Trump on Pace to Lose by One Electoral Vote: What that says about America

No matter how the US election resolves, there is something to be said about its culture in light of the electoral college right now.  Biden appears to have taken the “rust-belt” (Michigan and Wisconsin) and is well on the way to Nevada.  This will leave Trump with Alaska, Georgia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania and 269 electoral votes–one vote shy of what is needed to win.

This one vote shy is significant, perhaps even prophetic.

Trump’s wins have thus far corresponded to the strategy of his campaign.  He has skirted the cities, apparently not feeling it worth his while to try and persuade the more sophisticated, globalist urbanite.  It must have been clear to him that this type of person was pretty much entrenched within the Biden camp.  Instead he appealed to the blue collar worker who didn’t mind driving miles out to Rural America to meet with fellow conservative farmers, service industry laborers, and other like-minded folks to form the notorious Trump Rally. These rallies have amassed tens of thousands of people and have incurred the wrath of the incredulous and horrified Never-Trumper who calls these get-togethers “super-spreader” events for the coronavirus.

Trump’s strategy has been to energize his base.  These people already like him, or, at the very least, don’t find him too objectionable when juxtaposed with his policies.  But that hasn’t meant they would vote for him.  As always, a good portion of the population doesn’t vote.  Apathy or antipathy to politics routinely dampen election response, bringing an average of only 55% to 60% turn out.  Trump would exploit the remaining 40% of his own party.

His messaging at these rallies has been simple and appealing to the conservative values of America’s common folk: guns, god, fossil fuel.  With his Queens, New York accent he has appeared like a big, goyish Jackie Mason that supporters have found funny.  He emphasizes the need for a growing economy, poo-pooing the “China Virus” hysteria.  He quotes a modicum of statistics, stating one’s chances of not dying from the virus–for those under 50 years of age–is 99.98 percent.  He puts the danger on par with regular influenza for those healthy enough to shake it off, and for those who aren’t, therapeutics and greater knowledge of the disease has reduced fatalities by 85% (recent reports have put this figure at 66%).  He acknowledges greater danger for senior citizens and those with medical conditions.  But he believes these people are responsible enough to make their own decisions and should have the choice to stay at home or come to his rally.  It’s up to them.

As the world might know, Joe Biden, the Blue Team contender, has conducted the first two-thirds of his campaign from home.  “Basement Biden” became his nick-name from conservative pundits.  Biden defended himself by reminding the American public of the pandemic decimating the country.  He often appeared, as an example to all of us, through zoom and speaking with muffled tones through a huge face mask.  He berated Trump for his recklessness at conducting rallies, accusing him for all the deaths that have occurred in America–totaling 200 million.  This was later changed to 200+ thousand, but his running mate Kamala Harris would repeat the inflated figure again during one of her campaign speeches to drive home the ghastliness of Trump’s Covid-19 minimization.  She would also imply that it was really herself that would be President of the United States once Biden was elected, stating that Joe would hold a place in her administration as president (presumably with a small “p” for president).  Nancy Pelosi would add credence to this mistake-on-purpose-trial-balloon by prematurely proposing revisions to the 25th Amendment of the US Constitution, streamlining Biden’s removal from office due to his cognitive decline.

After weeks of the George Floyd riots–by this time 2 billion dollars worth of American infrastructure had gone down in flames–we still heard nothing from Biden about how he felt about it.  His elaborate Presidential Nomination Television Presentation had not made mention of the civil unrest.  It was only until a roar of outrage was heard from the Red Camp that Joe spoke to America from his computer to condemn the violence.  “Violence is wrong!”  He was careful to counter-balance his message by paying homage to the protesters of systemic racism in America, especially that which came from the cops.  The country had to be “reimagined.”

In response, Trump pointed out Biden’s crushing economic plans to tax the economy into a depression, his fearful impulse to enforce crippling shut-downs, his weaknesses on law and order, his unwillingness to back the police, his propensity to be consumed by the left, and his habit of flip-flopping on green versus conventional energy production.

Which brings us back to why Trump might lose by a single electoral vote.  The heartland of America has loved him not because of his personality.  Everyone knows it’s been problematic. He’s the foul-mouthed foreman at a construction site.  He’s the insensitive, crude field boss–one that will hire the black or brown person over the white one, the woman over the man–all at the drop of a hat if he believes that the person can do a better job.  To Trump it’s all about competition, building tall buildings–and more recently translating this into a tall America. His willingness to be unpopular for what he believes in has stirred a note in the patriot’s soul.

To patriot America, Blue Team Joe Biden’s promise to restore America’s soul–to heal our division–sounds idiotic. America already has a soul.  It doesn’t need to be restored.  We are simply at each other’s throats because we want to be.  Each believes we have good reason.

But Trump is supported by votes that are slightly less than what is required to win.  This would be a simple story if all the Trump voters lived in one area of the state or country and all Biden voters lived in another.  While true to a certain extent, it is not to the whole extent.  It is why the electoral college was developed.  It puts pressure on America to acknowledge its regional differences, balancing its farmer’s point of view with the city dweller’s and allowing these points of view to exist in the other’s territory.

Which is obviously why America has not given Trump a resounding win.  At best it will give Trump a tiny win, if one is to be given at all.  Big and resounding gestures are not what America is needing.  Trump’s strategy of Red Team vs. Blue Team might have worked if defeat of one’s opponent was all that America stood for.  But America has never been about that, as fun as it might have been to go to a Trump rally.  The American Voter needs a bit more.

If votes continue to follow their pattern, the Republican Senate will be preserved as a bulwark against a vindictive Democrat Congress who has threatened to punish America by packing the Supreme Court, creating more Democratic senators, abolishing the filibuster, and reversing most of Trump’s policies. A few more Red Team House Seats also appear in the House of Representatives, sending a none too subtle message that America’s institutions are not up for grabs.

A number of Black conservatives have also emerged onto the stage, unafraid of cancel culture, providing their individual and textured narratives to what might otherwise have been a dominant, monolithic pressure to conform.

Kim Klacik of Baltimore, Joe Collins of South Central LA, Daniel Cameron of Kentucky, Tim Scott of South Carolina–are but a few of the African Americans not treated so well by the people of 2020.  But their voices were certainly heard and remained positive.  Their words became part of the American mix.

The United States appears to be setting the stage for itself to heal on its own, with or without a great president.  No one can do that job alone anyway.  The current pace for Trump’s 269 electoral votes reminds us of that.

About the Author
Victor Salkowitz is a retired Clinical Social Worker with over 30 years experience in prisons, child welfare, and adult mental health agencies. He received his B.A. in Psychology from UC Davis and an MSW from UC Berkeley, becoming licensed in 1991.