While the newly declared US election result has proved opinion to be much more divided on Trump than many imagined, it’s certain that much of the world breathed a collective sigh of relief at the imminent end of the Trump era.
For many, this wasn’t just about policy, but also about style; relief that the US will have a more statesman-like president again, who it is hoped, will be able to speak without heaping insults on ethnic minorities, on women, on his political opponents, on science, on the media.
Much of Trump’s vitriol is of course ‘on the record’ on Twitter; the New York Times’ compilation of the ‘The 598 People, Places and Things Donald Trump Has Insulted on Twitter: A Complete List’ makes sombre reading.
His enemies have been most frequently dismissed on the social media platform as ‘fake’, ‘failed’, ‘dishonest’, ‘weak’ or ‘lying’ as he sought to establish his own narrative of the truth by shouting more loudly or posting abusive tweets rather than presenting the arguments.
Whether online or in person, Trump has made his mark by being outspoken, outlandish and combative to a degree few would have thought possible.
While promising to ‘make America great again’, he fought a very negative campaign and was quick to heap slurs on other nations. He denigrated Mexico for sending “criminals, drug dealers and rapists” to the US and, in an Oval Office meeting in 2018, reportedly described El Savador, Haiti, Honduras and African countries as “those shitholes [that] send us the people that they don’t want”.
His views on women were equally provocative, often basing his insults of female opponents on their appearance; for example, he described his former White House aide, Omarosa Manigault Newman as "that dog” and said of his former Republican primary competitor, Carly Fiorina: "Look at that face, would anyone vote for that?"
Being outrageous of course won him acres of media coverage and helped garner support from those with racist and Islamaphobic attitudes (found to be an indicator of Trump supporters).
And while it worked for him in the 2016 campaign – possibly the novelty factor and it was argued that he would change his style once he became President – by 2020, the tide has finally turned.
Biden’s victory has been attributed to his simply asserting himself as being ‘not Trump’, keeping a dignified silence and leaving his opponent to keep on digging his own political grave.
And it worked. Biden’s five million lead in the popular vote in particular indicates an electorate weary of Trump’s combative brand of politics, something the Democrat leader seemed mindful of as he claimed the election in Delaware. His address marked a departure in style from what had gone before, as he spoke of the need for ‘unity’ and ‘a time to heal’.
It was a narrow victory of course, and we will never know what would have happened without the impact of Covid-19. Trump didn’t quite describe the coronavirus as ‘fake’ but his attempts to talk down the risks came close, and at the same time, he was of course unable to mitigate the economic consequences of the pandemic.
The fact remains that Biden won and, for many, simply having a different personality in the White House, with a new tone of voice, will be enough of a change to be cause for real celebration.