Joe Biden has won the 2020 US Presidency and President Trump is yet to concede. Tom Bromwich reflects on what we have learnt from this monumental election; Trump may have lost, but Trumpism lives on. 

Political scientists, pollsters, and pundits were left in flux on Tuesday night as the first results started trickling in from the US election. What they and we saw, whilst predictable was entirely unpredictable and highlighted how American politics has shifted in the past 4 years. What have we absorbed from this election, and more importantly, what lessons should we heed heading towards the 2024 election? Yes, I am aware that 47 lingering months and one Biden presidency stands in between, but as economist Edgar Fiedler observed, "the long term is between now and the next election".

Lesson #1 – 'Tone it down'
The Republicans need to win back the suburbs. From Phoenix, Arizona to Atlanta, Georgia, Donald Trump saw the traditional breeding grounds for consecutive Republican success evaporate overnight. Joe Biden carried suburban counties that no Democrat running for president has won for over 60 years: Tarrant County, Texas (home to Dallas), Duval County, Florida (home to Jacksonville), and Riley County, Kansas, which had never voted for a Democrat for president in its entire history.

The newly re-elected Republican senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell already sounded the alarm: "We need to win back the suburbs. We need to do better". Political scientists attribute the suburban slide to Trump's inflammatory and hardline views on race and cultural heritage. Trump spoke about these suburban issues from the standpoint of Nixon's 1972 re-election bid, rallying against low-income housing and using the racialised language of the 'inner cities' and 'welfare' to speak to a suburban voter which no longer existed.

Since the 1970s, successive Democrats and Republicans have cultivated the conditions for socio-cultural integration to germinate – Trump unapologetically sought to reverse this integration, through his musings to eliminate the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing initiative, and the suburbs bit back. The Republican Party needs to learn the lesson that suburbia is no longer characterised by apple pies, best lawn competitions, and god-fearing nuclear families, but is a diverse, college educated, centrist bastion which will continue to slip further away unless radical action is taken.

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Lesson #2 – 'The Latino vote is dead'
Trump's 3 per cent win in Florida came from one place: Miami-Dade County, home to the largest population of Cubans in the country – a historically Democrat-hostile demographic. Trump's labelling of Democrats as 'radical socialists' struck a chord and played a significant part in ousting two one-term congresswomen. Since 2016, when Trump won 27 per cent of the Latino vote, he has made concerted efforts to establish inroads with the voting bloc, offering subsidies for Latino businesses through the Latino Prosperity Initiative, assuring religious liberties, and appointing Latinos to key federal positions, such as the Small Business Administration. These appear to have paid off in Florida, where Cubans make up the majority of Latinos.

Elsewhere, Trump gained ground with Latinos in Texas, winning fast-growing counties with over 80 per cent Latino populations: Zapata, Starr, and La Salle. Republican gains in Texas and Florida were offset by Biden's gains amongst Latinos in Pennsylvania and Arizona where close to 60 per cent supported the Democrat, and Puerto Ricans particularly (an island Biden has pledged to grant statehood to).

What have we learnt? The Latino vote is no longer homogenous. Trump tore chunks of Latino support from Democrats in the sun belt states of Florida and Texas, and the Republican Party have a robust infrastructure to keep it this way: It handed them wins in the 2018 senate and governor's races in Florida, and sustains them in Texas. However, northern Latinos and Latinos in left-ward marching states (Arizona, Nevada, Colorado) have different values and priorities which lead them to vote Democrat. This bloc is no longer reliable for Democrats and they now have a fight on their hands to retain it – a refreshing change.

Lesson #3 – 'Trump is gone, but Trumpism is not going anywhere'
Election day, however was not bad for Republicans. They have gained seats in the House, will likely retain the senate, and have added millions of new voters to their ranks. During 2019 and 2020 we have already seen internal wrangling over who could take over Trump's party. Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Rick Scott of Florida have already started airing adverts within key battlegrounds emphasising the key Trump themes of illegal immigration, law and order, and heavily featuring the President himself.

Meanwhile, Senators Cruz of Texas (who's wife Trump called ugly) and Graham of South Carolina (who referred to Trump as a 'religious bigot' and a 'kook') have defiantly stuck by the President's evidence-free election fraud allegations and have defended his Ukraine dealings, dismissing any evidence put forward. Cruz even set up a podcast to defend Trump during his impeachment hearing. The Trump brand within the party also lives through his children, mostly Donald Jr. who has attended hundreds of rallies on behalf of his father and worked to publish books using Republican Party funds. Trump Jr. has called out his father's political rivals in through similar channels and ways as his father. The Trump brand of populism in the party may see itself morph into an acceptable face for the American people through these individuals, but also through other possible runners Mike Pence, Nikki Haley, and Marco Rubio, but Trumpism is Trumpism and it is now the Republican Party's ideology.

Take away from this lesson what you will, but these are now the fault lines for 2024. As the weeks progress, more revelations will come to light and more insights will arise, but as the first contenders begin to dip their toes into the 2024 waters of Iowa and New Hampshire, the Republican Party needs to sort their problems out just as quickly as the Democratic Party needs to. The battle for the soul of the nation has only just begun…

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