*While Donald Trump has lost the 2020 US Election, his politics may have staying power. (Photo: Larry White via Pixabay.)

America now faces four years of a return to “normal” under President-elect Joe Biden. While this might offer a reprieve in the short-term, more radical solutions to the country’s social and economic problems will likely be demanded in the future.

This post-Trump America was the main point of discussion in Solidarity Australia’s post-US election “virtual” panel: “Crisis, resistance and the fight for the future in the US.”

The socialist group’s guest speakers agreed that it was not the “blue wave” landslide electoral victory that Democrats were hoping for, and much of their discussion was dedicated to explaining how one of the most divisive presidents in US history managed to increase his vote count by almost ten million.

Here are three key takeaways.

This election was a referendum on Donald Trump

Dr Thomas Adams, a senior lecturer in History and American studies at the University of Sydney, made it clear that this election was a referendum on Donald Trump, rather than an endorsement of Joe Biden and the platform of the Democratic Party. Dr Adams cited the poor performance of the Democrats down the ballot as evidence of this. The Democrats were expected to increase their majority in the House of Representatives and take the Senate. As it stands, the Democrats are poised to maintain a slim majority in the Lower House while the Republicans retain control of the Senate.

Dr Adams said that early exit polls on election day confirmed the race for the White House was all about Donald Trump.

“It’s very clear that people were voting about Donald Trump,” he said. “They were either voting for Donald Trump or voting against Donald Trump. No one was really particularly voting for Joe Biden”.

The electoral college continues to dissatisfy

Black Lives Matter activist Michael Brown was keen to remind Australians about the Electoral College.

“For those who don’t know, we don’t actually live in a democracy,” he said. “And that’s because we have an old archaic system here called the Electoral College.”

In US, the winner of the popular vote does not necessarily win the Presidency. The last time this occurred was just four years ago, with Hillary Clinton losing the electoral college to Donald Trump despite garnering three million more votes. Under the electoral college system, each state is designated a certain number of electoral points, all of which are awarded to the candidate that wins a majority in the state. This means that even if a candidate only wins a slight majority in a state, they are given all of the electoral points held by the state.


electoral college graphic

In the last 20 years, both Donald Trump and George W. Bush have won the Presidency without winning the popular vote. (Graphic: Charlie McLean)


Virginia Rodino, an activist with revolutionary group Marx 21, drew attention to the undemocratic design of the electoral college.

“A handful of swing states decide the election and are targeted heavily by the corporate parties and this means that ignoring voters in the remaining 38 to 42 states is common,” she said.

Trump and Sanders have changed American politics forever

Donald Trump, despite the loss of 243,000 American lives as a result of his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, was able to turn out almost 10 million new voters. Dr Thomas Adams believes he was able to do this by continuing his populist anti-establishment rhetoric from 2016, which follows former Democrats contender Bernie Sanders’ “inverted theory of politics”. Central to both the Trump and Sanders’ campaigns was the idea that America’s major institutions were fundamentally broken, albeit for different reasons, and radical change was needed.

Consequently, both campaigns have found considerable success. Trump’s populist movement has transformed many traditional Republicans into supporters of “Trumpism” – an ideology dedicated to “draining the swamp” of Washington politics. Meanwhile, the passionate grassroots support for Sanders has brought policies that would previously have been deemed too radical into the mainstream of the Democratic Party.

— Story, Charlie McLean