Around Labor Day when this year’s presidential campaign was beginning to heat up, I wrote a column about the classic 1960 presidential contest between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon. This pivotal presidential race marked the beginning of television as the premier political medium. The first televised presidential debate that year was the turning point of that campaign. Kennedy won the White House with his performance or, as some would say, Nixon lost by his appearance on TV that fateful night in October 1960.
A lot has changed in the past 60 years. America was a more Ozzie and Harriet, “Andy Griffith” Mayberry America. There was not a lot of difference, philosophically or ideologically, between a Republican Kansas farmer and a blue-collar Democratic factory worker in Pennsylvania. They both believed in American values of decency and hard work. Even though the Pennsylvanian was a Union man who tended to vote Democratic and was probably a Catholic, and the Kansas farmer voted Republican and was a protestant. They both were Christian conservatives.
The country was more homogenous and amicable. This America lent itself to a close presidential contest where 40 states were in play in the Electoral College, and only 10 predetermined. Today it is just the opposite; 10 states are in play and 40 predetermined.
The country is more divided than at any time since the Civil War. You are cemented into either a conservative Republican tribe or a liberal Democratic tribe, and there is no peace pipe to be smoked. There are very few independent voters in the middle. It is these truly undecided swing voters that decide the presidential race. Also, it is even a further defined swing voter who resides in a swing state — primarily the states of Florida, Ohio, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and now Georgia.
Both parties got their bases out to the maximum. Democrats hated Donald Trump. Republicans loathe Nancy Pelosi and Bernie Sanders. They stoked every fire possible and the two tribes almost broke about even.
Trump lost the middle of America swing voter in the key battleground states and he lost them overwhelmingly. Why, you ask? It is simple: the COVID-19 pandemic. It would have been impossible for any humble, genuinely caring, kind and compassionate president to overcome a pandemic that has killed nearly 270,000 people and annihilated the economy. A legendary, revered leader like Franklin Delano Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan would have had a hard time surviving this Communist invasion of our nation.
It is always about the economy. Trump’s administration was the overseer of the most robust economy in years. He could have possibly won reelection with this rosy economy. However, the March invasion of the coronavirus derailed the Trump Train. There is an old political adage that says, “If you claim credit for the rain, you got to take blame for the drought.
Any presidential election campaign where there is an incumbent president up for reelection is a referendum on that president. Therefore, this presential race was all about Trump. He would have had to have been an FDR or Reagan to have survived the events of this year. Folks, Trump is no FDR or Reagan.
To win a presidency, people have to like you. Very few people genuinely like Trump. All exit polling revealed even the most ardent Republicans disliked Trump as a man. They were only voting for him because he was a proven true-blue, hard core conservative. Even evangelical conservatives voted for him knowing his personal and business life was not exemplary of a practicing Christian, but he was the vessel for conservative Supreme Court Justices.
However, key swing voters, primarily suburban women, just did not like a brash, irreverent, egocentric, irrational, narcissist as their president. They had seen the sideshow on television and Twitter for over three years and they had had enough. There is another tried and true maxim, “More people vote against someone than for someone.” This played out to the nines on election day. Very few people voted for Joe Biden — they voted against Donald Trump.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.