An unprecedented popular mobilization precedes Tuesday’s presidential elections.
WASHINGTON D.C. (Times Media Mexico) – The United States, the great world power, will begin to define its future this Tuesday, at the end of a long electoral process that proposes a very clear option: either it is Donald Trump, or it is Joe Biden. And the two couldn’t be more different.
The election that will determine whether the Republican Trump adds another four years in the White House or Biden regains the government for the Democratic Party awakened citizen enthusiasm with little precedent: 100,263,529 Americans appealed to the vote by mail or the anticipated face-to-face vote, a new figure in a country where voting is not obligatory. The local media estimate that this Tuesday, 50 or 60 million more votes will be added. Four years ago, when Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College, the total number of voters was 139 million.
“It’s about voting for truth or lies,” Biden said in one of the final closing acts in Pennsylvania. “It’s about not giving power to all these corrupt politicians in Washington,” launched Trump in Wisconsin, on the penultimate stop of a grueling day in which he attended five acts in four different states.
As Biden, who boasts of his humble origins, added Lady Gaga on the final day and billionaire Trump danced the Village People YMCA on a frosty night in the U.S. North, the media positioned itself. They marked the contrast between the oldest candidates in a presidential election. Trump is 74, and Biden will be 78 to move into the White House on January 20. The campaign, which also brings into play the Republican majority in the Senate and the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, was rough until the last minute.
Biden was Barack Obama’s vice president from 2009 to 2017, and he brings Kamala Harris as his running mate. If the Democrats win, Harris, a woman with a Jamaican father and an Indian mother will become the first female vice president in the country’s history. Trump, who insists on running as a political outsider, is backing Mike Pence, Indiana’s former governor, and his vice president for the past four years.
The Democrat proposes to unite the country and recover “the soul of the nation.” At the same time, Trump promises to “continue to make America great,” an update of his successful 2016 slogan, “Make America Great Again”.
This morning, in an interview with Fox Network, the President promised that he would not declare his victory prematurely: “If there is a victory, I think we will have it, but only (I will declare myself the winner) when we get it, there is no reason to play games. I don’t know what the possibilities are, but we have a solid chance. Either freedom or confinement. One more victory and we can preserve this country,” summarized Laura Ingraham, one of the most popular conservative journalists, on Fox News. “I’m afraid we are going to the first failed transfer of power in our history. Twenty years ago, Al Gore decided to take a bullet for the good of the country. Trump is going to put the bullet in the country,” said Thomas Friedman, a columnist for the “New York Times,” during an interview on CNN.
As early as Tuesday morning, Trump was closing the campaign in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Beyond attacking Biden, he also targeted “Barack Hussein Obama” and “crooked” Hillary. Trump, who profoundly divides the citizens of his country and the rest of the world, can’t be denied the strength he put into the campaign, a force that paid dividends: He arrived at Election Day by changing the idea of a complete lead for Biden and installing that of a head-to-head race.
With the coronavirus pandemic taking on renewed strength, the divide among Americans is deep. So deep that wood paneling changed the landscape of major cities across the country. The fear of outbreaks of violence on Tuesday night and in the days that follow is intense. In prevention, stores, restaurants, bars, offices, and hotels protected their doors and windows with pressed wood panels. On Monday night, the White House was surrounded by a high, inviolable fence.
Election day comes after two frantic months in which everything happened. Three debates were held – two presidential and one vice-presidential – and Trump caught covid and recovered at full speed after receiving an experimental treatment. A vacancy on the Supreme Court was also opened following the death of progressive Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which Trump quickly filled with Amy Coney Barret, a conservative judge.
It was the Supreme Court that defined that 20-year-old election between Bush and Gore. With Barret, Trump achieves a theoretically conservative 6-3 majority on that court. That advantage could play in his favor if the election goes to trial.
And there was more in the last two months: “The New York Times” published an investigation revealing that Trump paid virtually no taxes in recent years, the President got Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Sudan to sign peace with Israel.
