Novye Izvestia spoke in detail with Russian political scientist and historian Alexey Makarkin about the specifics of the current elections in the historical context.
- The intrigue of the American elections continues to the very end. It is still not completely clear who won. It's roughly clear that Joe Biden, but the Republicans still have a last resort - what if Arizona? What if - Nevada?
- Trump has to gain too much to remain president. He needs to keep Georgia, win Pennsylvania, recapture Arizona. But there is still a chance and the nerve of the campaign. There are two Americas. In fact, this did not happen yesterday or the day before yesterday.
- There have been many bright moments in recent American political history. What are the defining factors for the current situation for you?
- The elections of 1968 and 1972 were bright. In 1968, the concept of the "silent majority" was introduced by Richard Nixon's team. What is 1968? These are protests not only in France, protests around the world. They are hippies, Beatles, Lennon, new culture. In France, it is understandable. There, students took over the university quarters. De Gaulle had to leave Paris for a while to see his generals and consult on what to do next. And in America - the Congress of Democrats in Chicago, where young people, hippies, activists protested, demanded the election of their candidate. The Democrat mayor disperses the Democratic activists. When we now say that America is the end of the world, America will collapse, they do not remember 1968, when the mayor of Chicago, a Democrat, gave the order to disperse Democratic activists on the streets who were protesting against the decision of the Democratic Party Congress. It also seemed then an apocalypse for America
The last uncertain election took place in 2000, when Al Gore and George W. Bush competed. Who became president was not known for several weeks. Now, probably, everything will be decided today or tomorrow. And then it took a very long time to decide. The results were recounted in Florida, there was a Supreme Court decision. What was not there. Then there was also a split in society. Gore was followed by modernists, environmentalists, young computer scientists of Silicon Valley, and behind Bush Jr. - conservative religious states, communities in these states. There were oil workers who wanted a real sector, not a virtual economy. In fact, a split has existed in America for a very long time.
But then came the 2008 crisis and the arrival of Obama, who began to pursue a modernist policy. From a conservative perspective, he went very far - from allowing same-sex marriage to health care reform.
Accordingly, there was a reaction, and Donald Trump appeared.
- The principle of bipartisanship should protect America from populism and radicalism. Why didn't it work?
- In 2016, Republicans reject all moderate candidates, the next Bush brother and nominate the most radical, the one who is ready to fight against the Democrats, against everything that was connected with the Obama presidency, who is ready to abandon the very important American principle of bipartisanship, when a number of key Party issues adhere to consensus. This applies, in particular, to foreign policy. Bipartisanship led Republicans to vote for Clinton's Supreme Court nominees when the Senate majority was Republican. Even with a split, there has always been a bipartisan consensus that has allowed the system to hold on and not go to extremes.
But now it’s impossible. The bipartisan consensus has essentially fallen apart. There is no consensus in the current elections. The sides are polarized. There have always been third parties in American politics. Now this third candidate is not visible, although they are. But they are so small, such a strong polarization, that the campaign of the third candidate is of no interest to anyone. The polarization between Biden and Trump has peaked. Third parties are no longer claimed by anyone.
For the first time in history, a president is questioning the legitimacy of electoral procedures.
- What led to this polarization?
- The silent majority over the past decades has become a screaming minority. the middle class in America has moved towards the left. Things that seemed incredible under Nixon are now commonplace. Recently, the US Supreme Court considered whether discrimination against LGBT people was unconstitutional. And the Trump judge, the Trump-appointed conservative, decides - yes, he does. LGBT rights are violated and they must be protected. Until 15 years ago, this was extremely unlikely, not to mention the days of Nixon!
And these people, who always considered themselves to be the mainstay of America, the real, indigenous, true America, suddenly found themselves in the minority. Second time Trump gets fewer votes overall. People who were the pillars of the political system became its critics, strangers at this celebration of life. Their factory has moved to China, their store is being squeezed out by the retail network, their children are less and less listening to their parents. And when Trump tells these people that the system is not legitimate, the bosses are scammers, they believe him. And they vote for him, despite the fact that Trump has completely failed the fight against the pandemic. They have given Trump tremendous support. Trump pulled them out in 2016, they didn't want to go to vote. For them, Gore and Bush were one and the same. Trump charged them with energy, and they went to the polls.
