- Potential for Civil-War: Will there be armed conflict in America following the election?
- Will the protests in the U.S continue to proliferate or will the American public allow a peaceful transition?
- What changes have been seen to both the Democrat and Republican parties over the last 4-years?
- How has a Trump presidency affected the way in which future presidents might act?
The 2020 Election is a turning-point in US history. Two conflicting characters fighting over the heart of American Democracy. One, a billionaire businessman, turned Republican politician, who’s supporters love him as an against the grain anti-political figure. While the other, is a seasoned politician, who some see as uninspiring yet necessary candidate, whom after 40 years and two previous presidential campaigns has his final chance at the Presidency.
In this article we will look past the election to the short-term (ranging between the end of the 3rd of November to the 20th of January), the long-term (a couple of years into the next decade) impacts of this election and more generally how Trump’s presidency’s will affect the United States of America for the forseeable future.
Potential For Armed Conflict:
A 2018 Rasmussen Poll found that “Thirty-one percent (31%) of Likely U.S. Voters say it’s likely that the United States will experience a second civil war sometime in the next five years, with 11% who say it’s very likely”.
The disparity between these two polls highlights the increased angst of voters about a potential armed conflict. Homeland Security too has indicated their fear for an increase in violence, in their 17th of August paper which has suggested a series of election related events.
Furthermore, in August, Yahoo News reported that a former Trump counterterrorism official was worried that a Trump defeat could prompt right-wing extremists to commit violent attacks.
This angst has also been seen with state officials as many have been passing emergency laws banning people from carrying arms to polling stations, some not allowing them in at all, while others have requested that weapons are concealedto prevent potential intimidation.
In Michigan, Secretary of State Benson has banned open carry within 100 meters of polling stations, with another six other states having “to expressly ban guns at the polls, even though 45 states allow open carry in some form”.
With most states allowing weapons to be taken to polls and with Trump warning of a “rigged election” many Republican and Trump supporters have set up ‘poll watchers’, in which their goal has been to find ’50,000’ people to make sure the election is not rigged.
These tensions can be correlated to an increase in weapon purchases (see graph below) which show a huge spike in monthly firearm sales towards the end of 2020, in which ‘in just the first six months of 2020, approximately 19 million firearms have been sold, representing more than one firearm for every 20 Americans‘.
One such ‘militant’ group is the Oath Keepers (founded in 2009), who in 2019 had 25,000 members on their roll. The New York Time has reported that ‘the Oath Keepers, makes recruiting veterans and law enforcement officers central to its mission‘ and this can be seen to be nationwide as veterans now make up 25 percent of militia rosters.
Prior to the election tensions have been rising. Biden had to cancel one of his final rallies in Texas due to, ”armed’ Trump supporters [who] threatened the campaign bus” on the 31st of October.
Despite this, the idea of a mass civil conflict is not likely but if either Trump or Biden do decide to incite their supporters then we could see stand-offs in the coming days and weeks after, or indeed during, the election.
For more information about the likelihood of Civil War, see: USA Today News which details a war game scenario of the outcomes of the election.
Across the country people protested after Trump won the election in 2016, ‘protests were reported in cities as diverse as Dallas and Oakland and included marches in Boston; Chicago; Portland, Ore.; Seattle and Washington and at college campuses in California, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.’
This year there is extremely likely to be protests due to the aggressive nature of this election and how tight this election has been. With the potential of Trump not accepting defeat there could be mass Democratic Party protests. On the other hand, there could also be counter-protests by the Republicans as they look to voice their anger at a potentially rigged election.
In 2020 the main protests have been over the killing of George Floyd which has led to the removal of statues, protests against police brutality and widespread violence. This violence seen by both protestors and police and has highlighted how a good cause can turn into a bloody conflict where properties are damaged and rights are violated, in which The Guardian has reported ‘Nearly 1,000 instances of police brutality recorded in US anti-racism protests‘
However, it is not simply violence by the police that one should be concerned about but the actions of the protestors themselves. An article in ‘TheCritic’ gives a more critical look at the protests calling main media reporting a “myth”.
