American expats have a conundrum on election night: do you stay up to watch the results come in or do you try to sleep? On the one hand, the future of your country is at stake — and in the pre-Covid era, there was the added glamour of election night parties and free booze. On the other hand, if your side loses, you’re miserable and exhausted. Of course I stayed up. Four years ago I watched hundreds of party guests flee the US Embassy in London in a matter of minutes after Florida declared for Donald Trump, trampling over Hillary badges and stickers on their way out. This year I spent the night alone with Bret Baier (Fox News) in my living room.
It would appear that even after four years, no one has solved the Trump riddle. He insults people and degrades them; he encourages everyone to inject bleach. So the question presents itself again: how did a man, seen by even his supporters as being unfit for office, still win roughly half the country? I’m a lifelong Republican who felt I had to vote for Joe Biden — and I’m not alone. He’s the first candidate in American history to win more than 70 million votes. I felt vindicated watching the first debate as Trump shouted down and interrupted his opposition. But when Biden was allowed to speak in the second debate, he became his own worst enemy. We heard about the tax hikes, more lockdowns and a move away from US energy-independence and fracking. I still back Biden but his policies will have driven many wavering voters back to Trump. In retrospect, the tell was in the lacklustre Biden rallies. The issue wasn’t simply social distancing, but the gloomy optics it created and the strange lack of enthusiasm.