On the other hand, "Trumpism" has activated the Democrats. The Black Lives Matters ( BLM ) movement emerged , and the MeToo movement against women discrimination became active . These movements harshly and irreconcilably went against their opponents, began to destroy monuments. We started with the monuments of the Confederates, and then we got to everyone who was accused of some sins. Even Abraham Lincoln was accused of not being benevolent towards the Native American Indians. The liberal president, the president is an icon for liberals, but the new generation says: he offended the Indians.
If Biden wins, there will be a lot of frustration. For the first time before the election, a group of radical Trumpists in one of the states wanted to kidnap the governor. They were arrested on conspiracy charges. It hasn't happened for a long time.
- However, the electoral process continues...
- Firstly, there are institutes that continue to work. They shout in the streets, and in the election commissions they continue to scrupulously count ballots, ignoring the president's calls to stop the counting of votes.
There is real federalism. Let's look at the elections in general. We will see that Joe Biden is likely to win the presidential election. But the Republicans will retain the majority in the Senate.
Trump has managed to appoint three young conservative judges during his presidency. The last one - a few days before the elections. Accordingly, the Republicans have a majority in the Supreme Court. Democrats have proposed changing the law and expanding the number of members of the Supreme Court. This law was conceived by Roosevelt, but even he could not implement it. And now it will be impossible, since there is a republican majority in the Senate, they will of course block.
The institutes are working. For four years they held back Trump, for four years America was ruled by a non-systemic person who, if it were his will, would have left NATO long ago, and the country lived its own life. The state worked, during this time NATO managed to admit two new members - Montenegro and North Macedonia. I'm not sure Trump knew where they were. But they were accepted. When Trump went too far on migration issues, he was corrected by the court. But at the same time, the court agreed with some of the president's moderate ideas. The work of institutions limits both the willfulness of politicians and the willfulness of the street.
- Nevertheless, half of the US population again voted for him...
- There are several cultures. There is a democratic culture. These are people who trust experts, with a fairly high education, graduated from colleges and universities. They trust science. And scientists say that a pandemic is serious, we must beware, we must wear masks, and, if possible, self-isolate. They plan to vote by mail. Putting a letter in the mailbox is not the same as coming to the site.
The republican subculture is different. These people are mostly less educated. And these are more religious people, proceeding from the fact that everything is predetermined. Which have not be avoided. The Lord has already decided everything for you. And you must match what the Lord expects of you. Therefore, these people proceed from the premise that there is no need to be afraid, there is no need to wear masks, there is no need to hide in their homes, but to live and lead an ordinary life. Moreover, such a religious component is considered by them to be completely moral. Many of them have small businesses and shops. And for them any lockdown is a threat of ruin.
Trump understood from the very beginning that his voters were at the polls. What was important to him was to discredit the postal vote. He is a politician, he understood that mail voting is very important, that it can change the situation in specific states, which happened in Wisconsin, Michigan, therefore it was important to discredit this vote, to explain that there are scammers, the vote can be stolen. Trump, not being a politician, turned out to be one of the most political American presidents, a politician. He feels his people.
- Why did Joe Biden's candidacy work, although it may not be as predicted?
- The Democrats managed to find the only candidate who could resist Trump. Joe Biden had a lot of claims that he was a senile, "sleepy beetle", as Trump called him. If not for the pandemic, Trump might have won. But Biden was the only Democrat who could resist Trump, even over the coronavirus. Trump would have killed the rest with one left due to economic growth and the status of the current president. And with Biden, in any case, there would be a fight.
Technologists worked with specific electoral groups. The democrats remembered that they had to go after the workers, whom they considered absolutely their electorate. Biden put a tremendous amount of effort into this. We saw how events developed in the states of Wisconsin and Michigan, which Biden intercepted. There is a fight going on in Pennsylvania now. Biden returned two of the three disputed states of the "rust belt" to the Democrats. Even in a pandemic, the charismatic Kamala Harris could not have done this. Kamala Harris is very popular with Democrats, but she is a liberal lady from liberal California. How would she come to these workers from Michigan and explain why they should vote for her? This is a rhetorical question, nothing good would have happened. That is, important point work was carried out. Moreover, both parties.
