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US election results reflect 'extremely polarized' nation, global journalists tell Tsinghua students


Global Business Journalism reporter

American society remains “extremely polarized” after the defeat of President Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential election, a prominent U.S. journalist told Tsinghua University students on Nov. 4.

Emily C. Singer, senior political reporter for The American Independent, said almost Americans are allied with either the Democratic or Republican parties and will not consider voting for a candidate from the other party.

“We are so polarized as a society that you only vote for the person who is your party, no matter what their flaws are,” she told participants in the Global Business Journal Lecture Series’ live post-election analysis program.

Emily C. Singer

America is facing one of the deepest divides in its history — and a difficult path forward as the defeated incumbent refused to accept the verdict of voters. Maria Recio, the Washington reporter for the Austin American-Statesman, showed a news headline – “A nation divided” – from The Washington Post and said the headline reflects the present reality in America.

There are myriad reasons for this division, the experts said — a global pandemic, racial injustice leading to unrest in the streets, deadly wildfires attributable to an international environmental crisis that has become exasperatingly susceptible to political ping pong, and a rise in authoritarian regimes around the world.

The result of the election is going to test a country that this year has been sorely tested. It has been hit hard by coronavirus. Its economy battered, a deep racial division has sometimes turned violent. In the aftermath of the election, Donald Trump has done what Donald Trump does, the experts said: throw more fuel onto the fire by claiming “victory” and then alleging voting fraud. The election is destined to go to the courts. It may yet still provoke further disruption on the streets.

Complicating the situation is America’s reliance of a 232-year-old system of choosing presidents known as the Electoral College, which formally chooses the president through indirect election. Marilyn Geewax, an Atlanta-based journalist and educator said that U.S. elections aren't about who gets more votes, but rather who gets to 270 votes among the 538 member Electoral College.

Each state and Washington, D.C., all have at least three and as many as 55 votes (that's California), based on population. In this way the U.S. election is really 51 smaller elections. And each state has its own rules. Forty-eight states award their electoral votes to their statewide popular vote winners, while two allocate them based in part on the winner at the congressional district level.

“The electoral system is complicated and in many ways it’s vulnerable” to distortions, said Mika Hentunen, the U.S. correspondent for YLE broadcasting in Finland.

Hentunen also discussed the reactions of Europeans in this election. Trump's decision to withdraw the US from the 2015 Paris climate agreement was one of his least popular moves among Europeans. Trump's plan to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico was almost as unpopular. Europeans are also looking for a solution of this global pandemic from world’s most powerful country.

“In Europe, especially in Northern Europe, this election is in many ways a pandemic election,” he said.

U.S.-China relations have been fraught under the Trump administration, including clashes over trade, tech and international diplomacy. When asked whether she had a preference for either Biden or Trump, Yunyun Liu, associate executive editor and columnist at Beijing Review, said that if it wasn’t for Covid, Trump would have won because of strong economic growth until the onset of the pandemic.

Liu thinks Biden might strengthen U.S. global leadership by rejoining the Paris climate change accord.

“If Biden wins, that’s a win for U.S. and possibly a loss for China,” she said.

Liu also discussed about the differences between Chinese and U.S, democracy. In her opinion U.S. democracy can be defined as “one person, one vote” but Chinese democracy means “good decisions for majority.”

In the continuing discussion over liberal democracy, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ken Herman mused about Trump’s refusal to accept the results of the U.S. presidential election.

“The great thing about America is, anybody can go to the court and file a lawsuit,” he said. “And the awful thing about America is, anybody can go to the court and file a lawsuit.”

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