OPINION: Trump lost his re-election bid, but gained more votes than last time thanks largely to white voters — proof that there’s more work to be done in defeating racism in this country.
This was supposed to be a fairytale ending: Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in a race that could easily be summed up as a battle between good vs. evil.
“It’s a history-making ticket,” 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton tweeted after Biden clinched the electoral votes from Pennsylvania to win the election. “A repudiation of Trump, and a new page for America.”
A repudiation of Trump? Not by a longshot.
Biden impressively achieved the most popular votes than any presidential candidate in modern American history. But such high voter turn-out also gave Trump huge numbers as well. While Biden outperformed Trump across the board, the now one-term incumbent improved in certain rural areas and major cities. Even in Philly, a city that helped secure Biden’s lock on Pennsylvania, Trump performed better there than he did in 2016.
Trump didn’t take a massive loss in voters compared to his first run, he just got outpaced by another candidate. Had another Democratic candidate from the previous line-up that wasn’t Biden ran against him, I have no doubt now that Trump would have won. And for that undesirable truth alone, to call Biden’s victory a repudiation of Trump is to ignore reality.
A repudiation of Trump would have looked like him doing extremely worse compared to 2016. Despite his poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic and reckless leadership, Trump still kept his predominately white majority of voters at around the same percentages as he did last time. The percentage pie of white voters didn’t get redistributed, they just increased in other demographics in certain key states.
In other words, 57% of the white vote doesn’t carry the same amount of power when there’s an increase of Black voters across different states showing up to the polls more. This is why, as a Black voter, I have doubts that much will change under a Biden-Harris administration in terms of confronting racism.
For starters, Trumpism is white supremacy by another name. For four years, Trump emboldened hate groups, struggled to denounce white supremacy, pushed xenophobic policies, and unapologetically aligned himself with bigots. To the millions of Americans (mostly white) who still decided to vote for him again — that was a resounding co-sign that they wanted such racism to continue.
It was devastating to see the exit polls that showed how many non-Black voters still desired to keep Trump in power. Even though I currently reside in a Democratic city like Philly, knowing that more people showed up to vote for him in my own town after four years of his incompetence gives me a level of unease. Trumpism has proven itself to be more popular now than when the president first campaigned on it.
Biden’s victory was less of a repudiation — but more of a reprimand — of Trumpism. That reprimand came largely from Black voters who sent America a notice that we cannot and will not allow ourselves to be governed by leaders who seek to further marginalize us. But this shouldn’t have fallen on the shoulders of mostly Black voters alone.
Self-proclaimed white allies who often present themselves as valiantly against racism dropped the ball this election cycle. Where were they in engaging their white peers and family members on changing their racist behavior and voting patterns? These disappointing exit polls would suggest that no real work was done between November 2016 and now.
Instead, it appears that Black voters, especially Black women, mobilized their communities more to actively defeat Trump more than any other group did. Which is why we should all prepare ourselves for how Trumpism will continue to linger for many years to come.
Until white people proactively confront the racism within the institutions they lead and the social networks they affiliate themselves with, Trumpism isn’t going anywhere. Black people alone can only put a band-aid on the matter through the power of the vote, but there’s a true reckoning that needs to take place outside of the ballot box.
Right now, as political pundits and analysts speak of a divided nation that’s between red and blue states, I’m reminded that it’s actually a country that’s still torn between Black and white.
Ernest Owens is the Editor at Large of Philadelphia magazine and CEO of Ernest Media Empire, LLC. The award-winning journalist has written for The New York Times, NBC News, USA Today and several other major publications. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and ernestowens.com.
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