While the US seems fundamentally divided on virtually every issue, most Americans agree that their “great” country is threatened by “fascism” and that “democracy” is at stake in the next election. While the omnipresence of “fascism” in the political debate is relatively new, the idea that the next elections will determine the fate of US democracy is not. Since the “stolen election” of 2000, every president has been seen as illegitimate by a (growing) part of the other camp, from George W. Bush, through Barack Obama, to Donald Trump. Even if Joe Biden wins in a landslide, as most polls now indicate, he will be no different.
It is only a slight exaggeration to say that the upcoming US presidential election is “The Most Important Election. Ever” – in hindsight, the November 1932 election in Weimar Germany seemed quite important too. There is a lot at stake on November 3, and not just for the US. As the single, albeit declining, superpower, the American electorate does not only decide on national politics but also significantly influence global politics, including European politics. It is therefore important that Europeans understand what is at stake, in terms of US domestic and foreign policies. But, first, let’s look at what the numbers say.
While it is always tricky to write a piece a few weeks before it is published, this is even more the case when you write about polls and the volatile US political mood. Still, there is little doubt that Democratic candidate Joe Biden will win the popular vote. In fact, it is almost certain that he will win it with an even bigger margin than Hillary Clinton did in 2016 – it is increasingly forgotten that Clinton defeated Trump by 2 percent, gaining almost three million more votes! Still, because of the undemocratic political system, the Electoral College, which provides disproportionate weight to rural America, elected Trump with a clear majority.
Some pollsters argue that Biden will need to win the popular vote by more than 5,000,000 to have a shot at winning the Electoral College. According to almost all polls, in mid-October, this will not be a problem. In many polls, Biden is leading Trump by double digits nationally, and this includes the Rasmussen Poll, which tends to be more favorable towards Republicans, and is therefore often touted by Fox News and President Trump. Consequently, prediction models have Biden as a certain winner; for instance, Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website gives the former vice-president a 88 percent chance of becoming president in January 2021. Still, the same models gave Clinton a similar chance, and we know how that story ended.
There are some reasons why this time they migh…