Maribel Hastings and David Torres
While President Donald Trump defies the coronavirus with packed rallies that have been sources of contagion, even though it doesn’t matter to his loyal followers, around the country other places are equally packed. But these places are filled with voters who are waiting in long and, in many cases, slow lines for the ability to exercise their right to vote before the official in-person Election Day, November 3. It is a sign that millions are not leaving anything to chance, especially with Trump’s threats to dispute the results if he loses re-election.
It is, in fact, a tactic and an explicit message from a citizenry that still believes in democracy and in the values that extend from it, in the function of an urgent public and civilized response to a political anomaly that is growing worse with every passing day. That is, if everything was normal as in prior elections, a majority of voters would not be living in this state of electoral emergency and would be patiently awaiting the day of the elections, who are usually more festive than worrying.
For example, as of this past Sunday, almost 28 million U.S. citizens across the nation had voted early, according to an analysis from the firm Target Smart. Fifty-three percent of the early voters were Democrats and 36% were Republican. Democratic participation is six times what it was in 2016 at this same point, while Republican participation is four times larger. Moreover, 2020 is seeing an increase in the participation of all ethnic groups as compared with 2016, according to the same analysis.
These comparative figures confirm that the enthusiasm of yesteryear is becoming today’s worry, in the sense that they do not only want to preserve the U.S. democratic system, but also ensure that the popular will translate into votes, which is the very base of democracy, is not once again vitiated.
What’s interesting is that the general belief was that the pandemic would deal a blow to electoral participation, but the story that’s emerging to this point seems to be entirely the contrary. Perhaps exactly because of the pandemic or unforeseen circumstances on Election Day, millions have decided to vote early and/or by mail.
Essentially, COVID-19 has also become a political catalyst in this electoral process, among those who have turned themselves inside-out to deny its existence and those who have preferred to follow all the safety protocols in the face of this public health emergency. In between these two lanes, however, is the common ground of exercising an inalienable right with a sense of urgency this year, 2020.
Certainly, nothing is written in stone until the final votes are tallied, and even then anything can happen with a president who has dedicated himself to delegitimizing the electoral process, saying that vote by mail is “fraud,” and who has refused to say whether he will accept the results if he loses, a muteness that heralds post-electoral instability to the benefit of no one.
In fact, this weekend in one of his campaign rallies he even said that Democrat Joe Biden is the “worst candidate” in history and if he loses to the Democrat, he “might have to leave the country.” If Trump plainly believed in democracy, he wouldn’t even dare to mention this last part, a situation straight out of dictatorial regimes who persecute their opposition and critics. Unless he is afraid that all of the investigations against him will translate into criminal charges once he returns to being Citizen Trump if he is not reelected.
It happens that after his disastrous first presidential debate followed by his COVID-19 diagnosis and the national surveys that, to this day, favor the democrat, Biden, the already erratic conduct of President Trump has been exacerbated. If before it was clear that Trump lacks the capacity to lead this nation, now there is no doubt whatsoever.
Over the past four years of the Trump administration, chaos has reigned in our domestic and foreign policy. His public policies, especially on immigration, are sustained in hate, xenophobia, and racism, making undocumented immigrants and their relatives the permanent scapegoat without even a moment’s reprieve; in fact, he seems to enjoy mistreating them this way. His disdain for our democratic system has been increasing, acting as if the institutions and agencies exist to serve him personally, or advance his agenda and not that of the nation.
This is, his fondness for dictators, his sordid fiscal problems, his gall to use the presidency for his personal economic benefit, his eagerness for stirring up racial divisions, his sympathy for white supremacists, his lack of appreciation for science, and more recently his mismanagement of the pandemic are only some of the matters that prove that this president represents a threat to this country. Another four years of Trump could unleash damages that would take decades to reverse; or, in any case, would return the U.S. to the decades when minorities did not count, and were defiled by discrimination and racism to serve white privilege.
Right now, the voters are showing enthusiasm for participating in the electoral process, whether that be in pursuit of a change of leadership that brings sanity and stability, or four more years of chaos.
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