War of Terminology:

How did the US presidential election reveal notable phenomena?
War of Terminology:
July 8, 2021

The latest United States (US) presidential election was an exceptional milestone in American history: a crossroads between the Republican Party’s dominance of the presidency and Congress and the Democratic Party regaining control after four crucial years with Donald Trump in office and Republicans dominating the Senate. In this context, the US election spawned many notable phenomena, terms, and emerging concepts characterizing the intensity of the clash between Democratic candidate Joe Biden and Republican candidate Donald Trump. It also revealed a change in voting trends and preferences in American society, as well as the strategies of competition between the two main parties in the US, which can be explained as follows:

1. Rebuilding the “blue wall”: The blue wall refers to a group of states that Democrats won repeatedly in presidential elections from 1992 to 2012, making them a striking force for any Democratic presidential candidate. Joe Biden’s first goal in his electoral campaign was to strengthen and shore up support for Democrats in these states.

With a total of 242 votes in the Electoral College, these traditionally blue states are: California (55), New York (29), Michigan (16), New Jersey (14), Washington (12), Massachusetts (11), Maryland (10), Minnesota (10), Wisconsin (10), Oregon (7), Connecticut (7), Hawaii (4), Maine (4), Rhode Island (4), Delaware (3), Vermont (3), and Washington, DC (3).

In the 2016 election, Donald Trump was able to penetrate this bloc, turning Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Maine into swing states after they voted for him. This prompted Joe Biden to focus his campaign on rebuilding and solidifying the blue wall of Democratic states in the face of Trump’s progress.

2. Expanding the “red sea”: US election analysts use this term to refer to states where Republicans have won consecutive victories in seven election cycles. They include: Texas, Alabama, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Utah, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Wyoming; Republican-leaning states such as Georgia, North Carolina, Arizona, Indiana, and Montana; and other states known as the Deep South.

In this election, Trump and other Republicans sought to expand this red space by solidifying the addition of Midwestern states, or the “Rust Belt,” that Trump was able to win in 2016. These states included Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, where industrial activity has declined due to factors undermining the US steel industry, globalization, internationalization, and fast technological transformation. This made voters in these states angry with the Democratic Party, which supports free trade and the advance of globalization, due to rising rates of unemployment and poverty in recent years.

3.  The struggle for “swing states”: Both presidential candidates’ electoral campaigns focused on securing victory in states whose voting trends change from one election cycle to another, and in which either party can win. For that reason, they are also called “battleground states.”

Swing states are surveyed by opinion polls revealing the likelihood of candidates’ chances there, and the possibility of either of them winning the race there. During this race, the most prominent swing states were Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Both candidates’ campaigns focused their final days on trying to break through and make progress there.

4.  The rise of “silent voters”: Silent voters do not express their electoral orientation, and are reluctant to announce their preferences in polls or discussions about the elections, making their voting behavior difficult to predict. It also makes it more difficult to predict the results of the elections. The number of silent voters increased in swing states, due to heavy campaign advertising and ad spending by Democratic candidate Joe Biden, threatening his prospects of winning some of these states.

5.  The focus on “shy Trump voters”: This thesis asserts that Trump voters usually hide their intentions, announcing support for the Democratic Party and its candidates and then secretly voting for Trump. They fear growing criticisms of Trump’s behavior and controversial opinions, but support his policies on the trade war, immigration, and the economy. They adopt his positions in an unspoken way, voting for him on Election Day without declaring their political convictions.  

6.  Warnings of exploiting a “red mirage”: This term refers to Trump’s ability to clinch important states on the evening of Election Day just before the results are announced, with some considering it a sign of Trump’s ability to win the election. Trump could use that to declare himself winner over Biden before votes were tallied in states where results would be delayed, such as Pennsylvania, leading to chaos and simmering conflicts between Trump and Biden supporters.

7.  Anticipating a “blue shift”: Those following the election expected a shift in vote trends after Trump’s likely lead on Election Day voting. Some analysts expected Biden to win the majority of early voting and voting by mail, the count of which would be delayed for days, making the outcome of the election results radically different in favor of Biden and the Democratic Party. This would lead Trump to say that election irregularities and fraud occurred in elections in states led by Democratic governors, such as Michigan and Pennsylvania, threatening the stability of the electoral process.

8.  A rush of red or blue waves: Red or blue waves mean the ability of either of the parties to settle the presidential race and midterms in its favor in an “electoral tsunami,” in the words of some analysts. Some observers predicted Biden would be able to decide the presidential race in his favor with the Democratic Party capturing the majority of the Senate and increasing their majority in the House of Representatives: a “blue wave” marking the end of Republican control of the presidency and the senate. Others warned of a reverse scenario, a “red wave” seeing the Republican Party dominate US institutions.

In summary, it can be said that the momentum of the US presidential race drove the development of new concepts and terms in order to understand the complexities of the electoral landscape and changing voter behavior in an extraordinary and unprecedented election cycle surrounded by many domestic and international shifts: the COVID-19 pandemic, the ensuing global economic slump, and threats of foreign interference in the election by countries such as Russia, China, and Iran.


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