Sun | Oct 25, 2020

Norris McDonald | COVID-19, social justice issues and America’s ‘bitta’ presidential election!

Published:Sunday | September 20, 2020 | 6:35 AM
Is Donald Trump heading for a second term?
Is Donald Trump heading for a second term?

Can Joe Biden Kamala Harris beat Donald Trump?
Can Joe Biden Kamala Harris beat Donald Trump?
Students wear protective masks as they arrive for classes at the Immaculate Conception School while observing COVID-19 prevention protocols in The Bronx borough of New York.
Students wear protective masks as they arrive for classes at the Immaculate Conception School while observing COVID-19 prevention protocols in The Bronx borough of New York.
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Americans go to the polls on November 3, 2020, with President Donald Trump up for re-election. He will face the Democratic Party contender, Senator Joe Biden. Public opinion polls suggest that Biden is odds-on favourite to win this hotly contested presidential election.

But one can remember what happened in the 2016 US elections. Senator Hillary Clinton was also heavily favoured to win but lost to the very combative Trump.

Trump is a street fighter who does not pull punches. He has a very loyal base of support that makes up between 35 and 40 per cent of the electorate. Further, since Trump became president, he has transformed the Republican Party, making it a more strident, white nationalistic entity that is extremely loyal to him.

Trump’s slogan of ‘Making America Great Again’ resonates in the psyche of people, particularly the white lower working class without a college education and union members, who buy the argument that “America is being taken advantage of by countries such as China and is being pushed around.”

A CHANGING US ELECTORAL MAP

Having a strong political base gives a political party and leader a strong edge, even in the context of a changing electorate.

As shown by the 2018 mid-term election, white suburban educated people, especially women, have drifted away from the Republican Party.

The Republican Party has also become much more fragmented, as the more moderate members have drifted away. Many have now endorsed Senator Biden.

America decides who becomes its president based on who grabs the most of the so-called Electoral College. It takes 270 college votes to become president. So far, Biden is leading in 12 of 14 hotly contested states. This gives him an electoral college edge of 278 to Trump’s 169 of the total 538.

But let’s wait and see who will become the winner.

Senator Hillary Clinton was odds-on favourite to win in 2016 but she is reading and reading her book What Happened? – still trying to figure out why Trump is the American president and she is not.

‘BITTA’ POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT

This November 2020 US election is taking place in a more raucous, ‘bitta’ political environment.

Trump, fearing he may lose, has been riling up his supporters, saying that the Democrats are “trying to steal the election from me”.

Also, Trump is still madder than an angry hornet about his impeachment that now stains his already tattered legacy.

As payback, he has pushed his Attorney General Bill Barr to open a criminal investigation against former President Barack Obama and his opponent Biden, accusing them of “treason”.

As Trump tells it, he was “spied on by Biden and Obama” and all his allies who have been charged and prosecuted, based on this purported ‘political persecution’.

COVID-19

And then there is COVID-19.

More than 20 per cent of Americans who lost their jobs because of the sharpened political and economic crisis caused by COVID-19 were already living in poverty.

Black people, Latinos and other minorities have the highest death rate among the roughly 200,000 people who have been killed by the novel coronavirus in the US.

A study of recent medical data shows that minority death rates are twice as high of that of whites, with Black Americans accounting for a vast majority. A review of the evidence from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 78 per cent of young people who have died from COVID-19 are Black, Hispanic and American Indians.

The pandemic has brought into sharper focus the miserable conditions of life faced by poor people, not just in America but in the rest of the world.

If we did not know how bad it was before, the coronavirus, under which poor Black people have suffered more than all others, has exposed this unjust system in which people work for wages that can’t support themselves and their families.

COVID-19 and social justice issues are driving political change in America. A recent public opinion poll by the Pew Research Center says that six out of every 10 adults strongly disapprove of President Trump’s handling of the pandemic and his malevolent messaging about it.

An ABC/Ipsos poll also found that 67 per cent of Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of the pandemic.

SOCIAL JUSTICE ISSUES

On top of this, we have the rising cries for social justices under the refrain ‘Black Lives Matter’.

George Floyd’s brutal, knee-strangulation and death at the hands of police officers was the spark that lit the smouldering of anger that, like a bubbling volcano, massively erupted.

America that likes to lecture people and countries worldwide about injustice is now under the global spotlight, as demonstrations worldwide reveal mass revulsion at this sanctimonious hypocrisy.

As to whether all this can lead to Trump’s defeat in November, we may never know until the final votes are counted. Joe Biden, the Democratic Party and disaffected Republicans who now support him hope so.

Biden named Kamala Harris as his vice-presidential running mate in a move to shore up support among Black voters.

Harris is of Jamaican and India parents. Black outcry, in my opinion, forced the Democratic Party to put her on the ticket instead of one of her white counterparts. However, there is still no guarantee, in my opinion, that this is enough for the Democrats to beat Trump.

Therefore, I wouldn’t count out the pugilistic, below-the-belt, street fighter Donald ‘The Great-Impeached’ Trump.

That is just the ‘bitta truth!’

- Norris McDonald is a respiratory therapist, social researcher and political analyst. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and miaminorris@yahoo.com