Donald Trump is a 'unique historical figure' whose 'hold' on supporters 'defies logic', expert in Canada says

Elisabetta Bianchini
·4-min read

As the presidential race between Donald Trump and Joe Biden continues in the U.S., one thing is clear: pre-election polls underestimated support for Trump.

“The first takeaway is that you just cannot rely on these polls,” Dr. Andy Hira, a political science professor at Simon Fraser University told Yahoo Canada. “[Biden] was ahead by significant margins that in most other elections would have led to an easy victory.”

“So that just shows, again, that these polls are just not capturing what's happening with Trump supporters.”

What is it about Trump?

Hira hopes people in Canada keeping track of election results understand that this is “democracy at work.”

“Democracy really depends upon full participation and adaptation to circumstances,” he said. “We have this unique historical figure in Trump, you might see him once every 40 or 50 years, he has a kind of hold on his followers that cannot be explained by political science, in a scientific manner.”

“There is a certain hold that populist leaders sometimes have on their followers that defies logic and that's what we're seeing here. We can start to figure it out scientifically but at the end of the day, it's something that defies rationality, the hold that he has on his followers.”

Hira indicated that this is a lesson that everyone needs to be included and participate in democracy.

“When we have people who complain and are cynical, and write social media messages but don't actually participate in democracy by voting or running for office, or being cognizant and aware of the issues, that's when these small but significant minorities and populist figures can derail democracy,” he said.

In terms of Trump coming closer to Biden than national polls anticipated for this election, the professor explained that there were some intimations in advance, specifically related to the potential for lower turnout for Democratic supporters in south Florida, particularly Miami-Dade.

“They were talking about a lot of misinformation and claims that Biden was gonna bring socialism to that community, and I guess the Democratic response was inadequate to overcome those,” Hira said. “What we saw yesterday was that Florida went decisively in Trump's favour and in good part it’s because Miami-Dade didn't come through for the Democrats.”

“Now, in part, it's not surprising because it's got a large Cuban community, and a growing Venezuelan community, and these claims about socialism are bound to resound with those communities, but it's a very diverse Latino community there and they just didn't show up for the Democrats.”

The political science professor said this loss for the Democrats, in particular, raises questions about Biden’s overall strategy.

“The fact that he didn't put his participants in danger by holding big rallies, the fact that he was very passive and made the election about Trump, rather than really pushing his own view, I think those are strategy questions that will haunt the Democrats for a long time,” Hira said.

‘It's going to be a real legal mess’

Hira believes that Biden will ultimately win the presidency, adding that the former U.S. vice president has a “good chance” to win Pennsylvania with many of the votes still needing to be counted coming from the Philadelphia area, which is a Democratic stronghold.

That being said, with such a close race in this year’s election, Trump’s campaign has already announced that it is suing in Pennsylvania due to “transparency” concerns. It has also filed a lawsuit to contest the vote count in Michigan and has filed another lawsuit, with the Georgia Republican Party, against the Chatham County Board of Elections requesting the county secure and account for ballots received after 7:00 p.m. on Election Day.

The Trump campaign has also requested a recount of ballots Wisconsin.

“Some of that litigation is around how long after election day can you count ballots that were mailed,” Hira explained. “It's going to be a real legal mess.”

“It will have to go through the state courts first and the Trump team will have to think of some kind of legal question, and there hasn’t really been any allegations of fraud, so far. The only thing I can think [of] is that they'll claim that these postmarked ballots were sent in too late.”

Hira did add that he is not particularly surprised that Trump does not intend to agree that he lost the race but it does set a “dangerous precedent.”

“From a psychological point of view it's not surprising, but it does set a very dangerous precedent and it is, in a way, an excuse for some of his ardent supporters to engage in violence, and to not accept the results of the election,” he said. “So far, I don't think the Republican establishment will fall in behind him, but he's definitely pushing the margins as much as he can, in terms of a peaceful transition.”