Election to change face of US forever

Election to change face of US forever, by Cameron Stewart.

The contest between Donald Trump and Joe Biden is not just holding the US in thrall, it is spooking the country. Fears of a contested result in Wednesday’s election (AEDT) and resulting civil unrest has seen shopfronts in Washington and other cities boarded up, the national guard placed on standby and a spike in gun sales.

Such is the passion for this contest that long lines of people are waiting for hours at voting booths across the country to cast their vote days ahead of the actual poll. An unprecedented 75 million voters have already voted by mail or in person, more than half of the total vote in the 2016 election.

Go woke, or stay traditional?

This is a very willing fight between two starkly different visions of America. …

As the campaign nears its climax, both Trump and Biden are taking increasingly wild swings at each other. Trump has labelled Biden a “criminal” politician who should be jailed for his family’s business dealings. Biden has all but blamed Trump for the deaths of 227,000 Americans due to the coronavirus pandemic. Supporters of both candidates are treating this election as if it will change America forever.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” veteran Republican political consultant Frank Luntz says. “Even the most balanced, mainstream people are talking about this election in language that is more caffeinated and cataclysmic than anything I‘ve ever heard.

“If you are a believer in climate change, re-electing Trump is literally the end of the world. If taxes are your issue, you think a Biden victory will bankrupt you. If your top concern is health care, you think a Biden loss will kill you.”

At his rallies Trump tells his supporters he should never have been fighting for his political life right now.

“We had this thing won. We were so far up. We had the greatest economy ever, greatest jobs, greatest everything. And then we got hit with the plague, and I had to go back to work,” he says.

Indeed, the President looked like he was cruising towards a second term in office when the coronavirus shut down the country and the world’s richest economy in March. For all the controversy Trump generates, the US economy was purring along with 50-year low unemployment, plentiful jobs and rising wages. History shows that Americans re-elect presidents on that record.

But Trump has been forced to fight this election in the giant shadow of the coronavirus pandemic and the fatal perception among a majority of voters that he has mishandled the tragedy. The pandemic has also plunged the US economy into recession, causing tens of millions of job losses, robbing Trump of his biggest argument for re-election. …

Trump’s final sprint to the poll has coincided with a record surge in new coronavirus cases across the country. These have doubled to around 80,000 a day from 35,000 in mid-September. Unfortunately for Trump, this surge has been greatest in key swing states like Wisconsin and Iowa which he needs to win.

Boxed in by the virus, Trump has tried to politicise the pandemic, blaming “fake news” for concentrating on the issue for political reasons. …

Trump has also campaigned hard on the issue of Hunter Biden’s laptop, a strategy that has divided Republicans. … Republican Senator Ted Cruz says Trump is wasting his time pushing the issue. “I don’t think it moves a single voter,’ Cruz says. …

In Florida, Trump has been hit by a drop in support from older voters. These voters have been hit hardest by the pandemic and are less inclined to back his push to prioritise the economy over fighting the virus. But despite this, it is a virtual tie in Florida with Biden up by a mere 1.4 points. …

The greatest worry for the Trump campaign is Michigan and Wisconsin, the two states that Trump won unexpectedly in 2016. Both have been hit hard by the pandemic and both look increasingly out of reach, with Biden leading by 8.2 points in Michigan and 6.4 points in Wisconsin.

The right might pay the ultimate price for not taking covid seriously. Those funders of the anti-lockdown sites will have a lot to answer for.