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US elections 2020: Whatever the final outcome, white supremacy has won

Activists say close race demonstrates election was not a rejection of Trump's racist and xenophobic policies
Supporters cheer as President Donald Trump delivers remarks at rally in Allentown, Pennsylvania (File photo/AFP)
By in
New York City

The world woke up on Wednesday to its oldest democracy in turmoil. 

With mail-in ballots still arriving and being counted, increasingly more likely to tilt in Joe Biden's favour, US President Donald Trump hastened to declare victory, hurling the country towards an unprecedented political showdown.

Despite incomplete results and hundreds of thousands of ballots still to be counted in several key states, the US now faces the prospect of Trump refusing to accept results and stand down in the coming hours and days.

'Every vote for Trump is a vote for white supremacy. Whether it is cast by a white person or not'

- Hasshan Batts, activist

Even as legal experts are being mobilised to handle what is likely to become a tedious and complex affair, should one candidate refuse to concede, political pundits are scrambling to understand how they got it so wrong, again.

Not only did the polls suggest that Biden would win, but they suggested he would do so comfortably.

Not only did polls suggest the Republican Party was shedding support in lieu of Trump's unpresidential behaviour, his mishandling of the pandemic and heightened political divisions across the nation, but they also suggested he was actually losing some of his base, including Christian evangelical support. 

Still, as this election has demonstrated, whether or not he loses, support for Trump has neither dwindled nor dissipated. By current accounts, he has received nearly five million votes more than in 2016.

'Fear and anxiety'

This year's presidential election has been characterised by fear and anxiety for many Muslims and people of colour, from Michigan and Florida to Pennsylvania.

For many people of colour and Muslims looking in, the fact that the race ended up becoming such a closely fought one should settle any doubts regarding the scale and scope and ultimately the appetite of white supremacy in America, activists say.

"The closeness of this election is indicative of the undercurrent of racism and classism that continues to drive a substantial part of the American public," said Zahra Billoo, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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"I would have liked to believe that after four years of everything horrible that Trump did, this would have been easy; that for anyone that was sitting on the sidelines or optimistic about Trump in 2016, that this would have been easy. But that it has come so close and we are down to the wire, tells me that no matter who wins, our work must continue."

Likewise, for Hasshan Batts, an activist from Allentown, in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, the record turnout at the polls only seems to further augment the heightened level of Trump-like white nativist sentiment around the country.

Despite vilifying women and immigrants, banning people from a series of Muslim-majority countries, pulling the US out of climate accords, undermining efforts to contain the Covid-19 pandemic that has killed, at last count, more than 230,000 American lives, support for the incumbent remains intact.

'Racism is alive in America'

Late on Wednesday, more than 67 million people had cast votes for Trump.

"They are talking about a record voter turnout countrywide this time round. So you are saying that all these people turn out to vote and so many of them voted for Trump? The numbers make it clear that racism is alive in America," Batts said.

"Every vote for Trump is a vote for white supremacy. Whether it is cast by a white person or not. Voting for him is voting for the ideals of the past, a time when women and Black people had no rights or protections." 

Batts told MEE that instead of questioning the spread of white supremacy and racism, the Democratic Party has underplayed it as a type of exception to American history.

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"There was no passion behind their message. It wasn't a pro-compassion message. They stood for nothing besides being counter-Trump. But you can't intellectualise with Nazis. You have to move people," Batts added.

Batts' comments mirror those of other activists and thinkers who say the continued support of white Americans for Trump should be the overarching message of the election.

"Before the pundits begin to dissect bi-racial and people of colour voting patterns, let's just say it: the white voter base has a white supremacy problem. To address it begins with acknowledging it. You can't play centrist politics with people that are racist," Thenmozhi Soundararajan, a Dalit rights activist based in the US, wrote on Twitter.

Likewise, Raja Abdulhaq, a prominent Palestinian activist based in New York, said: "After preaching a 'historic landslide win for Biden against Trump', Democrats and liberals are now upset because America let them down in this tight race.

"They were hoping for a 'moral victory' against Trump as if America started being racist in 2016 with the presidency of Trump," Abdulhaq added.

'Electoral system is broken'

On Tuesday, voters around the country came out in the tens of millions to vote. Many, like 24-year-old Mastura Syed, were anxious and fearful about this election. Syed told MEE she had supported Biden out of necessity, not because she believed in him.

"The problem is that Biden stands for nothing. People had passion for Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Barack Obama and even Donald Trump. No one has any passion for Biden, never mind knowing what he will bring to the table," Batts said.

By late Wednesday, the disappointment with the preliminary election results and the immense support for Trump had reached fever pitch.

Activists said that even with Biden inching closer to victory, the sluggish escape from Trump would ultimately prove to be no escape at all.

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"The close proximity of election results show us that despite four years of Trump, there is hyper-polarisation now more than ever in American politics," said Thahitun Mariam, an activist based in the Bronx.

"As leftists, we know electoral politics is not the end-all, be-all, but political involvement of working-class folks in political leadership roles is necessary to bring about change we have to make in society. 

"At the end of the day, organising for working-class communities and addressing issues that affect our everyday lives will remain the priority. Community-led grassroots organising is the present and the future for many of us." 

Biloo said there is much work to be done with either Biden or Trump in the White House.

"If Trump wins, we will need to work really hard on what he might try to do in a second term. And if Biden wins, we need to be sure not to take for granted that he will fulfil his promises," Biloo said.

"We need to hold his feet to the fire. The work of undoing the damage of the last several years is urgent, but must involve building and imagining what we want, not just what we don't."