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Donald Trump, Satanists and the Ghost of Communism: What Do US Voters Want and Fear?

The division of society in the United States on the eve of the presidential election is deepening. Voting can only deepen this crisis: the headquarters of both candidates are already declaring that they will refuse to admit defeat.

Photo: Shutterstock

Pre-election passions are heating up in the USA. Even leading American political scientists do not undertake to predict the possible outcome of the November 3 vote, noting only the unusually high level of polarization in society. Meanwhile, both sides have already made it clear that if they lose, they will not recognize the results of the presidential elections.

Intensity of passion in the US elections

Thus, the former adviser to Donald Trump, Roger Stone, previously released from prison by him, recommended the president to declare a state of emergency in the country in case of defeat in the elections and, if necessary, "use physical force", involving the FBI, the service of federal marshals and other security forces. US Department of Health and Human Services Communications Officer Michael Caputo meanwhile She urged Trump supporters arm themselves to be prepared for the rise in post-presidential violence. He also accused government scientists of undermining the fight against coronavirus in order to win Joe Biden, the rival of the incumbent.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump himself saidthat "deserves" re-election not only for a second, but also for a third presidential term, why his followers reacted very serious. In turn, ex-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called upon Joe Biden is “not to admit defeat under any circumstances,” which he appears to be intending to do - at least at the legal level. how сообщает Voice of America, Biden's team has hired hundreds of lawyers for electoral battles. However, judging by the mood of the candidates' closest associates and their most radical followers, challenging the election results will not be limited to judicial disputes, and may escalate at least into local armed clashes in individual states.

As for opinion polls, according to various sources, the gap between Trump and Biden is from 4 to 7% in favor of the latter, increasingly narrowing in recent months. Considering the two-stage system of elections in the United States, the possible insincerity of some of the respondents and the rapidly changing situation, these data do not provide any way to predict the future outcome of the elections.

Obviously, the main factors of greatest concern to voters at this point are basic security, which many Americans feel has been significantly shaken by the ongoing protests; the coronavirus pandemic and the economic situation. In addition, there are a number of smaller factors that differentiate the current election campaign from 2016. Let's try to analyze what has fundamentally changed in the rhetoric and approach of both parties, as well as in the expectations and feelings of voters.

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US elections: hope or fear?

The first major difference from 2016 is improved attitude towards both candidates... If the last presidential election was called “anti-rating voting”, now more Americans sympathize with the candidate for whom they are going to vote. For example, if, as of early 2016, Trump's rating in the Republican Party itself barely passed for 40%, and after the elections, many admitted that they voted for him only as an alternative to Hillary Clinton, then in June 2018 they expressed their support for the president stated 90% Republicans. Joe Biden is not very popular with Democratic supporters, but in the eyes of most Americans he does not have the same anti-rating as his predecessor.

Secondly, in four years it has changed somewhat the ratio of positive and negative incentives to make a choice... Speaking of the Republican Party, it can be noted that in 2016 its campaign, although it played on a large number of fears, nevertheless focused more on a “positive” agenda. This included, first of all, promises in the field of the economy: an increase in the general level of welfare, support for the middle class and American manufacturers, the creation of new jobs, combined with a reduction in immigration, and so on.

At the same time, the fears that Trump and his team played on were rather speculative. Republicans frightened voters with falling living standards, the destruction of traditional foundations, the dominance of a bureaucratic "swamp" led by corrupt elites and special services, the inevitable dictatorship of political correctness, the "ghost of communism", etc. For some voters, especially the elderly, these fears were indeed decisive, but for many it was primarily the economic factor.

Today, when the economic growth was significantly undermined by the coronavirus crisis, and its further decline is expected in the future, the “economic” factor has ceased to be fundamental. Of course, Donald Trump periodically takes credit for the country's high level of economic development before the pandemic. He also focuses on measures already adopted and proposed in the future to support entrepreneurs and other American citizens most affected by the quarantine. However, this picture is significantly undermined by the current crisis and not unfounded accusations that it was the president's belated reaction to the pandemic that caused not only a huge number of infections and high mortality, but also economic problems.

Certain foreign policy successes and the constant tightening of immigration rules are also more important for the president's supporters than for hesitant voters. On the other hand, the fears that could push the “undecided” Americans into the arms of the Republicans have acquired a much more real and expressive character. Amid continuing protest activity, periodically accompanied by riots, an increase in violent crime and the spontaneous creation of new social norms that are not accepted by part of society, more and more ordinary Americans are afraid that under the Democrats, the country could finally plunge into chaos. Whites seriously fear not only an increase in violence, but also the infringement of their rights with the introduction of "positive discrimination" in favor of African Americans. Among Trump's supporters, it is also quite widespread that his rival Joe Biden, due to his age, will not be able to fulfill his duties for a long time, and he will be replaced by the “radical left” wing of the Democratic Party, which will bring America poverty, following the example of the communist countries.

