Donald Trump’s fascistic reign is over, but fascism lives!
Trump amassed over 70 million votes, 7 million more than he got in 2016. Disturbingly, he garnered more votes than any previous presidential candidate, except Joseph R. Biden, the person who beat him.
Thus, Trumpism, homegrown American fascism, continues and will probably be a significant component of U.S. politics and social life for at least a generation. How long the thirst for authoritarianism lingers depends partly on whether Biden pursues accountability or conforms to U.S. history and places reconciliation above justice.
2020 was a historic election. About 160 million people voted, up from 136 million in 2016. This represents a turnout rate of about 67 percent, the highest percentage of Americans participating in the electoral process in 120 years! The election was significant in other ways as well.
The 2020 election confirmed that the U.S. is riven between two broad antagonistic electoral blocs, one deeply conservative, the other slightly progressive. Both voting blocs are most fruitfully characterized by race, ethnicity and class.
The conservative coalition is wealthy, White and a haven for White supremacists. The progressive coalition is dark, impoverished and fairly antiracist. They see the world quite differently. The disagreement transcends policy; it also includes values, goals, the interpretation of history and facts.
Despite the chaos, abrogation of democratic norms, terror, death and destruction perpetuated by his regime, Trump and his Republican minions expanded their sway over White Americans. Though a dwindling share of the electorate, White Americans still constitute the vast majority of voters. Yet between 2016 and 2020, their share of the electorate only increased by 3 million, from 100 million to 103 million.
In contrast, the darker peoples made up the bulk of the new voters. African American voters rose by 1.9 million, from 17.1 in 2016 to 19 million in 2020. The Latinx vote grew by an astonishing 8 million, from 12.6 million to 20.6 million, while Asian Americans increased their votes by 3.6 million, from 1.1 million to 4.7 million.
However, the differences transcend participation rates. At its core, it’s a profound difference in worldview. The widest fault line between the two voting blocs concerns race. The Pew Research Center reports that 76 percent of Biden/Harris voters identified eliminating “racial inequality” and reforming law enforcement as “very important.” Contrastingly, only 24 percent of those voting for the fascist ticket agreed. Whereas only 9 percent of Trump/Pence voters believe “it’s more difficult to be Black” in the U.S., versus 74 percent of Biden/Harris voters.
COVID-19 is another area of immense divide. Led by their dark base, 82 percent of progressives view combating the coronavirus as “very important,” compared with only 24 percent of right-wing voters. Since it is the darker peoples who bear the brunt of illness and death from COVID-19, it’s probably a euphemism for race. A nearly similar 82-to-44-percent gulf exists between progressives and conservatives regarding health care.
Only 22 percent of Biden/Harris voters believe they share core values with Trump/Pence voters. Among the latter, the percentage is even lower, 18 percent.
Not only won’t these two opposing social visions be resolved any time soon, it’s more likely they will solidify over time.
Our contemporary political polarization recalls the 1850s, the prelude to the Civil War, though Reconstruction is the more encompassing analogy. Trump’s ideology, policies and barbaric behavior mark him as a present-day Andrew Johnson, an incompetent archconservative racist.
Johnson refused to punish the Confederate traitors who caused the death of over 600,000 people. He revoked Sherman’s Special Field Order #15, which granted the land from the sea islands and 30 miles inland from Charleston, S.C. to the St. Johns River in Florida to the freedpeople.
He vetoed the 1866 Civil Rights and 1867 Reconstruction acts. And a drunken Johnson toured the country espousing White-supremacist nonsense and railing against the 14th and 15th Amendments.
There’s a reason the civil-rights and Black-power movements have been called the Second Reconstruction. In many ways, the mid-1960s social transformation mirrored its mid-19th century predecessor’s successes, blind spots, silences, retreat and betrayal. Both were overthrown by revanchist White counter movements.
Like its forerunner, the 1960s rebellion against White supremacy, most tangible victories were legislative. The passage of the 1964 Civil Rights, 1965 Voting Rights and the 1968 Fair Housing acts cracked but did not shatter American apartheid. It did however, remake Black America.
Importantly, the social movements birthed new autonomous Black civic organizations, institutions and business enterprises. It brought numerous Black men and women into elective and appointive office. And it was destroyed by a combination of state and private anti-Black racial terrorism — murder, assassination and counterintelligence operations — racist conservative juridical decisions and a race-based societal malaise that ruled Black folks out of vogue.
The two prior retreats from Reconstruction — racial justice — precipitated the last and current nadirs in African American history. For one newly elected progressive Black representative, Jamaal Bowman of New York’s 16th District, it’s time to try a third Reconstruction. Such an effort at social transformation requires a reckoning. It demands rooting out the fascist movement, not a rapprochement with them.
Will Biden repeat history or break the cycle? Will he stand as a more competent Ulysses S. Grant, pursue a radical reconstruction, smash White supremacists, or will he fold like Rutherford B. Hayes in 1877?