Ambassador SURENDRA KUMAR | 23 OCTOBER, 2020
America’s Most Divisive Presidential Election
Shades of an Indian election
Most American citizens, including immigrants who became naturalized citizens, take pride in America’s Exceptionalism. They believe, the record of the oldest democracy in the democratic process, freedom of expression, rule of law, human rights, acceptance of people of different race, religion, ethnicity, languages and cultural traditions coming from different parts of the world to make their dreams come true was and is unique and unmatched.
The Israeli, Chinese, Indian American and Hispanic communities which have flourished and now exercise considerable influence in America can vouch for this.
However, the tone and tenor of the political discourse of the two presidential candidates, the gutter language used and personal attacks and accusations and counter accusations made against each other and the use of race, religion, ethnicity and political ideology to scare and divide people has put a huge question mark against the self-proclaimed American Exceptionalism.
Both Trump and Biden have questioned each other’s physical fitness, mental health and moral rectitude. The Trump campaign is allegedly using a false video which shows Biden on a wheel chair alluding to his advanced age and another in which he is supposedly conniving with Ukrainian officials to sabotage the electoral process.
On the other hand, Biden supporters are highlighting Trump’s inability to address the Covid-19 which has caused 2,20,000 deaths ,more than the total number of American lives lost in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan ,Libya & Syria; his evasiveness about his tax returns and complete opaqueness about his health; none knows what drugs were administered when he was hospitalized , how badly his lungs were infected ,whether he had pneumonia and whether he has fully recovered .
Trump, in fact, told a TV anchor with a poker face that he didn’t remember when he tested Negative! Many Americans don’t believe him. Any statement, report, comment which questions Trump is dismissed by him as fake news. Some of his comments suspected to be false and bordering on hate speech have been blocked by the Face book & Twitter.
Personal attacks have been mean, ugly and ferocious with no holds barred. Some call it “a sickening degradation of discourse in a country known for political civility.” Former Presidential Candidate, Mitt Romney, summed it succinctly: many Americans are frightened for our country, so divided, so angry, so mean, so violent.”
Interestingly,this American election is looking more like an Indian election where election campaigns begin with the developmental agenda and claims of what has been done by the government of the day. But as the campaign progresses, every card, every trick every issue which can attract voters and breach the opponents’ support base is used unapologetically and unabashedly.
Before the 2019 parliamentary elections, many candidates openly stated that if the Congress party wins laddus will be distributed in Islamabad alluding that it wasn’t a patriotic party. Similarly, Donald Trump has been saying at his rallies that a vote against him meant a vote for China trying to encash the current anti-China sentiment in America and suggesting that Biden won’t be tough enough against China to protect American interests.
Prior to the 2019 election, in some constituencies, we heard motivated rumours spread by motivated individuals and organizations to create a scare and arouse apprehensions in the minds of the people that “Urban Naxals” will enter homes and disrupt peace in society, ie alleging that their rivals were taking help from anti-State elements.
Doesn’t it sound similar when Trump repeatedly tells all at his rallies that if they vote for Biden the Leftists will attacks them in their homes and there will be serious law and order problems; their safety will be in danger. Several of his speeches after public protests sounded inflammatory and partisan; more supportive of the Police than the victims of police brutality.
Like in the Indian elections, fake videos, doctored photos and unsubstantiated allegations are being used to tilt the balance. Rudy Giuliani, former Mayor of New York and a strong supporter of Trump who has been digging dirt on Biden and accusing his son Hunter of corruption was scathingly criticized by his own daughter and called the “President’s personal bulldog.”
In India, the BJP which hasn’t given a ticket to any Muslim candidate in the Parliament election in recent years seldom gets more than 10-12 % Muslim votes; sometimes even less. In the US since 2000, 90% votes of African Americans have gone to the Democrats and les than 10% to the Republicans. Barack Obama got over 91% of these votes, Hilary Clinton got slightly less. Biden is expected to touch Hilary’s percentage especially after choosing Kamala Harris as his running mate.
The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 by a policeman on duty triggered off countrywide “Black Lives matter” protests that reverberated in 60 countries worldwide, Trump has tried to reach out to Black voters; he freed US$ 500 billion for black communities, which should create 3 million jobs and support 500,000 new black businesses. These measures though not insignificant, might not remove African Americans’ antipathy towards Trump.
The town hall debates conducted by two different TV channels at two different venues on October 15 brought to fore the contrast in the personality, mind set and approach to many issues confronting the country of the two candidates. When Trump couldn’t explain why he retweeted Group QAnon ‘s ugly conspiracy theories which alleged that the US Blue Seals had killed Osama Bin Laden’s body double without any evidence, NBC’s tough Moderator Savannah Guthrie told him bluntly that he wasn’t somebody’s crazy uncle who could just tweet whatever.
Trump has been expressing his disdain for postal ballots calling them a disaster though over 10 million Americans have stood for 5-10 hours in long queues to cast their vote in person/by ballot. His repeated warning that he could lose only on account of heavy rigging and such a vote will not be acceptable to him is a bad omen for the US.
At his debate moderated by the ABC news, Biden looked calm, composed and statesmanlike. When asked how he would interpret his loss he was disarmingly frank in saying that it would mean” he was a lousy campaigner and not up to the job.” The last presidential debate held just last evening had rules to ensure a moderate, and more mature event with Trump slightly more restrained, and Biden holding his own.
Unless in the remaining days, Trump adds some proof to his corruption charges against Biden, mobilizes White Ultra-Nationalists, Christian Evangelists, suburban women, senior citizens and manage to scare many Americans with the Left bogey, opinion polls suggest he will lose notwithstanding his claims of big crowds and enthusiasm. Some Republican Senators feel, he will not only lose but take the Senate down with him as well.
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