Not so fast

The Economist, looking forward to the US November elections, saysFour months ago, Donald Trump’s odds of winning a second term had never looked better. After an easy acquittal in his impeachment trial, his approval rating had reached its highest level in three years, and was approaching the upper-40s range that delivered re-election to George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Unemployment was at a 50-year low, setting him up to take credit for a strong economy. And Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist, had won the popular vote in each of the first three Democratic primary contests … [but] … even by Mr Trump’s frenetic standards, the tumble in his political stock since then has been remarkably abrupt. First, Joe Biden, Barack Obama’s moderate and well-liked vice-president, pulled off a comeback for the ages, surging from the verge of dropping out to presumptive nominee. Then covid-19 battered America, claiming at least 110,000 lives and 30m jobs. And just when deaths from the virus began to taper off, protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd convulsed cities across America. Mr Trump’s callous response has widened the empathy gap separating him from Mr Biden into a chasm.

All true, and one can say almost anything one likes about Mr Trump, as Screen Shot 2020-05-04 at 13.56.35long as it’s not something good, and that will likely be true, too. But it’s still a far cry from saying that Mr Biden will trump Mr Trump in the polls in November. As The Economist, itself, says, “The election, of course, will not be held today. In fact, more time remains between now and November Screen Shot 2020-04-13 at 06.30.383rd than has passed since Mr Trump’s impeachment trial. And given the devotion of the president’s base, Mr Biden is probably approaching his electoral ceiling, whereas Mr Trump has plenty of room to win back soft supporters … [and] … there are good reasons to expect he will. First, the latest jobs report suggests that the economy may have bottomed out. In 1984 Ronald Reagan trounced Walter Mondale by declaring “Morning in America”, though unemployment remained high by historical standards. Mr Trump plans to make the same argument. The Black Lives Matter protests could also backfire on Democrats if they rally white voters behind the “law and order” candidate, as they are thought to have done in 1968.

Donald J Trump is a dreadful president and he is a dreadful human being … but, to be charitable, Joe Biden never amounted to much and he, too, has a lot of baggage that will come out in the campaign. It will be a very bitter and divisive campaign and I’m afraid that even Mr Trump’s “soft supporters” are “harder” than Mr Biden’s. The divisions in Amerca are already deep; Mr Trump’s campaign will make them deeper.

Nikki_Haley_official_photoScreen Shot 2020-06-14 at 09.30.02I could, I do wish that the Republican Party might revolt and draft someone so much better than Donald Trump, but I doubt that will happen. The GOP seems to have decided to let him run his course, rather like a stampeding elephant, before it regains control of the political agenda.

I fear that The Economist is being uncharacteristically optimistic … not a good thing for any sort of economist. I doubt that Joe Biden can win in November. That’s a pity, but I think we, America, Canada and the world, are stuck with Donal J Trump until 2024.

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