. The Republicans flipped nine seats and the Democrats have flipped three. Therefore, the majority won in the midterms will be somewhat reduced.
This election was not the national renunciation of Trumpism that the Democrats dreamed it would be. Nor was it a confirmation that voters believed ”far-left” protests had plunged America into lawlessness and decline, as conservatives had argued. However the immediate narrative promoted by Democratic Party establishment pundits is that their preferred strategy of appealing to disaﬀected Republican voters was undermined by the left’s constant promotion of ’extreme’ policies. It is worth outlining the facts of the results in order that correct conclusions can be drawn. It will be seen that the correct conclusions from the results are at variance with the narrative being promoted by the Democratic Party hierarchy.
Exit poll surveys by Edison outside of polling stations or early voting sites, or by phone to account for mail-in votes show that Biden was supported by minorities, the young, lower wage earners, first time voters, and urban residents. Trump was supported by small town and rural residents and higher earners. In terms of people’s views, Biden was supported by voters whose financial outlook was worse than it was in 2016, and those whose priorities included racial justice and tackling the coronavirus pandemic. Trump was supported by voters whose financial outlook was better than in 2016 and whose priorities were the economy.
Figure 1 shows a comparison of votes for Trump by race and gender in the Edison exit polls between 2016 and 2020. Much has been made about the increase in the Trump vote among minorities and white women between 2016 and 2020. In particular many column inches have been devoted to the swing to Trump among black men. However several things should be born in mind. Firstly US2020 was the highest participation in terms of proportion of those entitled to vote for national elections since the beginning of the last century, and that the vote for Trump was the largest ever vote for a presidential candidate except for that of Joe Biden. Therefore whilst the small swing to Trump among minorities is real according to the exit polls, the increase in the total vote among minorities — sometimes due to extraordinary feats of voter registration — is more significant than is the swing to Trump among these minorities.
Figure 1: Comparison of Edison exit polls for 2016 and 2020 on racial and gender support for Trump.
Furthermore, whilst there was a swing of four percent to Trump among black men from 13% to 17%, there was a similar swing among black women, except that the vote for Trump among black women doubled from 4% to 8%. Therefore, while black women showed greater support for the Democrats in both 2016 and 2020, the swing to Trump was the same as that for black men. In fact, the outlier in these results is the swing away from Trump among white men, which is hardly given any coverage in the aforementioned analyses.
Finally, contrary to the aims of the Democratic Party managers who wished to attract disaﬀected Republican voters, Trump received a greater endorsement from Republicans than was the case in 2016. In 2016 90% of Republicans voted for Trump whereas in 2020 93% of Republicans voted for Trump — an increase which shows the total failure of the strategy unveiled at the Democratic National Convention which saw rebel Republicans like John Kaisich given prominence while the left of the party were sidelined.
Coronavirus, postal votes, early voting
From the outset Trump refused to adopt adequate measures to control the coronavirus, instead undermining the medical authorities, the WHO and the CDC, as well as state and city authorities that did endeavour to implement mitigation measures. When it became clear that Democrats were adopting postal balloting in order to maximise voter participation while minimising transmission, Trump consciously undertook to sabotage postal voting. The theory behind this strategy is the following: there are six states that start counting postal ballots two weeks or more before Election Day, and five states that start counting one week or less before Election Day; in comparison there are thirty seven states that only start counting postal ballots on Election Day itself. Clearly, states that start counting of mail-in ballots on election day far outnumber those that allow counting prior to election day and this combined with the preference of Democrats to use mail-in balloting as opposed to the Republican preference to use in-person voting then determined Trump’s approach.
The Republican Party have had a long term aim to crush the USPS as a business and promote private sector competitors. In 2006 the then Republican controlled Congress passed a law requiring the USPS to repay 75 years’ worth of retiree health benefits at a cost of $100 billion. In that way they turned a profitable business into an unprofitable business. Trump has now used the fact that the USPS is unprofitable to cut back its services, thereby undermining its eﬀectiveness to deliver mail-in ballots on time. This was expedited through the ”Friday night massacre” of 23 executives either reassigned or displaced by the Trump appointee Postmaster General Louis DeJoy[i]. As a result 32% of first class mail was taking five or more days for delivery in October compared to 13% in January.