In turn, supporters of the Democrats have repeatedly emphasizedthat Donald Trump benefits from the protests and deliberately escalates the confrontation without actually trying to suppress the violence. A striking example of this is the activities of the Department of Homeland Security special forces in Portland in July, which led, according to Mayor Ted Wheeler, to a new wave of street confrontation. In any case, it cannot be denied that Trump is actively using the situation to demonstrate what, in his opinion, Biden's America can become.

Trump vs. Biden: Where is the "Lesser Evil"

Speaking about the Democratic Party, it can be noted that its accents, on the contrary, have shifted from playing on fears of the future to criticizing the present (which is quite logical after four years in opposition). Trump has been criticized for his failures in the fight against coronavirus, the destruction of relations with traditional allies, combined with sympathies for authoritarian regimes, managerial chaos and many court convictions against people from his inner circle. Trump is also reproached for creating a situation that caused a split in society. However, it can be stated that the head of the White House, who officially adheres to the slogan "Law and Order", is able to play the "protest" card more successfully than his opponents.

In addition, there is still a fairly high percentage of people whose personality and behavior of the president cause more negative reactions than his policies. Like four years ago, Trump's opponents believe that the president's actions sometimes pose a threat to national security. Critics also find his behavior incompatible with basic American values ​​and believe that Trump's intrinsic interference in the work of justice has destroyed the system of checks and balances of power.

On the other hand, it is much more difficult for Democrats today to exploit the fears they emphasized in the previous campaign. In particular, earlier liberal media predicted that the Trump era would turn into fascism, dictatorship, repression of dissidents, press censorship and other forms of suppression of American freedoms. Practice has shown that over the past years, Trump's dictatorial habits, as well as his attacks on the press and special services, have not disappeared anywhere, but they did not lead to criminal prosecution of dissidents, the closure of the media and other radical consequences. So some of those who have never sympathized with Trump begin to view him as the “lesser evil,” believing that the danger of his presidency is greatly exaggerated.

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The Russian threat and the conspiracy of Satanists

These changes have led to a shift in the area conspiracy theoriescommon in the republican environment. As the fear of "devastation and socialism" has moved from the sphere of abstract predictions to the sphere of threats that are quite real for many and supported by a picture from today's streets, more radical concepts have taken the place of speculative conspiracy theories. First of all, here, of course, we must name QAnon - a theory spread by a certain anonymous Q, allegedly "an insider from the Trump administration." Its apologists believe that Donald Trump is secretly confronting the elite of pedophile Satanists (according to some versions, also cannibals) from the top of the Democratic Party and Hollywood celebrities. In the last year, this theory has also absorbed conspiracy theories of covid dissidents about "chipping by vaccination" and 5G towers, and in this form began to spread even in Europe.

As for the democrats, then, like four years ago, they prefer to focus not on conspiracy theories, but on scandals... At the same time, it seems that they never learned the lesson of the last presidential campaign, which clearly showed that the scandal is inevitably losing out to conspiracy theories. The fact is that conspiracy theories, in contrast to scandal, creates a coherent and rather logical system of views aimed at the formation of faith. The scandal, in its essence, does not require faith. Its task is to attract attention, stir up interest and throw in “fried” information, not caring about its veracity. He is not able to create a coherent and logical system, however, he can become a decisive impetus when making a decision. Moreover, the main weakness of the “scandalous” approach is that it is rather difficult for its authors to predict what its outcome will be.

Another blow to the Democrats was the devaluation of the topic Russian information interference... This does not mean that there is no external threat factor. However, its perception by the townsfolk has changed significantly for at least three reasons. First, the novelty effect disappeared from the theme. Secondly, according to the statement William Evanina, head of the US National Center for Counterintelligence and Security, is trying to influence voters not only Russia, but also China and Iran. At the same time, according to Evanina, if Russia is trying to undermine the position of Joe Biden, then China and Iran are trying to prevent the election of President Donald Trump.

Third, after the first conclusions of American intelligence about Russian interference at the turn of 2016-17, this topic was taken up by many journalists, activists, politicians and other people who are not professionals in the field of security. As expected, they began to absolutize the external threat, trying to explain it, including objective internal processes. It is natural that amateurish attempts to explain complex political and social phenomena only by the "intrigues of enemies" led to discrediting the topic of foreign intervention as such. The absolutization of the external threat looks especially implausible against the background of the active participation of the American elites in the split of society by presenting their opponents as an “existential threat” that, in case of victory, will inevitably destroy the country.

All these factors indicate that Donald Trump has high chances of re-election even against the backdrop of the coronavirus crisis and a new round of election scandals. Regardless of who wins the November vote, however, it is clear that this will only deepen the split in American society.

The original column is published on the website.

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