Electoral college calls time on Donald Trump

Lame duck: Rallies such as this swept the USA yesterday protesting Trump’s loss. © Getty

Will Trumpism be back? As the electoral college gives Donald Trump the boot, many hope that his cruel brand of politics will go with him – but others fear Trumpism may be here to stay.

Last night, the curtain finally fell on Donald Trump’s presidency. After weeks of legal wrangling, his loss in the electoral college was confirmed. President-Elect Joe Biden received 306 votes to Trump’s 232.

Trump is set to leave office on 20 January. But it will take longer for the scars of his presidency to heal. For many millions of people, Trump’s time in office stands out as an era of unique cruelty in recent American history.

During his 2016 campaign, Trump made racist remarks about Mexicans and Muslims and hurled sexist insults at his female opponent.

As president, he rolled back climate protections and withdrew from the Paris Agreement – an international accord on climate change with support from 188 other countries.

Despite promising to protect social security, he slashed funding for the Medicare and Medicaid health insurance programmes, making it harder for the poorest people in America to access healthcare.

He brought the world closer to war by ramping up tensions with Iran. At the same time, he threatened to withdraw from Nato and abandoned the Kurdish militias who had defeated ISIS.

And as a last act of spite, he is now carrying out the first federal executions in 17 years. He is set to oversee 13 executions, more than any president since 1945.

But the policy that most defined the Trump era was the decision to separate migrant families at the US-Mexico border. Children and parents have been kept apart for months, often held in cages in vast detention centres, with no means of contacting each other. More than 600 children still have not been reunited with their parents.

Trump’s defeat seems to have drawn a line under these policies. Biden has presented himself as a healer, ready to restore America’s soul.

But is Trumpism – the set of ideas that he championed – dead? Trump has already hinted that he might run for the presidency again in 2024 and remains extremely popular with the Republican Party.

Although he has not succeeded in overturning the result of the election, he has persuaded many of his followers that the election was rigged. The last few days have seen violent protests by his supporters in several US cities. Their rage could motivate them to turn out for Trump in 2024.

Even if he does not run, other Republicans now think Trumpism is a winning formula. Previously, Republicans were torn between appealing to Latino voters with a softer approach to immigration, and shoring up the party’s white, right-wing base.

But in 2020, Trump, with his hardline anti-immigration policies, won more Latino votes than any previous Republican candidate. Some Republicans could now think that by copying Trump’s policies, they can win Latino votes without losing older white voters. That coalition could win them the presidency in 2024.

This is why Republicans are keen to align themselves with Trump. On Friday, 126 Republican representatives voted to overturn the election result and grant Trump victory. Several former Republican critics – including Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz – now publicly support him.

Will Trumpism be back?

Trump 2.0

Yes, say some. Trump remains an icon among American conservatives, and even out of power he will be an influential force in the Republican Party. If he does not run himself, other Republicans will be keen to win his endorsement in 2024. He has shown that Trumpism can win elections. We should expect the Republican candidate in 2024 to be a Trumpian.

No, say others. Trump should have been the clear favourite in 2020: American presidents rarely fail to win re-election. Instead, he was rejected by the majority of the country. Trumpism has never won the popular vote, and it has proved extremely divisive. If Republicans are going to win over an increasingly diverse population, they will have to change their approach.

You Decide

  1. What do you think is the best thing that Donald Trump has done in the last four years?
  2. Should America try to forget the Trump years and move on, or does it need to confront this phase of its history?

Activities

  1. Write a short story about Trump being dragged out of the White House on 20 January.
  2. It is 2022 and you are interviewing Former President Donald Trump. Write down some questions to ask him about his time in office.

Some People Say...

“If we define an American fascist as one who puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States.”

Henry Wallace (1888 - 1965), American politician

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Most people agree that despite their victory, the 2020 election brought grim omens for the Democrats. They once again lost ground among Black and Latino men, along with several seats in the House of Representatives, and they might still fail to win the Senate. Although Joe Biden has successfully held both wings of his party together, there are likely to be more clashes between the left and the right of the party in the coming years. This could make future elections difficult for the Democrats.
What do we not know?
People disagree on whether or not “Trumpism” is anything new. Although he stands out for his vulgarity, previous presidents have been equally cruel. Bill Clinton was accused of assaulting women. Under George Bush, suspected terrorists were tortured in Guantánamo Bay and other black sites around the world, and he built a fence on the Mexican border. Barack Obama used overwhelming force to break up Native American protests against a large, damaging oil pipeline being built on their lands.

Word Watch

The electoral college
The institution that elects the president. It was created in 1787 to ensure that small states with fewer voters would not be crowded out by larger ones.
Paris Agreement
The accord commits its members to bring down greenhouse gas emissions to ensure that the planet does not warm more than 1.5C.
Medicare and Medicaid
Welfare programmes created in the 1960s to ensure that people who could not pay for their own healthcare, and the elderly, could still be treated, at the state’s expense.
Iran
Barack Obama lifted economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for a guarantee that the country would not develop nuclear weapons, but Trump broke this deal and reimposed sanctions.
Nato
An organisation of western powers who are all committed to defend each other if any one of them is attacked.
Kurdish militias
The Kurds, a people who live mostly in Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran, formed militias to defend themselves against ISIS terrorists. The US initially gave them money and weapons, but in 2019 it allowed Turkey to invade Kurdish territory and kill thousands.
ISIS
A brutal terrorist organisation that in 2014 conquered swathes of land in Iraq and Syria, committed genocide against religious minorities and set up a new Islamist state. It was finally defeated in 2019.
Federal executions
While several US states still impose the death penalty, until this year the federal government had stopped executing the prisoners under its jurisdiction.
Detention centres
US facilities where migrants are held awaiting trial or deportation.
Latino
An umbrella term covering everyone in the USA with origins in South America.

PDF Download

Please click on "Print view" at the top of the page to see a print friendly version of the article.