The Republican majority on the Supreme Court blocked Wisconsin from extending the deadline for receipt of postal ballots. In a tied decision the Supreme Court failed to support attempts by Republicans to block similar extensions of the deadline in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Federal judges ruled that ballots that arrive after Election Day must be segregated from those that arrive before Election Day in Minnesota — this leaves open the possibility that late arriving ballots could be invalidated in future rulings.
The California Republican Party admitted that it placed more than 50 fake ballot collection boxes in an eﬀort to further undermine mail-in balloting[ii]. Therefore, it was a strategy of the party from top to bottom to dominate in person voting and sabotage postal voting.
As if to highlight his unfounded assertion that large scale fraud was going to take place through mail-in balloting, Trump issued calls to his activist base for ”poll watchers” — essentially an appeal to voter intimidation[iii]. The investigation recently launched by Attorney General William Barr is a follow through on this strategy even though it is clear that because of the perceived problems with postal voting the Democrats had made a massive eﬀort to mobilise early in person voting.
What is revealed by the results?
The holding up of the Trump vote shows that the politics associated with the hard right of the Republican Party — a popular vote for bigotry and white supremacy — is now a permanent feature, and is primarily due to consolidation within the mainly white constituency of the Republican Party. Furthermore, a constant theme of the politics of the Trump era has been the convergence of the upsurge of the Black Lives Matter movement with the advance in the popularity of progressive policies. It could well be that there is an element within the swing to Trump among minorities and women which is a Jim Clyburn type rejection of socialism. That should not be a reason for pessimism — the fact that the majority of black voters identify hugely more with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party rather than the establishment wing despite this convergence is remarkable.
This argument is also consistent with a study published by the Cato Institute[iv] which showed that while the majority of Americans in general had favourable views of capitalism and unfavourable views of socialism, the majority of blacks (62%), Democrats (64%), those aged between 18 – 29 (50%) had favourable views of socialism. It is to be expected that within the general polarisation of political discourse that there will be an element that reject socialism and that element exists within the black community also. But that element is a minority, whereas those that identify with the huge upsurge around Black Lives Matter this summer overwhelmingly also identify with progressive policies.
The Democratic establishment are blaming progressives for the closeness of results. Jim Clyburn demanded that the Democrats drop calls for Medicare for all, defund the police and BLM or they would lose. They followed Clyburn and dropped all those things, Democratic Party spend was twice that of Republicans and yet they still lost the Senate and House races. This in fact reveals a refusal on the part of establishment Democrats to accept the facts. Every single House swing seat Democrat who embraced Medicare for all won their seat; whereas every single House swing seat Democrat that didn’t support Medicare for all lost their seat. These results are shown in Table 1.
Table 1: Results for Democratic Party candidates standing in swing seats and their support for Medicare for all.
This is backed up by an exit poll conducted by Fox News which indicated that 72% of voters supported a government run health care plan with 29% opposing; 55% supported stricter gun control with 33% saying they should be kept as they are and only 12% saying they should be relaxed; 72% supported a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants with 28% opposed; 72% were concerned about climate change whereas 28% were not very concerned or not concerned at all. A more in depth study has been made by Sunrise and Justice Democrats looking at the relationship between vote share and ideological positions of Democratic candidates. The findings demonstrate a clear negative correlation between the vote share they receive and their ideological positions[v] — the more right wing the ideological position, the lower the vote share.
With Republicans continuing to control the Senate on current results the Georgia run oﬀs are extremely important since Democratic gains would equalise the two senatorial caucuses, with Kamala Harris having the casting vote. However, the position of the Democratic vote in Georgia is widely acknowledged to be due to the eﬀorts of Stacey Abrams who laid the groundwork for a massive voter registration drive following a well-publicised gubernatorial contest in 2018 against the sitting Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Kemp, who as Secretary of State was responsible for elections and voter registration, cancelled over 1.4 million registrations, over 700,000 in 2017 alone – half a million in a single night[vi], possibly the largest single disenfranchisement event in history. In this very direct way it can be seen that the road to power passes through the black community.
