By obliging millions of Americans to vote by mail, Covid has lengthened the counting process in America's elections. Though it may seem that a cloud continues to hang over the outcome, some conclusions can perhaps be drawn.
One is that Donald Trump's exit is almost certain. His evident defeat offers a significant lesson: Like other tides of history, an ethnonationalist tide too can recede, or be made to retreat.
When, again and again, Trump shouted "America First!", everyone knew that he meant "Whites First." A rejection of Trump, no matter how narrow, will announce America's rejection of White supremacy and become a historic moment for the world.
Though nationalism has its downside, it often unites a nation. Ethnonationalism, on the other hand, divides a nation by privileging one of its sections. "Whites must take America back," "Muslims must dominate Turkey" and "Hindus are India's masters" are ethnonationalist cries.
By apparently winning for Biden the states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia, Blacks in cities like Philadelphia, Detroit, Milwaukee and Atlanta may have saved America as a nation for all Americans.
Campaigning with fearsome energy during the final days, Covid-afflicted Trump fired up his substantial base and obtained more votes than he got for his 2016 victory. Unfortunately for him, Biden in 2020 has exceeded Hilary Clinton's 2016 tally by far larger numbers, receiving more votes than anyone in US history, and eclipsing Trump by more than four million votes.
It took a lot to bring Trump to this point. Because his niece quietly collaborated with The New York Times reporters, America learnt that this supposed billionaire was paying $750 a year as income tax. Dozens of fact-checkers assembled a mountain of Trump's provable lies. Two additional heaps grew before America's eyes, one of Trump associates jailed by the law, another of staff members fired by him.
After a brave girl took a video of the murder of George Floyd, the streets of a hundred American cities erupted with protesters of every race. Civil servants stepped forward to tell the truth, anonymously to begin with, and openly later. Risking the wrath of loyalists, a few prominent Republicans campaigned openly against Trump under a "Lincoln Project" banner.
For years a committed Republican and a member of Trump's "Covid Task Force", Olivia Troye from El Paso, Texas, quit the team and publicly denounced Trump's inaction over Covid.
Though overcoming his own Covid infection, Trump paid the price for claiming continually that the disease was "about to disappear". In their homes and hospitals, Americans saw that Covid's destructive spread took zero note of the race, creed or nationality of humans in its way. They also saw women and men of every race serving Covid's sick or dying targets.
Covid exposed the hollowness of racial superiority, but White supremacy remains an American force that received a powerful impetus from Trump's occupancy of the White House. And from his marketing skills.
Trump enabled Whites, a huge majority in the land, to think they were America's victims. In effect, he told them that they had been betrayed by their country's establishment, intellectuals and media - by the Deep State, as he and others described the supposed enemy. Also, Trump warned America's Whites of "threats" from Blacks, other non-Whites, immigrants, and a "hostile" world.
Though apparently defeated, Trump is not "about to disappear". There is talk of his running again in 2024. Fortunately for the U.S. and the world, however, there are symbols other than Trump for Americans to rally around. Apart from Lincoln, Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, there is the image that America saw after the George Floyd killing of Americans of all races, genders and ages marching for equality and mutual respect.
That memory could soon clash with images of disagreement and even conflict within the coalition of progressive and moderate Democrats that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris represent. The future of the Republican Party will be equally if not more interesting. In the wake of the election, some Republicans have openly warned that a solely White party will soon be out of sync with a changing America.
That White grievance may not long survive as a winning strategy was understood by Trump himself. His campaign tried very hard, and not without some success, to appeal to Black and other non-White voters, while simultaneously encouraging supremacist groups.
Also interesting to watch will be the ability of a President Biden to work with a Senate likely to remain under Republican control and with a House of Representatives where Democrats will be somewhat weaker than they have been for two years. Meanwhile, a majority of Americans and many in the world will probably be relieved at the setback that ethnonationalism seems to have received.
(Rajmohan Gandhi is presently teaching at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.)
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