The US has never been so divided

Academic Han Dongping notes that the 2024 US presidential election will likely be a rematch between current President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. One thing for certain is that if Trump is re-elected, this will surely exacerbate the divide between "red" and "blue" America.
A supporter holds up a sign in Manchester, New Hampshire, US, on 20 January 2024. (/Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
A supporter holds up a sign in Manchester, New Hampshire, US, on 20 January 2024. (/Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

While the primaries of this year’s US presidential election are not over, the outcome is quite clear — it will be a rematch between incumbent US President Joe Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump. Biden is old and his health is often questioned, but it seems no one from the Democratic Party is challenging him.

Meanwhile, although Trump is embroiled in court cases and hated by Republican elites, he decisively won the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries, and even held off his most formidable opponent, Florida governor Ron DeSantis. Trump is now just one step away from clinching the Republican presidential nomination.

Trump currently has a higher approval rating than Biden, with over 30% support within and outside of the party. With a voter turnout rate of around 50%, a candidate with 25% support is basically elected, making it highly likely that Trump could defeat Biden and be re-elected as US president.

No in-between

Americans have completely opposing views on Trump’s possible re-election; Democrats cannot accept Trump at all. I interviewed an 86-year-old army veteran who believes that Trump is the most serious challenge in US history — if he gets re-elected, American democracy will cease to exist. Without mincing his words, he said he hoped someone would shoot Trump in the head before he gets re-elected.

Trump supporters reject the Democratic Party’s immigration policy, as they think that the US is accepting too many illegal immigrants who take away jobs and welfare from Americans.

A supporter dressed as Santa cheers as Republican presidential candidate and former US President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Conway, South Carolina, US, 10 February 2024. (Sam Wolfe/Reuters)
A supporter dressed as Santa cheers as Republican presidential candidate and former US President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Conway, South Carolina, US, on 10 February 2024. (Sam Wolfe/Reuters)

Another veteran of the US special forces whom I interviewed used to own a salon before retirement. He claims to own US$14 million in assets and lives an affluent life. He shared that if Trump were to be re-elected, he could only migrate to another country with his gay spouse. When I asked if this was too high a price to pay, he replied that any price would be worth it because he could not imagine living under the same sky as Trump.

On the other hand, a Trump supporter I interviewed thinks Trump is the US’s saviour. He said that if anyone wanted to leave the US because of Trump’s re-election, he would gladly help to pack their bags. He has two pensions: a veteran pension for 20 or more years of active service, and an employee pension for 20 years in a company after he retired from the army. He lives a carefree and comfortable life but believes that the US needs change and cannot continue in its current state of chaos, otherwise the country will be doomed. He supports Trump mainly because he opposes Biden — he is willing to vote for any Republican candidate as long as Biden does not get re-elected.    

In particular, Trump supporters reject the Democratic Party’s immigration policy, as they think that the US is accepting too many illegal immigrants who take away jobs and welfare from Americans. Trump has always called illegal immigrants criminals and blamed them for the country’s high violent crime rates; he is popular because he represents the Americans with an anti-immigrant tilt, who form his voter base.

But Trump supporters would ask: which politician is not a criminal, and which politician has never committed a crime?

A Trump supporter holds signs during the primary outside a polling site in Hampton, New Hampshire on 23 January 2024. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP)
A Trump supporter holds signs during the primary outside a polling site in Hampton, New Hampshire, on 23 January 2024. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP)

Radical Democrats think Trump is a criminal unworthy of being a presidential candidate, and they would brook no objection. But Trump supporters would ask: which politician is not a criminal, and which politician has never committed a crime? However, radical Democrats think that Trump’s crimes are different from the ones committed by ordinary politicians, in that he allegedly engaged in sedition — a challenge to the Constitution — which is unforgivable.   

Messy US elections

In fact, US elections have always been a mess. Every state has their own election laws and operating procedures. I live in North Carolina where 50% of its population are Republicans and the other 50% are Democrats. You would expect both parties to be represented equally in the US Congress.

In the current 118th Congress, the Democrat-Republican split is just about 50-50 among the 14 North Carolina representatives, after some lawsuits launched by the Democrats over the state's election laws. Otherwise, for quite some time, only a few of the dozen representatives would be Democrats, and the rest would be Republicans. 

Why is this so? This is because the Republican-controlled legislature has the right to roll out redistricting plans according to their wishes and interests to benefit their own candidates, like the Chinese idiom Tian Ji sai ma (田忌赛马, lit. Tian Ji races horses, meaning the crafty use of rules and strengths to win). The Americans call this “gerrymandering”.

The poor do not own cars and cannot afford insurance, much less get a driver’s licence, and so they cannot vote.

Additionally, voting rules are also determined by local officials. North Carolina requires that voters must have a photo ID, and for many Americans, this is usually a driver’s licence. However, having a driver's licence entails owning a car and buying car insurance, all of which require money. The poor do not own cars and cannot afford insurance, much less get a driver’s licence, and so they cannot vote. Someone once revealed that out of over 1,100 voters at a particular polling venue, only about 600 of them were allowed to vote.

US President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign rally at Pearson Community Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, US on 4 February 2024. (Saul Loeb/AFP)
US President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign rally at Pearson Community Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, US, on 4 February 2024. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

When Biden won the 2020 US presidential election, the Biden administration’s federal prosecutors charged over 100 Chinese from North Carolina who had no voting rights but who voted for Trump. They were the spouses of American citizens, who held permanent resident cards but did not have voting rights. They went with their Republican husbands to the polls and voted for Trump when officials allowed them to. But because Biden won the election, the Democrat-controlled federal government indicted these people; if Trump had won, that would not have happened. 

While these illegal voting cases usually go unreported, they have come to my attention in my role as a part-time interpreter for the US federal courts.

The 2000 US presidential election was also seriously controversial, as the Republicans and Democrats faced off in the Supreme Court — in the end, the Democrats accepted the court ruling.

Trump is the first sitting president to incite the public into challenging the election results, shattering the myth of US elections; the consequences are self-evident.

If Trump is re-elected, this will surely exacerbate the divide between "red" and "blue" America, and a second civil war is not impossible. The fact that Texas is fighting the federal government over illegal immigrant issues, and that it is supported by 25 Republican governors, is already looking like the start of a civil war. If such things continue, the US will be in peril. 

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