Donald Trump’s failings and disgraces as president haven’t shaken his core supporters, but they likely lost him his second term.
By Sheila Copps
First published in The Hill Times on November 9, 2020.
OTTAWA—Revenge is a dish best served cold. Deceased Congressional leaders John McCain and John Lewis may have delivered that dish in spades from their graves.
Days into the American presidential vote count, Arizona and Georgia are among the key states, holding the balance of power in the critical road to 270 electoral college votes needed for victory.
Both states witnessed the deaths of their beloved native sons met with insult and ignominy by U.S. President Donald Trump. The state of Arizona was in the Trump column in the last election, but that was before the president spewed some of his standard anti-military vitriol, claiming that McCain was no war hero because he was captured in theatre. Ditto for Georgia, before the president boycotted the Lewis state funeral, which was attended by all other living presidents.
McCain’s family was so outraged by the slurs against the respected Republican that they campaigned against Trump in this election. But the insults directed towards icons like McCain and Lewis mattered little to most Republicans.
With the record-breaking turnout in this race, Trump managed to score more than five million more votes than Republican ballots cast in 2016. To those of us watching this election from afar, that solid support seems incomprehensible. How could anyone vote for a president who boycotted the funeral of America’s senior congressional African American? It is shocking to the world that Trump was not thrown out of office in shame, considering the chaos that has reigned during his term in office.
On COVID-19 alone, his incompetence, and the absence of a national strategy, has led to the deaths of more than 234,000 people. But his disastrous handling of the COVID pandemic does not seem to have had any influence on his popularity amongst diehard supporters.
In one CNN interview, a woman whose whole family had fallen ill from COVID was supporting Trump and did not believe he had any responsibility for the viral spread in the United States. She said she was voting for him because of his terrific success in foreign policy, and specifically cited the signing of a trade agreement with Israel.
With the massive support he received during the election, it may not have been enough to win, but he will definitely remain a player on the American political stage. Rumour has it that if Trump loses the election, which seems increasingly likely, he is so angry with Fox News that he will revive a 2016 plan to launch his own television station.
Trump was also running an irate twitter rant against Fox News, because of its decision to call Arizona as a winner for the Democrats just a few hours after the polls closed. The enraged president demanded officials stop counting votes in Democratic-leaning states and speed up voting where he was winning.
Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani was also piling on with unproven conspiracy theories. The most bizarre was a Trump tweet quickly hidden by the political censor rules on twitter. Without a scintilla of evidence, Trump ginned up his followers with the notion that his win was being stolen by underhanded Democratic shenanigans. His supporters stormed a number of independent election counting centres, some toting arms and threatening employees as they entered or left the election premises. Protesters were acting on his bizarre tweet in the early morning hours after the polls closed, claiming he won the election and the only thing officials needed to do was to stop counting votes.
Trump was insisting on foul play on the counting front, but even Twitter political censors did not believe him. The tweet was blocked after Trump claimed, “Last night I was leading, often solidly, in many key states, in almost all instances Democrat run and controlled. Then, one by one, they started to magically disappear as surprise ballot dumps were counted. VERY STRANGE.”
It is only strange for a political neophyte. In elections around the world, polling divisions in crowded urban areas come in later and with larger numbers. It takes longer to count them. Add mail-in ballots to the mix and you can anticipate more delays. Some states did not even start counting the millions of mail-in ballots until the evening of the election. Even though this is a federal election, each state has its own voting system.
The claim that votes are being stolen is false. The principle that every vote counts is at the core of democracy. But Trump doesn’t care. He will be a one-term wonder who prefers working with dictators.
Sheila Copps is a former Jean Chrétien-era cabinet minister and a former deputy prime minister. Follow her on Twitter at @Sheila_Copps.