英文

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

美國大選剩下6州未完成點票,民主黨拜登領先優勢愈益明顯,距離當選門檻愈來愈近,特朗普要反勝,必須透過重新點算選票和打官司,將點票結果顯示拜登佔先的州份奪過來。特朗普不斷指控選舉舞弊,迄今未見有何堅實證據,官司戰不易翻盤,不過就算拜登最終當選,要收拾特朗普留下的爛攤子亦不容易。美國疫情失控,單日確診升至10萬宗,不管誰是白宮主人,遏制疫情本來已是非常艱巨的任務;過去4年美國社會撕裂兩極化變本加厲,新一屆政府能否團結國民抗疫、有效施政,同樣令人關注。

今次大選,疫情和經濟是影響選民抉擇的兩大因素,很多人擔心疫情,寧可郵寄投票,如果特朗普最終真是輸在郵寄票,實際就是敗了給疫情。特朗普經濟先行抗疫為後,除了坐等疫苗,看不到有何板斧,反觀拜登提出一系列計劃,加強病毒檢測和治療,同時強調一定重返世衛,跟包括中國在內的其他國家合作抗疫,然而當下美國民情撕裂對立,就算拜登接任總統,能否團結國民齊心抗疫,實是一大疑問。

美國政治兩極化,冰封三尺非一日之寒,惟特朗普的所作所為,肯定加劇了兩極化的問題。特朗普一再淡化疫情、諉過中國,未有大力鼓勵民眾戴口罩,宣揚反科學主張,不過他的右翼民粹操作,政治層面卻相當奏效,支持者不信口罩、不信防疫專家福奇,只信特朗普拯救國家。大選結果顯示,多數美國人寧可換總統應對眼前難關,可是相信特朗普一套的美國選民,數目也多得驚人。

今屆大選拜登得票逾7200萬,是美國史上最多,然而頗多人忽略了,特朗普即使落敗,也是美國史上得票最多的輸家。特朗普得票超過6800萬,是歷屆大選得票第3多的人,屈居2008年奧巴馬之後。即使拜登上台,也要面對一個高度分化的美國,若特朗普支持者拒絕配合,抗疫工作肯定事倍功半,甚至舉步維艱。

美國文化強調自由主義和個人主義,不信任權威,對精英多疑,各式陰謀論都有人聽信,這些都不是新鮮事,可是過去數年的情况,明顯已出現了質的變化。特朗普治下,美國政治劣質化,荒誕陰謀論由網上都市傳說走進現實主流政治,美國緩緩滑向難以管治狀態,不再是危言聳聽,而是真實問題,疫情失控是一個表徵,下任總統若未能修補社會撕裂、重建政治信任,很難有效管治。

■Glossary

生字

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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