Erik Green talks to American voters Amelia Morel and Nikolai Kachuyevski to hear why they have decided to vote for Joe Biden in the Election.
Amelia and Nik tell us the most persuasive trait about Biden is that he’s not Trump. Our discussion however, revealed Amelia’s hope as a Sanders supporter that Biden can deliver a progressive left-wing platform. We talked about the Vice President candidates, the impact of Covid, and if Biden can reverse Trump’s legacy.
In Florida he leads by 5%. In Arizona by 4%. Joe Biden is rising ahead in the polls at such an extraordinary rate, that in Michigan over 50% of voters now say they support the Democratic Presidential candidate. This is a hugely significant number because anything over 50% indicates that even if all the remaining undecided voters swing towards Trump, Biden still cannot be caught. Although it is likely that the race will narrow, especially as some traditional Republicans who are opposed to Trump fall back into the fold, its undeniable that Biden is currently best placed to become President.
But what is behind this rise in support? It was only in early February that Biden was seen as having blown any chance of winning the Democratic nomination, after a series of poor debate performances and early primary defeats. Many would argue that it is Covid-19 and Trump’s mismanagement of the pandemic that has persuaded voters to support Biden. But speaking to American voter Nikolai Kachuyevski it is clear that something more fundamental has changed.
Since 2016 the mindset of parts of the American electorate has transformed from one wanting radical change, represented in the populism of Sanders and Trump, to a desire for ‘normalcy and leadership – a safer choice’. Describing Biden as a ‘safer choice’ Kachuyevski reflects the extent to which the criteria for America’s next President has changed. Alongside a movement away from radical populism, voters now want someone more akin to an insider – an experienced pair of hands. Amelia Morel, a voter residing in New Jersey America, agreed. She told me its ‘hard to see Biden as a change candidate’.
The cause of this mindset change is Donald Trump himself. Kachuyevski spoke passionately of wanting ‘to get anyone in the White House that’s not’ Trump. This being his primary reason for supporting Biden: ‘my initial thought is okay, he’s not Trump’. This view explains the Biden campaign strategy of allowing the spotlight to remain on Trump, rather than defining himself through policies or mistakes, that may turn the election less into a referendum on the President. A similar sentiment was shared by Morel. For her, Biden represented somebody who would try ‘to undo everything Trump has done’.
Speaking to these two voters I began to challenge the view that Covid-19 is the sole reason for this want for an experienced insider. It appears that four years of turbulence, chaos, and sometimes embarrassment, for many voters have made them reconsider their views on the style of candidate that was preferred previously. This has made voters more receptive to seeing Covid-19 as the nadir of a style of Presidency they now dislike. In many ways it has exposed the weaknesses of Trump, which for many, may have been ignored again.
My discussion with Kachuyevski and Morel also revealed the tension that runs through the coalition of voters Biden has brought together. Whilst for Kachuyevski Biden is all about reverting back to normality, for Morel she hopes for something more. As someone who supported Bernie Sanders in the primaries, Amelia Morel expressed hope Biden will deliver ‘one of the most progressive platforms’ of any recent Democrat. ‘I think he will be able to help minorities and help solve climate change. This subtle difference between the two is a tension that we can expect the Trump campaign to attempt to pull apart in a way that it achieved in 2016, causing some Sanders supporters to back Trump. This was achieved however, because of a fierce internal row between Sanders and Clinton that was absent from this year’s primary.
Kachuyevski believes though, that such internal divisions have subsided because of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. It has forced ‘plenty of people’ off the fence, including ‘Bernie or bust people’ who are now thinking ‘we’ve actually got to do something about this’. This is possibly what explains Biden’s rise in the polls. For Kachuyevski this is a worry. ‘I’m just a little concerned that’ Biden is ‘peaking too early’. ‘Right now anti-Trump sentiment is going up’ and ‘that might die down in November’ and as a result ‘people will be less motivated’. This was a concern Morel acknowledged as she spoke of an enthusiasm gap between Biden and Trump supporters, with the latter able to motivate a more loyal and committed base.
As virtual convention season approaches, many minds in Democratic circles are turning towards discussing whom Joe Biden will choose as his Vice President. Something which has an increased significance in this election. Many politicians and voters are openly expressing concern that Biden’s health (aged 77) may not allow him to last a full term or allow him to be as central in the running of government as previous Presidents. Even more people are assured he won’t stand for a second term. Kachuyevski spoke of how ‘there are quite a few more liberal people who are voting with the intention that he does step down’ and a more left-wing Democrat becomes President.
Consequently, for Morel Joe Biden’s VP choice is ‘very important’. She hopes that Biden will follow the route of some past presidents in choosing someone who can reach out to groups the candidate themselves struggled to win support from. I want him to choose someone who is ‘more progressive’ and a minority ‘that helps attracting African-American and Spanish voters’. As well as being a woman as ‘that’s something that motivates me’. There has been no previous female Vice President. For Morel, Kamala Harris is the answer.
As somebody reporting on the US election from the outside, the issue of polarisation is one that I wished to ask Moral and Kachuyevski about. Is this a feature of life that only the media and politicians talk about, or are polarisation and increased division actually felt by Americans? Morel’s answer confidently ended any suggestions of the latter: ‘I would definitely say it’s very polarized’ especially the media. ‘There’s a lot of narrative that goes out there that’s basically fake and lies. Having these major media networks that are so polarising and so different has made the people in the country much more polarised’.
No two elections are ever the same, and it appears as though for some voters a fundamental change in mindset has a strong possibility in ending the Trump Presidency after just one term in office. However, both Morel and Kachuyevski agreed this didn’t mean a complete reversal of his legacy: it will take ‘more than four years’ Kachuyevski told me, whilst Morel agreed – albeit whilst wanting Biden to enact quick changes such as re-entering the Paris Climate Accord.
If a Biden victory would represent a rejection of all things Trump, it would be wrong to suggest that the problems Trump exposed have gone away. There would still be a considerable level of economic and cultural grievances felt amongst certain sections of the population, perhaps ready to rear its head again.
America wants normality and Biden delivers that; but the country should learn from the last four years – rather than wishing to forget all about it – and wish to address its route causes. Finding a solution to these grievances however, would not allow Biden to maintain this election as a referendum on Trump and would certainly put at threat his current coalition of support.