War creates strange alliances, while peace itself often brings division

Ian Rankin

It has been a historic weekend. On Saturday, November 7, 2020, most of the American television networks declared Joe Biden the winner of the presidential elections. The states that gave him the victory were Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, for a total of 279 electoral college votes and 75.6 million in the popular vote. In the next few days it is likely that his victory in Arizona and Georgia will also be confirmed, which would put him at 306 electoral votes. An indisputable victory.

However, it is important to reflect on the enormous division that is characterizing some of the democracies today, and I take the close example of the United States and Mexico. Even as chaotic as the Trump administration was – with racist, polarizing and often irresponsible messages and policies – more than 71 million American citizens gave it their vote. The same happens in the case of Mexico, with an electoral map that seems to divide the country in two: 50% of the electorate unconditionally approve of President López Obrador’s policies, while another 50% totally reject them. The five states that most approve of the president are Tabasco, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Tlaxcala and Chiapas. The five states with the least acceptance are Chihuahua, Baja California Sur, Guanajuato, Jalisco and Aguascalientes.

Our democracies have not produced governments that effectively close the huge gaps that exist in our countries: The gap between the urban and the rural, between those who work and those who do not have a job, between those who obtain a graduate degree and those who could not go to primary school, between those who have everything and those who have nothing. As long as these gaps exist, there will be politicians who will use them for their own ends, sowing division and class hatred because they know that this is much easier than even trying to solve the real problems.

In the United States, this should be a very important moment of reflection for the Republican Party. Democrats have won the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections. That level of dominance over the popular vote is unprecedented in the history of the United States, which is increasingly shaping up to become a center-left country. This does not mean that the country is moving towards socialism. On the contrary, many of the most successful countries in Western Europe operate on similar models, based on more realistic, reasonable and inclusive policy proposals. In the past 30 years, Republicans have won the presidency twice at the same time that they lost the popular vote (2000 and 2016). In the past 120 years, only five presidents have lost their reelection after four years, and two of those presidents are recent Republicans: George H. Bush (1992) and Donald Trump. Something is wrong with the likeability of the Republican Party to the average American.

Now the great challenge for Joe Biden will be how to try to unify the country, how to achieve a generally accepted vision of what America should be in the 21st century, a vision that is equally valid in New York, Arkansas or Idaho, and in how to achieve political agreements with the Republican Party in order to generate real change. Democracies that do not translate into results for everyone are not of much use.

In Mexico, the political division is huge and 30 years of democratic advances have not translated into greater effectiveness in solving major national problems. While it should not be noticed that democracy also brought greater fiscal responsibility and better macroeconomic stability, this by itself has not been enough to achieve the social justice we need. The usual “Forgotten” are still there, surviving as they can, risking their lives in the midst of the pandemic in order to make a living, supported by that invaluable asset that is family solidarity, but quite ready to give their vote to someone who promises that things will magically be better tomorrow.

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