A primer for my African friends:
The 2020 election, its comparison with 2016, and what it tells you about Americans.
Trumpists are seriously trying to disrupt the results, but my life in Africa is too raw for me to be able to fairly assess this, so for the purpose of this blog I’m presuming they won’t prevail… It could be months before the results are widely accepted by the American politic, but I’m basing this blog on the assumption that the Democrats achieve full governance on January 20.
My current extrapolations:
- Biden/Harris win 306 electoral votes to Trump/Pence’s 232.
- The Senate is evenly divided, so VP Harris is the tie-breaker.
- House Democrats will have a 10-seat majority.
Except for the Senate this is a mirror image of the 2016 election.
Many of you younger, educated Africans grew up in the shadow of America. Most of you considered American society desirable. You grew up with the belief that the best in the world came to democratic societies… like America.
That was the message that American embassies and Rotary Clubs and church groups constantly preached you: if you want the success America has, be democratic like America.
It became entirely overt in the 1980s when Ronald Reagan set up a “democracy office” in every embassy around the world.
This election and most of them in my life time, however, prove that American democracy is not what you were told: one man/one vote. This time the 2020 election did reflect the majority of voters: Biden won 3½ million more votes than Trump. But when Trump “won” the 2016 election, it was the loser Clinton who won 3 million more votes than he did!
No, I’m not playing with English. The loser won the most votes.
That’s because the President isn’t elected by the popular vote, but by the “electoral college.” And here’s something to amaze you: The electoral college vote numbers, 306 for the winner and 232 for the loser, are the same for this election as they were for the 2016 election!
Our electoral college distributes power disproportionately to states with less dense populations. In other words, the power of a single voter in North Dakota or Arkansas to choose our president is considerably greater than the power of a single voter in New York or California.
The electoral college theory continues into the Senate where every State, no matter how small or how large, is granted 2 Senators.
I know that many of you sat in your school rooms in Africa with books and pamphlets distributed by the American embassy promoting democracy as one man/one vote. That wasn’t honest. That over simplification generated a lot of suffering during my life in Africa.
True democracy might be one man/one vote, but what America believes is much different. American “democracy” protects small political and social demographics from the power of a majority.
Thus, divides are fostered. Majority decisions are inhibited by not recognizing the popular vote, by rules in the legislature that often require a near two-third’s consensus, and courts that reflect viewpoints of the minority for the life times of the judges.
When a majority viewpoint is not sufficient to create public policy, society stalls, and the divides grow deep.
Less educated persons are easily duped. Nearly half of all Americans do not believe in climate change. Nearly half of America still does not believe in evolution. More than a third of Americans still refuse to be vaccinated against disease. A quarter of Americans believe wearing a mask during the pandemic gives them the disease.
Much of this unbelievable society is founded in and nurtured by fanatic Christian religious beliefs by many Americans as fairylandish as any Boko Haram jihadist’s.
Rural Americans are threatened by a loss of tradition and vocations – very much like Ntimama Maasai – and increasingly a separation from the high-tech urban world. Rural Americans are miners, farmers and hard labor handymen who – unlike in Europe and Canada – have no social safety net to guarantee them retraining into productive modern vocations.
In my life time the better educated an American became, the wealthier he became. A class of wealthy, well educated began to dupe the less educated from wanting any more education, so that they could stay in power. These are the Republicans.
So a horrible self-serving cycle emerged where the less educated grew to believe wealth was unfairly denied them rather than lost by their lack of education, where they grabbed at the opportunity to believe the lies and misdeeds of the Republicans as their advocates, and where even in this election they voted for Trump in droves.
For the time being the majority has prevailed in America. This election unlike the last reflects the will of the majority, and the majority of Americans are kind, thoughtful, educated and reasonable.
But ‘the time being’ will end. Until simple first principles like one man/one vote that America espoused to the rest of the world is adopted by Americans themselves, our divide will become more and more embittered.
You have four years to rest easy. That’s not a very long time.