Written on 11/5/2020.
Update: Joe Biden has since been declared the winner of the 2020 Presidential Election.
Election Day served as the precipice of the long-anticipated judgment day for the Trump Presidency. Amid a year of pandemic, impeachment, racial strife, and economic insecurity, Americans turned out in record numbers to vindicate or repudiate President Trump’s combative, in-your-face style of governance.
Despite Democrats’ hopes for a “blue wave,” the electoral map played out well for Donald Trump. The President outperformed Joe Biden in Miami-Dade, a key Floridian county composed of largely Hispanic and minority voters, before ultimately winning the battleground state entirely. Democratic wishes for a quick, decisive electoral victory were quashed by the reality of the returns: strong showing for the President across the South, Southwest, Midwest, and Upper Midwest. Trump even expanded his support nationally among Black and Hispanic voters – a whopping 10 percentage points higher with Black Americans and 14 percentage points higher with Hispanic Americans than he did in 2016.
Former Vice President Biden has said that his impetus for entering the 2020 Presidential Contest was Trump’s “Both Sides” comments after the 2017 Charlottesville protests. Indeed, Democrats in this election cycle sought to paint Trump’s election as a fluke; a historical error that would be handily repudiated at the ballot box. They cited what they called racist, xenophobic, bullying rhetoric from the White House as fundamentally contradictory to the character of the American people. But after Trump’s unexpectedly strong showing on Tuesday, it’s unclear that the argument can be made that America profoundly repudiated the Commander in Chief. The question remains: was Donald Trump an accidental president, or is he the embodiment of the United States in the twenty-first century?
Even if Biden wins, Trump’s political style isn’t going away. In Georgia, Trumpism brought Marjorie Taylor Greene, a far-right subscriber to the QAnon conspiracy theory (and a figure whom the President has publicly praised), as the newest congresswoman-elect to the House of Representatives. Another Republican congressman-elect, twenty-five-year-old Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District, tweeted “Cry more, lib” following his victory in an apparent Trumpian mockery of the opposition. Such comments and embrace of unfounded conspiracy theories, particularly from candidates of such a young age, reveal Trump’s continuing hold on the party – and the face of a new GOP.
Whether Trump wins or not, the political forces he has unleashed will linger for a long time to come.