By Beatrice E. Rangel
Upon leaving America after surrendering at the Yorktown Battle, British Commander Charles O'Hara had this to say about the Americans he had been bested by: "I must say these are quite peculiar people. Their disregard for government places them in a position where they can go about life by themselves. But they truly become rebellious when there is an imposition."
This characterization of the collective ethos of Americans does not seem to have changed a lot two-and-a-half centuries later -- At least this is my reading of the U.S. election results this week.
For all his achievements in foreign affairs, deregulation, economic management and support to aggregate demand in the midst of a COVID-19 induced recession, President Trump failed to capitalize on those successes to quench opposition.
Faced with a weak candidate that was the product of a balancing act among competing interests inside the Democratic Party which could have made his triumph a certainty, he was unable to bring people on the other side of the political sidewalk to his support.
President Trump did energize his base to a point where they ceased to see the competition as a race but instead as a holy war against communism. Thus the whole proceedings reminded everyone more of a crusade against the forces of evil than a democratic contest.
And while his base easily moved from civic mobilization to military conquest, the centrist population did not seem to find this approach particularly attractive.
On the contrary, centrists from every corner of the political spectrum saw his leadership as over imposing and autocratic. They thus either remained home like millennials or voted for what they identified as a more consensus building leadership.
Or at least one that as observed by O Hara "that lets them go about by themselves."
This longing to return to boring normalcy -- something that was completely out of the question under the mercurial administration of President Trump -- was correctly identified as the magic factor that would secure victory to Joseph Biden by the brilliant Harvard Historian Niall Ferguson who indicated in a much celebrated analysis of the voters sentiment published by Bloomberg on October this year.
According to Ferguson "A return to normalcy: It’s an appealing prospect today, too, amid an ongoing pandemic, in the wake of an unprecedented economic shock, and after four years of political disruption. A century ago, to be sure, Americans had come through worse: the 1918-19 Spanish influenza, which killed around 675,000 people (the equivalent of 2.2 million today), and World War I.
A century ago, there was no incumbent to defeat, as Woodrow Wilson — having been struck down by the flu during the 1919 Paris peace negotiations and then by a severe stroke — was judged by his party to be unfit to run. (It remains to be seen if President Donald Trump’s admission to hospital for Covid-19 presages a premature exit for him.) But the parallel with today is still striking. In the so-called Red Scare of 1919-20, the country had been swept by strikes, protests and race riots. A severe recession had begun in January 1920. By November, what most Americans craved was indeed normalcy."
Normalcy entails seeing your rivals as contenders not enemies, respecting those that think differently, and facing challenges as a family not as rival tribes. President-Elect Biden has in front of him the challenge of leading America into self-healing so that is can go about these stormy times by itself, unleashing its trade mark innovative approach to problem solving.Beatrice Rangel is President & CEO of the AMLA Consulting Group, which provides growth and partnership opportunities in US and Hispanic markets. AMLA identifies the best potential partner for businesses which are eager to exploit the growing buying power of the US Hispanic market and for US Corporations seeking to find investment partners in Latin America. Previously, she was Chief of Staff for Venezuela President Carlos Andres Perez as well as Chief Strategist for the Cisneros Group of Companies.
For her work throughout Latin America, Rangel has been honored with the Order of Merit of May from Argentina, the Condor of the Andes Order from Bolivia, the Bernardo O’Higgins Order by Chile, the Order of Boyaca from Colombia, and the National Order of José Matías Delgado from El Salvador.
You can follow her on twitter @BEPA2009 or contact her directly at BRangel@amlaconsulting.com.