If we look at the Republican campaign, we see that they were able to consolidate their position among the Latinos. It would seem that Trump was going to build a wall on the border with Mexico, he has even already started it. And in the Latin American community, the percentage of votes for Trump is higher than in 2016. Trump worked with this audience, convinced them that Kamala Harris is a communist, almost the same as Castro, and Joe Biden is a puppet under Kamala Harris. And Latinos went to vote for Trump, despite the fact that he is the man who builds the wall. It is important for them that Trump has taken a tough stance against Cuba, the Cuban regime.
- Much is clear about Tampa after 4 years of presidency. Biden, despite his vice presidency, is not so bright.
- Biden, if he becomes president, is psychologically a bipartisan politician. Now, if Trump, in fact, provokes a split, then Biden is calling for reconciliation, declaring that he will be the president of all Americans. Under Biden, there will be no tweets that delight some and outrage others, he will not provoke, on the contrary, he will try to soften the confrontation.
Rumor has it that if he wins, Biden will leave his post in six months in favor of Kamala Harris, and she will arrange real communism in America. But this is highly unlikely. He did not go to the presidency in order to leave. He is a very experienced politician, and the degree of his incapacity, to put it mildly, is greatly exaggerated by the Republicans.
I think Biden will maneuver between the traditional principle of bipartisanship and the request of his more leftist electorate. It will be very difficult for him, because, on the one hand, there are environmentalists, supporters of Sanders, on the other hand, hard workers from Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan. These people have returned to the Democrats, and the Democrats understand that they can leave for the next elections. They must be kept. Democrats will find themselves in a difficult situation: the party establishment will be inclined to try to reach an agreement, while the party activists, the lower classes and part of the establishment will insist on pursuing a more leftist policy.
- How will relations with Europe develop?
- There will be no such global optimism as under Obama, but relations will improve. Problems in US-British relations are possible. Trump supported Brexit with all his might, encouraged it, supported Johnson. Biden will be more comfortable maintaining relations not only with Johnson, but also with politicians more familiar to him. I think Labor is closer to him than the right wing of the Conservatives - Brexiters.
Biden will strengthen NATO, will not bully his European allies, he will build relations with Merkel, with Macron, whom Trump did not like humanly, and this was reflected in politics. Then American officials made a lot of effort to neutralize all this. They had to, in fact, confront their own president. If Biden wins, this will not happen - the state and the president will work together.
Biden will try to build relations with China. But China has become more nationalistic during Comrade Xi's leadership. If Comrade Xi runs for a third term, which is quite likely, this will intensify even more.
America will pursue a more deliberate presidential foreign policy.
- How will relations with Russia change?
- As for Russia, we like republicans more. Republicans talk less about human rights, talk more about strategic stability and trade. The fact is that Trump could not talk about trade, he was immediately accused of being a Russian spy. And regarding strategic stability, he took a position that Russia did not like very much. Trump wanted to get out of all the agreements that America entered into. He didn't like them all. And he began to destroy the architecture of strategic stability that his predecessors had created. In particular, regarding the extension of the START treaty. Biden is ready to renew it. Therefore, I would not say that for Russia Biden is definitely a bad partner. He is a difficult partner, especially after 2011-2012, when he publicly complained that Putin had returned. He is a straightforward person, therefore he spoke directly about this, and the Kremlin did not like it. There is a rather negative attitude towards him in connection with Ukraine. But it is worth remembering that the Democrats refused to supply lethal weapons there, and under the Republicans, she received them.
The relationship will be difficult, but not disastrous, it will be possible to talk. Biden will have a professional and experienced team in Russia. For Trump, it was quite random, some people appeared, sometimes well-known experts like Philona Hill, and sometimes those who had a rough idea of Russia and learned on the go. There will be a professional team that will understand not only roughly, but well understand American priorities. The team will enforce them very tough, but at the same time - without unexpected shyness.