Will domestic peace come under threat after the US election?

Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump stand in line before a rally at a sports facility in Newtown, Pennsylvania on October 21, 2016. (AFP)

This week was marked by Donald Trump’s last chance to make an impression at Wednesday’s debate as polls confirmed a steady decrease in voting intentions for his candidacy since his first joust with Hillary Clinton in late September. The ensuing string of scandals, especially in regards to his offensive attitude toward women and sexual assault, has since severely weighed on his capacity to become the next US president. Even if he appeared more poised on Wednesday night, his incapacity to remain calm, calling Clinton a “nasty woman,” and his refusal to confirm he would accept an eventual defeat pushed him further off the edge of suitability for the Oval Office. This was later confirmed when he used a speech during a religious charity dinner to insult his opponent, repeating allegations of corruption.

Over the last few weeks, the constant childish and aggressive behavior of their champion has led to a crumbling of the Republican Party establishment. Key politicians such as Mitt Romney, John McCain and the Bush family have either vehemently refused to endorse Trump or are distancing themselves from the presidential candidate while Senate and Congress leaders Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell desperately attempt to maintain a vanishing sense of official cohesion.

Nevertheless, the largest rift is between the Republican electorate and the party itself. During the primary elections, Donald Trump received the votes of some 13 million registered Republican voters who chose him over a large panel of 15 other candidates, more than anyone in the history of Republican primaries. Despite the recent turmoil, local support for the Republican nominee remains strong. However low the likelihood of Trump hedging Clinton is now, he is still expecting to receive the support of close to 40% of the American voters. The challenge for Clinton will then be to reunite what seems to be now two irreconcilable sides of America, not only in Congress but among the voters themselves.

This election cycle has been marked by an unprecedented amount of slurs and insults between both camps. The fact checkers have also been overworked and assessed that the amount of false statements and fabricated arguments has never been as high. Hillary Clinton has not been exempt of reproaches as she also failed to stand up to presidential stature when she called Trump’s supporters “a basket of deplorables.”

Several research institutes have studied the composition of the Trump electorate. According to a Gallup Poll, race, ethnicity, and religious categories are hugely predictive of one's view of Trump. Male, white and Protestant Christian are heavily more likely to vote for Donald Trump. Similarly, self-employed or lowly educated workers are significantly supporting the Republican candidate. If these skewness is predictable and in line with history when it comes to an opposition Republican/Democrat, the size of this correlation is higher than it ever was showing that the divide in the United States has been further reinforced.

Trump’s electoral basis is strongly backed by the Tea Party movement whose influence continues to grow on the conservative side of American politics. The fact that Donald Trump’s xenophobic, racist and sexist diatribes did not alienate a sizeable share of his supporters confirms a radicalization of this fringe of the American population who has been exposed extensively and regularly to conspiracy theories ranging from the Obama’s birth certificate controversy to Clinton’s alleged corruption. Since roughly the 9/11 terrorist attacks, several perceivably-biased conservative media networks have flooded the news market, especially in Mid-West states who support Trump, with anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant propaganda.

This election cycle is just the culmination of a deeply entrenched rift between two Americas. Bipartisanship is now a mirage in the United States. Debates on immigration, security and Obamacare were all presented so superficially that they reinforced a Manichean dichotomy which places in peril the very future of a united American society. The United States has been marked by decades of such conflicts, symbolized by the American Civil War in the 1860s between a progressive anti-slavery northern US and a secessionist, xenophobic southern US.

This divide had been gradually diluted throughout the twentieth century with national cohesion during world wars and the global conflict against the Soviet Union. Retrograde offspring of this American divide such as neo-confederate movements or the infamous Ku Klux Klan were slowly disappearing and mocked on media. Yet this electoral cycle seems to have revived them. The rise of evangelical Christian groups and local militias, such as the minutemen or the Cliven Bundy group in Oregon, have become a serious threat to US democracy, unity and peace.

They abhor Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama because they are the iconic figures of a federal state that would intrude with their lives. The fact that Trump did not pay taxes is actually a badge of honor to them. They form the very core of Trump’s electorate today which explains the recurrent positions from the Republican candidate on gun control or abortion laws where he clearly states that decisions should be taken at state level not at the federal level. Those individualistic, xenophobic and sometimes armed groups are growing and the fact that Donald Trump refused to admit he would concede defeat is a worrying threat to American domestic peace in the near future.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:52 - GMT 06:52
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