16.6M votes—and 91-percent approval rating?

By: Solita Collas-Monsod - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | November 07,2020 - 08:00 AM

Who would have believed, prior to this year, that a US presidential election would have a presidential candidate, the incumbent president at that, screaming fraud and demanding a recount or trying to stop the ballot counting, and threatening legal action because the voting process was fraudulent?

Donald Trump sounds like someone from a banana-type republic rather than the president of the United States. His previous actions had already tarnished the image of the United States in the international community and among freedom-loving people, but this one takes the cake.

Let me quote from Thomas Friedman, an opinion columnist of the New York Times, a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, and author of seven books: “Trump has so redefined decency down that we have forgotten what is normal, let alone optimal, in an American president. We have forgotten what it is like to have a truth-teller, a healer, in the White House, someone who starts his day with at least the inclination to unite the country and to project America at its best for the world—not someone who has lived every day in office aspiring to be president only of his base, while offering anyone at home or abroad looking to the United States for inspiration just one message: Show me the money.”

In other words, Trump has introduced a disgusting new normal to the American people, separate from COVID-19. What is so astonishing is that, instead of repudiating him resoundingly at the polls, the vote is such that not one media outlet, not one political analyst, three days after the election, is willing to call the winner. I thought that it would be an easy choice.

Don’t get me wrong, Reader. I think that Joe Biden will be the next US president, unless Trump dips into his bag of dirty tricks. I am just disappointed that it wasn’t an easier win for him. But then again, who am I to talk, given what has been happening here?

The good news is that the voter turnout in the United States is the largest in 120 years. As of this writing, 144 million votes have been counted, Biden leading by about 4 million votes. But that doesn’t mean a thing—Hillary Clinton led Trump by 2.9 million votes in 2016. It is estimated that about 159.8 million votes had been cast, out of 239.2 million eligible voters. That’s a voter turnout of 66.8 percent—the highest since 1900. The last time that voter turnout exceeded 60 percent was in 1968.

This means that voters in the United States have realized, rather late, that their votes do matter. And that they needed to get out and vote. The United States has early voting, and mail-in voting, which make it easier for voters to vote, so there is really no excuse for not voting.

Voter turnouts in the Philippines are far greater than in the United States. In the past 60 years, the lowest voter turnout was in 2010, when “only” 74.3 percent of our registered voters actually voted. The highest voter turnout was in 1998, when 86.5 percent voted. And this without early voting or mail-in voting, except fairly recently, for overseas Filipino workers.

Whether our relatively high participation rate is because Filipino voters are determined to exercise their rights, or whether it is because they are paid to vote (I understand that it works both ways—a person can also be paid not to vote, if he was going to vote for your opponent), I cannot tell.

But speaking of American and Philippine elections, Reader, I found out that Abraham Lincoln won by a plurality of 39.8 percent of the popular vote (he was running against three others) when he ran for president in 1860. That is very similar to our President Duterte winning with a plurality of 39 percent of the popular vote in 2016. I bring this up not to compare Mr. Duterte and Lincoln, but to point out that 61 percent of Filipino voters in 2016 did not vote for Mr. Duterte (who was running against four others).

Actually, President Duterte was voted in by 16.6 million voters out of a total of 57.7 million registered voters, 45 million of whom voted, but only 42.5 million were “valid.” The 39 percent I am talking about is 16.6/42.5. If the denominator is changed to 45, that percentage falls to 37 percent. And if the denominator is changed to 57.7, the percentage falls further to 29 percent.

So, given this rather slim initial support and his government’s performance, I very much doubt the accuracy of its 91-percent approval rating, what with the West Philippine Sea issue, the drug war issue, and the most severe economic recession against him. Unless Filipinos are schizophrenic? Just saying.

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TAGS: Biden, COVID-19, decency, Duterte, Trump, US Presidential Election

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