The police have been preparing for the eventuality that violent protests might occur during and after the election. An article by ABCNews looks at the preparations in Washington describing, ‘barricades and a heavy police presence‘.
Former veteran Secret Service agent Don Mihalek has raised his concerns, stating that:
As the results of the election draw nearer the likelihood of this outcome becomes even more likely. In a scenario in which the emotions of both democrat and republican supporters run high in a race that is running close to the wire, many will look to contest the result – if the courts fail, then the fight will almost certainly be taken to the streets.
A Shift To The Political Extreme:
With the election of Donald Trump, the Republicans tore apart their analysis of the 2012 election. After Mitt Romney’s loss in 2012, the Republican autopsy stated that Republicans needed to ’embrace immigration reform as a way of investing in diversity‘. However, Trump would do the complete opposite and instead manage to tap into a large section of white voters, who had in many instances not voted for a Republican candidate before.
In 2016, Trump would recieve 54% of the white vote (74% of the electorate) compared to Hillary’s 39%. Those who did not hold a college degree would become an even stronger base, with 64% of those within this category voting for Trump.
While Trump would shift the Republican Party to the right and establish one of the most dedicated bases that pundits have scene this century through sheer exuberance and character, the Democrats in contrast have appeared to shift left in response to ‘Trumpism‘ and unite around a more ‘moderate’ Biden in a bid to win the election.
Despite the election of the more ‘moderate’ Biden, Democrat supporters have slowly shifted further to the left.
This can be demonstrated by analysing the policies of those that stood for the democratic party nomination this year, in which many have shifted to the left of their predecessor Barrack Obama.
While the Affordable Care Act (2010) was percieved as a political bridge between nationalised health care and the current privatised system, candidates such as, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have moved further to the left on this issue than any other US politicians have in recent years by calling for medicare for all.
Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez, a House Rep from New York, Ilhad Omar, a Rep for Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley, a Rep for Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib, a Rep for Michigan have become the ‘rising stars’ of the Democratic Party and have been titled as ‘The Squad’ within the House of Representatives.
If the Democrats win or lose it will potentially lead a battle between the moderate Democrats and the more liberal Democrats (An example of where this battle between moderate and liberal democrats is California). If Biden loses in 2020, the Democrats will have to do some larger soul searching and search for solutions to their problems, if they wish to regain the white house in 2024.
Since Trump has become president there has been a divide within the Republican Party, with many old-guard politicians looking to distance themselves, while fresher-faced politicians have often sought to gain the President’s approval.
Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney is one of the most established Republican’s to oppose Trump, stating in February that, “he would not support Trump”. Senator Lindsey Graham did not attend a Trump rally in his state and during June, “disagreed with Trump for what his home-state newspaper reckoned was the fifth time in three weeks”.
Republicans in tightly fought races have looked to distance themselves as they struggle to hold on to their seats. Senator Susan Collins of Maine, aired an ad saying ‘no matter who you’re voting for president‘, vote for me, while Senator Martha McSally, dodged a question on whether she was proud to serve under the president in her air force career and would respond with “I’m proud that I’m fighting for Arizonans on things like cutting your taxes”.
However, Trump has gained wide support by new Republican candidates. In 2018 Trump endorsed 28 people with only 2 of those running losing their seats. In response to this Trump would state that:
The development of the Republican Party will either move in one of two directions: A shift to Trumpism will continue or the previous Neo-Con (Bushite) Republican movement will manage to take the reigns once again.
Ultimately, if Trump wins, he will look to strengthen his hold on the party and choose a future candidate to succeed his presidency. Even if he loses, it is likely that the new pro-Trump politicians will look to rise up and take their former leaders position.
In the Podcast by the Lincoln Project, founder Steve Schmidt would talk about the chances of moderates, Larry Hogan and Charlie Baker, becoming the nominee in 2024, stating that: ‘as much as I would like to see one of them be the Republican nominee I think neither of them has a chance‘.
