(This post originally appeared on The Washington Times)
When you add up the numbers, President Trump actually received more popular votes in the swing states of Florida, Michigan, Georgia and Pennsylvania combined, even though Joe Biden won three of those states. So why so close overall? All you need to do is consider a very important voting bloc: small businesses. The numbers aren’t final. But they’re eye-opening.
Michigan, for example, has about 900,000 small businesses that employ 1.8 million people. Mr. Bidenwon there by about 150,000 votes. Pennsylvania has about a million small businesses, and Mr. Bidenwon the state with just 53,000 votes.
Georgia, a state where Mr. Biden pulled in just 14,000 more votes than the president (so far), also boasts a million small businesses that employ about 1.5 million people. Florida is particularly interesting. The state has more than 2.5 million small businesses and almost a million of those are minority owned. They were attracted to the president by a margin of more than 373,000.
So, think about that: Those four states have a combined 5.4 million small business owners and among those states, the president actually pulled in 153,000 more votes than Mr. Biden. Given the numbers, there’s no doubt that the millions of small business owners — and their employees — made an enormous difference this election. But the question is why.
Some would say it’s the former vice president’s anti-business policies. Mr. Biden would like to raise individual, Social Security and capital gains taxes, reduce the small business pass through deduction, make it less tax-advantaged to sell business assets and increase the corporate tax rate.
He favors a national minimum wage, higher overtime pay, the restoration of Obamacare, mandated time off, additional restrictions on independent contractors and more labor protections. He plans to reverse Mr. Trump’s executive orders on immigration and is feared to be in the pocket of the Chinese. He would also impose more regulations — particularly environmental — that would hinder some companies’ development. All of this may be true. But I don’t believe that’s what the small business owners in Florida, Michigan, Georgia and Pennsylvania feared the most.
What they fear the most is the virus, and how a President Biden would respond to it.
Will he just “listen to the scientists” as he’s promised and then impose shutdowns? Will he favor the eradication of a virus that kills a very, very small percentage of the population over the economic concerns of the country and the small businesses that employ more than half of its workers? Will he impose national restrictions on top of state restrictions that results in shutting down restaurants, bodegas, bars and small retail shops?
These businesses are mostly small businesses. They are run by people of all colors (with a disproportionate share of Latinos in Florida, a group that overwhelmingly supported the president in last week’s election).
These people can’t afford to be shut down again. They are barely surviving now. They aren’t getting their salaries and benefits from big corporations. They can’t just squeeze in a couple of hours working from home between a Peloton workout and watching YouTube videos. They haven’t been taking “me days” like some of my corporate friends seem to be able to find the time to do during this global pandemic.
These people don’t do Zoom. They’re not celebrities who can pontificate about the importance of “staying safe” while ensconced in their multi-room mansions in Los Angeles.
These are just small business owners. They earn between $50,000 and $75,000 per year on average, and that’s when the economy is good. They leave their houses, go to their places of business and work 12 hours a day to provide a livelihood for their families. If the government shuts them down, they are facing a significant — even life-threatening — situation.
Mr. Trump, with all his many, many, many faults, promised his voters that he would not lock down the economy and took the position that we must just soldier on and live with the virus. That’s the attitude of most of the small business owners I know and work with.
Unfortunately for them, it appears that Mr. Trump will not be reelected, and come January the man who has been elected has a different view of the world. A view that could significantly impact the livelihoods of millions of small businesses if he merely “listens to the scientists.” That fear is what drove those voters away from him. And it’s that fear that still remains top of mind as cases increase and state officials are threatening more lockdowns as is happening now in some European countries.
I hope that President-elect Biden understands why he lost those voters last week. The best thing he could do right now would be to address those fears. He needs to tell the nation’s small businesses that their economic concerns are as important as the scientific community’s concerns. He needs to assure that the chances of locking things down are remote and that he will do everything possible to avoid that scenario. It’s not a guarantee, but it would help.