Democracy, decency and demography: Three winners of the 2020 elections

Keith Simmonds

Unlike authoritarian political systems where their existence depends on coercion, military force and disregard for the rule of law, democratic systems depend on respect for the rule of law. Democratic systems rely on persuasion rather than coercion of their citizens. It is we, the people, who keep our society relatively stable and when there is a change in political party rule, smooth transition of power becomes the order of the day. 

After a hard fought presidential campaign, the American electorate is prepared to accept the election results (notwithstanding Donald Trump’s claims that the elections were rigged). The American people trust the processes of their democracy as witnessed by the unusually high turnout at the polls. We, the people, peacefully chose a new chief executive officer and commander-in-chief of the military establishment of these United States of America. Americans did not surrender to the possibility of delaying the elections because of COVID-19 and the continuing havoc it wreaks on this country; the military establishment did not have to fill the streets to put down riots related to the elections. Democracy won. Chaos never succeeded.

We heard it often throughout the campaign that character was on the ballot. By interpretation, it meant that Americans expected a high degree of decency to be displayed by all candidates. The implication is that Americans expect the absence of lies, misinformation and fraudulence. Americans expect their leaders to display mutual respect for each other. To have a candidate who refuses to exhibit good character or exemplary behavior is also seen as not playing by the rules and therefore does not deserve to win.

Donald trump, in my judgment, consistently broke the rules of dignified political campaigning. A majority of the American electorate saw his behavior for what it was and denied him a second term. The political indecencies of Donald Trump are tools that authoritarian rulers use to intimidate the populace to maintain their grip on power. And threats to hold on to power if the election results were not to his liking was clearly out of the political character of American democracy. Thankfully, a majority of Americans had the courage to say “no” to those elements of undemocratic behavior. 

The country is finally waking up to the reality that “demography is destiny.” That is, population shifts influence societal change. There is an emerging new majority in America which will consist of a combination of peoples of color; for example Hispanics, African Americans, Asians and Native Americans. They will not be a monolithic group but there will be common ground on enough issues that will empower this loose association of American citizens to coalesce and determine who gets elected, and what will be the governing policies of the land.

Demography is destiny because demographic growth in numbers confirms that there is “power in numbers,” and the group which commands the numbers, determines who has the power.  Fifty years ago, America was 78 percent Caucasian, with near absolute control of societal power; today it’s about 67 percent. By 2045, according to William Frey of the Brookings Institution, the country’s White population is estimated to be about 49.7 percent. The White establishment will have to share more power with the emerging majority.

In our 2020 elections demography, empowered by a seemingly unstoppable cluster of peoples of color, materially rather than marginally influenced the election of former Vice President Joe Biden and US Senator Kamala Harris. The growing force of demography is being fueled by gender as well. Once again, some 91 percent Black women voted for the Biden/Harris team. About 68 percent Hispanic women voted for the democratic candidates. Black men and Hispanic males were 88 percent and 58 percent, respectively. There is a clear message here and both political parties would do well to understand the meaning of these election statistics. Indeed, the emerging new majority won handily; they helped to produce America’s first female and Black Vice President of Caribbean-Asian descent. Congratulations, madam Vice President-elect.

Dr. Keith Simmonds is a professor of history and political science at Florida A&M University

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