Editorial : The deterioration of US politics

【明報專訊】With just six states left where vote-counting has yet to be completed, Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate in the US presidential election, is enjoying a clearer lead and is getting increasingly close to the threshold of being elected. For Trump to pull back and win, he must take back the states where Biden is ahead through recounts and lawsuit. Trump's repeated accusations of election fraud have not been substantiated by any solid evidence so far, and it will not be easy to turn the situation around with a legal battle. But even if Biden is elected ultimately, it will not be easy to clean up Trump's mess. The pandemic in the US is out of control, with the daily numbers of confirmed cases rising to 100,000. No matter who is in charge of the White House, curbing the pandemic will already be an extremely daunting task. The polarisation of American society has intensified over the past four years. Whether the new administration can unite the people to fight the pandemic and govern effectively is also a matter of concern.

In this election, the pandemic and the economy are the two major factors affecting voters' choice. Many people were worried and would rather vote by mail. If Trump does end up losing the mail ballot, he will actually have lost to the pandemic. Trump prioritises the economy first over the fight against the pandemic, but we cannot see he has a way to deal with it except by waiting for the vaccine. Biden, on the other hand, has proposed a series of plans to step up virus testing and treatment and stressed that he will definitely return to the World Health Organisation to work with other countries, including China, to fight the virus. Given the societal rift and polarisation in the US, even if Biden becomes president, it is very doubtful that he will be able to unite the people in the fight against the pandemic.

Political polarisation in the US has not occurred overnight, but Trump's actions have definitely exacerbated the problem. Trump has repeatedly downplayed the situation and blamed China for the pandemic. He has failed to encourage people to wear masks but advocated anti-science. However, his right-wing populist tactics have worked quite well at the political level. His supporters do not believe in masks or leading infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci. Their only belief is that Trump can save the country. The results of the election show that most Americans would rather have a new president to deal with the difficulties at hand, but an astonishing number of American voters also believe in Trump's way.

Biden has received over 72 million votes in this election, the most in US history. However, quite a few people have not noticed that Trump will still be the most voted loser in US history if he loses. Trump has received more than 68 million votes, the third most in elections, behind Barack Obama in 2008. Even if Biden comes to power, he will have to face a highly polarised US, and if Trump's supporters refuse to co-operate, the fight against the pandemic will surely be disproportionately ineffective and even difficult.

American culture emphasises liberalism and individualism. It distrusts authority, is suspicious of the elite, and is open to all kinds of conspiracy theories. This is nothing new. However, the situation has obviously changed qualitatively over the past few years. Under Trump's presidency, American politics has deteriorated. Absurd conspiracy theories have made their way from the online world of urban legends to mainstream politics, and the US is slowly slipping into a state where governance is difficult. This is no longer fearmongering but a real problem. The out-of-control pandemic is a symptom. It will be difficult for the next president to govern effectively if he is unable to mend the social rift and rebuild political trust.

明報社評2020.11.06:美國政治劣質化 下屆總統路艱難








threshold : the level at which sth starts to happen or have an effect

rift : a serious disagreement between people that stops their relationship from continuing

mend : to find a solution to a problem or disagreement

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