Race, Gender, Class and Covid: Narrow Margin Widens America’s Divide, And Will Continue to
A Trump supporter chants during a protest against the election results outside the central counting board at the tcf Center in Detroit, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
In 2004, Barack Obama shot into the political limelight with a speech at the Democratic convention stressing on unity. “There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America. There’s not a Black America and White America and Latino America and Asian America. There’s the United States of America.”
In 2008, when he was the presidential candidate, many believed that he would unite the country rather than divide it. No doubt, even the most powerful American president cannot be held responsible for an increasingly divisive society, but they can indeed show the way.
Experts say that whichever side ultimately prevails, America is diverging along both demographic and geographic lines as sharply as at any other point in modern American history.
The 2020 US elections show the deep divide within the country that it is a 50-50 nation. Half the Americans backed Republican incumbent Donald Trump, while the other half didn’t. It will leave about half of America triumphant, and the other half furious and fearful. The divide is nothing new as the country was always divided but now it is getting deeper.
There is a political divide, economic divide, racial divide, urban-rural divide, gender divide, a class divide and even a Covid divide.
There is reasonable evidence that the American political parties are increasingly becoming polarised. This election provides proof of a society divided down the middle. This is evident across society including in the media. The divide between the blue states and red states is also clear.
Joe Biden delivered a forceful appeal for national unity in Gettysburg during a campaign speech. He described the election as a “battle for the soul of the nation”. Addressing a campaign rally, he said, “Today, once again we are a house divided… But that, my friend, can no longer be. We are facing too many crises. We have too much work to do. We have too bright a future to leave it shipwrecked on the shoals of anger and hate and division.”
Ideologically, the Republicans look back to the past when America was White and a Christian nation. The Democrats have a very different vision of America, which is more secular, more progressive, and celebrates diversity.
It is clear that the White Americans, who still make up the majority of the electorate, have again rallied in large numbers behind Trump, especially White men. Hispanic voters, like other minority-ethnic voters, favored Biden. The White working-class voters in the rust belt and upper-Midwest states who supported
Trump in 2016 have not changed their minds.
They had other grievances, as they felt ignored, the immigrants grabbed their jobs and they wanted someone to speak for them. The Democrats did not address their problems while Trump quickly discovered that millions of Americans were irate that the costs and benefits of the US new economic reality were so unevenly distributed.
There is a vertical division in the US Congress too. It is more polarised ideologically than before. There is also a government divide, which occurs when one party controls the senate and the other House of Representatives. Unified government occurs when the same party controls the executive and the legislature as the cooperation of both the Houses and the President is needed to pass legislation. Right now, the odds seem to favor Joe Biden but the Republicans have a fair chance of retaining control of the Senate.
Rural and urban America also reveals a deeper divide. Trump seems to have continued to retain support in rural areas whereas in suburban and urban America the Democrats have an upper hand.
Yet another divide is the majority versus minority. Indian-Americans and other minority groups are moving up in politics. There are five persons of Indian-origin in the Congress today.
An Associated Press poll some time ago notes that with the population changes, the minority voters are becoming the majority. While the influx of Asians has not only reshaped the face of America’s immigrant population it has also sharpened the divide.
Financially, Black Americans and Hispanics are far worse off than Whites; America’s 40 million-plus immigrants more and more reflect the extremes of America's economic spectrum.
President Trump is seen as a divisive man. He believed that his policy would help him retain his presidency. The narrow margin between the two candidates shows that for all the divisiveness that President Donald Trump has stoked, the political divide may still continue to grow wider.
The Wall Street Journal put it succinctly on November 3: “The portrait of America revealed in Tuesday’s presidential election was one of a deeply divided nation split between men and women, white and nonwhite voters, urban and rural residents, college graduates and those who didn’t graduate from college, and differing views on the importance of controlling the coronavirus pandemic versus preventing further damage to the economy.”