There’s a phrase in Viet Thanh Nguyen’s novel “The Sympathizer” that fits the current moment in America. It goes like this: “… that omnipresent American narcotic, optimism, the unending flow of which poured through the American mind continuously, whitewashing the graffiti of rage, hatred, and nihilism scrawled there nightly by the black hoodlums of the unconscious.”
In this moment of post-election politics in America, optimism is on full display, despite fallacious claims of electoral misconduct by a losing presidential candidate desperate to hold on to his slippery grip on power.
There are several reasons to be optimistic. Primarily, it is the undeniable truth of unprecedented voter enthusiasm. In these elections a record number of people have cast their ballots, more than in any elections conducted in the last 50 years, to the tune of 158.8 million, which is 66.4% of the voting eligible population (VEP). At least 22 million more people voted in 2020 than did in 2016. Voters were energized in every corner of this country.
There was an uptick of support for both presidential candidates, however, that support was overwhelmingly in favor of Joe Biden. The states with the highest turnout were Minnesota (79.9%), Maine (79.2%) and Colorado (78.7%). All three were bagged by the Democratic Party. In California, 70%, and in San Francisco, a whopping 85% of its VEP mailed, dropped or turned out to vote. Furthermore, in The City, Biden and Harris received upward of 85% of the votes cast.
Admittedly, polling is not a precise science. But, as David Graham wrote in a piece about polls for the Atlantic, “The real catastrophe is that the failure of the polls leaves Americans with no reliable way to understand what we as a people think outside of elections — which in turn threatens our ability to make choices, or to cohere as a nation.”
So in the post-election analysis of voting patterns, the American Election Eve Poll, conducted between Oct. 23 and Nov. 2, was particularly interesting as it highlighted voting preferences of 15,200 Latino, Black, Asian American and Pacific Islander, American Indian and white registered voters who had already voted, or were certain to vote, in the Nov. 3, 2020 general election.
In summary, nationwide, 92% of Black women and 86% of Black men evinced support for the Democratic presidential ticket. That support was less among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders but still substantial at 68% with no significant gender difference. A solid 70% of Latinos nationwide preferred the Biden-Harris ticket. Among Native Americans, 60% leaned in favor of Joe Biden.
White voters in the survey favored Trump over Biden 56% to 41%, with the gap widening among men 59 to 38, and lessening among women, 53% to 45%.
Early evidence of actual polling data indicates that, as in 2016, over 50% of white Americans voted in favor of giving Donald Trump a second term.
Leading figures from immigrant organizations and communities of color expressed satisfaction at the election results.
Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, an immigration reform group, acknowledged that people of color played a leading role in saving America’s democracy. “You know I come from a community that voted in the majority for Donald Trump, and if not for the African American, Latinx, Asian American Pacific Islander community we would not be celebrating the victory we are celebrating today,” he said.
Black American voters — the largest bloc of voters — have tremendous electoral power, emphasized Theodore R. Johnson, senior fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice. He explained that it was “the summer of racial justice protests plus high unemployment, plus low economic security alongside a coronavirus pandemic contributed to a lot of voter enthusiasm to remove Donald Trump from office.”
These elections have made us confront ourselves in the mirror, and in the words of Stephen Nuño-Perez, a senior analyst at Latino Decisions, “the test of our character is what we do now.” He too believes that this is a positive moment for the country, a time to celebrate that “there is a Latino vote,” even if Latinos are not a monolith.
Mark Trahant, editor of Indian Country Today, said that more than 110 Native American candidates ran for public office, from Congress to county commissions. The next Congress will have a true Native American caucus; three Democrats and three Republicans. And despite mainstream news to the contrary, “there was a significant increase in the Native vote,” he remarked.
John Yang, the president of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, called the 2020 presidential election results personally meaningful. Trump’s election in 2016 became a turning point in his life. It was then that he decided to become the executive director of AAJC, he said, “Because when [Trump] talked about illegal aliens being rapists and gangsters and criminals, he was talking about me; because I was at one point an undocumented immigrant.”
The data shows that over 300,000 Asian Americans participated in the elections for the first time even before Election Day, Yang said. So Asian American participation was up in significant ways.
The protests and marches of the preceding four years culminated in a statement that the American people made at the ballot boxes. A white liberal base and communities of color — African Americans, Latinos, the LGBTQ community, Native Americans and the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities — decided that they’d been hurt enough by damaging rhetoric, economic slowdowns and COVID-19 pandemic handling under the leadership of the current administration.
American optimism is written into America’s democracy, and it will prevail in whitewashing the graffiti of rage, hatred and nihilism that Trump has perpetrated for four long years. American voters have sent a message to Donald Trump: Leave, Go, Vamoose. It remains for him to send back a “read” receipt for this message.
Jaya Padmanabhan can be reached at email@example.com. Twitter: @jayapadmanabhan. She is a guest columnist and her point of view is not necessarily that of The Examiner.