Neither of these issues proved to have much impact in the polls, which did not detect the full extent of the Trump phenomenon four years ago. Clinton had three million more votes but lost in the Electoral College, which is where the United States’ presidency is decided: 538 men and women who, with December 14 as a deadline, will determine the next tenant of the White House.
And those electors are determined based on the legislative representation of each state: California contributes 55, Texas 38, Florida 29, Pennsylvania 20, and Wyoming 3. Except in Nebraska and Maine, the state’s winner takes all the representatives for the Electoral College. Neither Biden nor Trump campaigned in California, which is deeply Democratic, or Alabama, purely Republican. Thus, the candidates insist on those states where there is indeed a fight. In 2020, that means the Great Lakes region in the north and Florida, Georgia, Texas, and North Carolina in the south.
Biden has a lead in the polls, although that lead has narrowed from a few weeks ago to between six and eight points. But what matters is not the overall national vote, but securing key states. And in that battered Midwest, in that “rust belt,” Biden has an insufficient advantage. He could win. Or Trump. The same goes for Florida, Georgia, or Texas, where a Democrat has not won since 1976.
Though he outperforms Trump, Biden doesn’t seem to have the same support as Clinton four years ago among Hispanics and African Americans, despite the upheaval generated by the death of George Floyd and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement this summer. The Democrat, on the other hand, is well-positioned among the young and the over-65s, mostly critical of Trump’s stance on the coronavirus crisis, which has already cost more than 230,000 lives in the country.
Nate Silver, of the renowned “FiveThirtyEight” site, gives Biden a 90 percent chance of winning against only a tenth of Trump. “But ten is nothing. Ten is ten,” says Silver, who also joked about the possibility of a 269-to-269 tie in the Electoral College. “Don’t forget that we are in 2020,” he argued.
Trump has insisted that he does not trust the mail voting system, primarily used this year during the coronavirus pandemic. The President claims it is permeable to fraud, which election officials and Democrats deny. On Monday night, after complaining about the possibility of continuing to receive and count votes by mail in Pennsylvania days after the election, he launched a tweet that generated confusion and controversy. “The Supreme Court’s decision to vote in Pennsylvania is very dangerous. It will allow unbridled and unchecked deception and undermine our entire system of law. It will also induce violence in the streets. Something must be done!”
When Trump says that votes continue to be received after the election, he refers to mail ballots that are dated no later than November 3. And that early voting creates different situations depending on which state is being observed.
So, in Florida, a critical election state, the law allows absentee ballots to be counted before election day. It’s different in Pennsylvania, where the vote by mail would only be counted on Wednesday, once the vote by mail had been counted. These additional regulations can distort the election result between Tuesday and Wednesday, especially if the overall picture is of an even race between Trump and Biden.
Almost half of the states will accept votes that arrive by mail days after November 3 if the postmark indicates that they were sent on or before that day. And about 30 states, the Washington Post noted, “allow voters to correct mistakes that would otherwise lead to their votes being voided. Some states allow such correction days after the election, which contributes to delaying the final result.
“Results on Tuesday night can be misleading. It may be days or even weeks before we know who won Pennsylvania. If the election is even, this may apply to other states, considering the number of Americans who voted by mail this year,” the Axios website noted. Early voting tends to be mostly Democratic, while face-to-face voting is more Republican.
Kathy Boockvar, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State, admitted on NBC over the weekend that absentee voting is ten times greater than in the 2016 election. “Yes, the recount is going to take longer”.
In anticipation of this, the U.S. media will be especially cautious this year. Part of the caution involves distinguishing between “early voting” and “face-to-face voting” when reporting partial results. Every piece of information, every piece of information, can be flammable material. That’s also why “FiveThirtyEight” decided not to conduct polls with the “mouthpiece” system this Tuesday. “Changes resulting from the pandemic make them less reliable this year”.
The behavior of social networks will also be in the spotlight on a night of high sensitivity in the United States and around the world. No country is unaffected by this election’s outcome, so great is the influence of a power that has 800 military bases in 80 countries. This Tuesday, with the beginning of the end of an unprecedented electoral process, the United States will decide, among other things, what message it gives to the rest of the planet.