What it all means
Both political parties are run by and respond to corporate interests. But working class voters are crucial to modern elections. This has been discussed in a previous article[vii]. The entire system of democracy is designed to over represent the votes of suburbs and rural counties compared to the cities. However, the burgeoning urban population[viii] has meant that in order to minimise the impact of working class interests on electoral politics a premium has been placed on maintaining the division between white and non-white workers, relatively privileging the white workers as compared to non-white workers, and thereby suppressing the class consciousness of all workers.
Since the Democratic Party has its main strongholds in the urban centres and the Republican Party has its main strongholds in the rural counties and suburbs, this has aﬀected the parties in diﬀerent ways. Because the Democrats depend on the votes of the black population which are concentrated mainly in the cities they have had to be responsive somewhat to the needs of the black community. Because the Republicans depend overwhelmingly on the votes of whites in the rural counties and suburbs they have paid particular attention to maintaining the over representation of the rural counties and suburbs, and to the suppression of the votes of mainly non-white communities in the cities.
Since the financial crash these matters have become particularly acute. Republicans have exploited the fact that class antagonisms in general have sharpened by appealing to the long held traditions of racial supremacy of white workers which Trump cultivated in the 2016 Presidential election and which he has reinforced throughout his term. The Democrats are unable to make a similar appeal because of their electoral dependence on black and minority votes — they are therefore pulled in two directions — that of making concessions to the suburbs and rural counties at the risk of compromising the black vote, or explicitly orienting towards their minority constituencies at the risk of losing the support of white workers. This dilemma for the Democrats arises solely because they are a party which represents the interests of big capital.
Because of the corporate interests that fund and make policy demands on the parties neither of them are able to appeal to workers interests, and this is reflected in the fact that neither party is able to advance the policies that are most popular with the electorate and put them at the centre of their platforms. Some notable ballot questions passed in the recent elections suﬃce to illustrate this. For instance Arizona Proposition 208 (a wealth tax to fund education) was passed. Colorado Proposition 118 (paid medical and family leave initiative) was passed. Florida Amendment 2 ($15 minimum wage initiative) was passed. All of these initiatives which have been spurned by the party hierarchy would fit perfectly into a platform of the progressive left of the Democratic Party. Progressive policies and people powered movements are a winning combination, but the Democratic Party is a strait jacket.
[i] ’Friday Night Massacre’ at US Postal Service as Postmaster General – a Major Trump Donor – Ousts Top Officials; Jon Queally; Common Dreams; 7 August 2020; https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/08/07/friday-night-massacre- us-postal-service-postmaster-general-major-trump-donor-ousts
[ii] California Republican Party Admits It Placed Misleading Ballot Boxes Around State; By Glenn Thrush and Jennifer Medina; The New York Times; 12 October; https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/12/us/politics/california-gop-drop-boxes.html
[iii] In Graham, Alamance County near Greensboro North Carolina, a peaceful march of about 250 people to cast votes at an early voting site was attacked with pepper spray by police, some of which were dressed in riot gear, as they paused at a Confederate monument to pay respects to George Floyd. Four members of George Floyd’s family were present at the rally. The incident resulted in several arrests and the marchers did not make it to the polls. Voter intimidation lawsuit filed after police use pepper-spray at North Carolina march; Erik Ortiz; NBC News; https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2020- election/voter-intimidation-lawsuit-filed-after-police-use-pepper-spray-north-n1245944
[iv] Poll: 59% of Americans Have Favorable Views of Capitalism; 59% Have Unfavorable Views of Socialism; Emily Ekins; Cato Institute; 26 September 2019; https://www.cato.org/blog/59-americans-have-favorable-views-capitalism-59-have-unfavorable-views-socialism
[vii] Class and voter suppression in American politics; MartinWoodley;SocialistAction; http://www.socialistaction.net/2020/10/30/class-and-voter-suppression-in-american-politics/
[viii] It is estimated that 83% of the US population lives in urban environments, up from 64% in 1950. It is projected that by 2050 89% of the US population will live in urban environments. From United Nations (UN) Population Division (2018) World Urbanization Prospects: The 2018 Revision; https://www.un.org/development/desa/publications/2018-revision-of- world-urbanization-prospects.html.