Ultimately, it appears that the Republican Party would struggle to break away from Trumpism as their 2020 platform consisted of a great willingness ‘to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda’.
However, if Trump loss is dramatic, either through the scale of his defeat or the in the transpiring events after the election, Republicans may look backwards to the long lost days of Bush and Chenney to alter the direction of the party.
A Change In Political Behaviour?
With the election of Trump in 2016, the politics of how a President can behave, speak, and interact with the public has now drastically changed.
Trump’s campaign in 2016 was composed of constantly attacking and criticizing Hilary Clinton. This most recent election Trump has attacked Biden and during the years between this Trump has taken aim at multiple other politicians. For example, Trump has continuously attacked Mitt Romney from his own party who is fighting for his seat in this election and this Independent article covers 5 times they have clashed. Trump has also used YouTube to share ads criticizing Biden’s campaign spending 7 digits on the ad space. He also uses his YouTube channel to post propaganda videos with his most watched one having 21 million is titled, “With Joe Biden, China Is In Charge”.
Trump has also launched claims at Biden claiming he has dementia, works for China, supports rioters, wants a national lockdown and more. Biden has copied Trump in this tactic, stating that Trump supports white supremacists, has called corona-virus a hoax and wants to get rid of social security.
At debates Trump uses his charisma and 80’s esque one-liners to win an audience. This was so impactful in the first debate, in which Trump consistently interrupted Biden, that it led to their mics being muted for the second debate.
One-liners have become more and more impactful as facts become less and less important, in the first debate there were plenty: Trump on law enforcement he challenged Biden to “Name one law enforcement group that has come out and supported you. One. Think. We have time.”, while Biden said to Trump ‘Will you shut up man?‘ and said, ‘keep yapping‘. In the second debate Biden mocked Trump for saying ‘with the exception of Abraham Lincoln, nobody has done what I’ve done‘, responding with ‘Abraham Lincoln here is one of the most racist presidents we’ve had in modern history. He pours fuel on every single racist fire — every single one‘.
This trend can largely be blamed on the importance of bitesize clips, which have been proliferated by mainstream media outlets. Both candidates (or at least members within their presidential campaign teams) understand that it is vital to get in as many quips in as possible to stand a chance at being reported on, blogged about or re-shared. The days of long, drawn out debates on select policy issues is seemingly over. Instead, we are in the middle of an Arnold Schwarzenegger-styled movie, in which ‘I’ll be back‘ holds more cultural importance than the plot of the picture.
Trump too has transformed the position of the presidency in terms of how a leader can communicate with both the media and the general public. His use of social media could be viewed as transformative to the presidency as Jack Kennedy was when he debated Nixon in 1960. While Obama’s presidential campaign certainly was the first to exhibt a more modern approach to marketing and communication, Trump could be seen as the president to truly understand and solidify how social media will be used, not only by an American president, but across the world henceforth.
Another difference in Trump’s Presidential actions is his reaction to the coronavirus pandemic. He has constantly been at odds with the medical professionals like Antony Fauci and has also been making multiple bold claims and jests which have not been uncommon as his time as President. However this approach seems to appeal to his supporters who see him as an anti-politician a man who will make bold claims, boasts and questionable statements with little regard to their potential repercussions.
During the first presidential debate Biden expounded ‘this very unpresidential’ in response to Trump’s antics during the first debate. No statement could be further from the truth. However, to view this as something which is disadvantageous would be to miss the effect Trump has and will continue to have (with or without re-election) on the presidency.
He hasn’t tried to act like the others, he has torn up the rule book and looked to play by his own rules, not only as the President but with each election, claiming both in 2016 and 2020, that he might not accept the result due to a series of doubts over the very process which has gotten him elected.
This is a far cry from 2008 and 2016 when George W. Bush and Obama allowed for “smooth” transitions. As Trump looks to cast doubt on mail-in ballots and the electoral process what will be the future of the presidency?
Illustration by Sanni Pyhänniska