Dear Partners in thought,
As we are right after the first appalling Trump-Biden debate and looking at the developments of the US presidential election race, a neutral Martian observer could make the following remarks:
- In spite of his drastically different presidential style and management, Trump was likely winning before the pandemic on the back of a strong stock market and an earlier massive tax break programme, even if not benefitting all Americans.
- Trump’s core base of 20-25% located in Red states and rural areas would back him come what may, facts and presidential style not mattering. To many of those disaffected voters known as “left outs”, proud of their American heritage and away from cultureless urban megalopolises, Trump cares for them. However, possibly less and less looking at polls of key states like Ohio.
- To many Trump supporters, including the evangelicals, whose female members find Trump’s treatment of women a private matter, the key driver in their support is essentially altering the composition of the US Supreme Court so past landmark liberal legislations can be overturned.
- Many Republicans and older white male voters not liking him as an individual and a President due to his style and his value-less behaviour, would still back him on stock market grounds and desire for traditional societal order they have known and liked (even if the economy was going South due to Covid-19).
- The George Floyd murder and others that initiated and fuelled the Black Lives Matter protests of mid-2020, that often slid into riots and lootings (at times helped by hard right groups), enabled Trump to grab the Nixonian mantle of election-winning Law & Order as a “trump card” to offset his poll rating declines due to his widely perceived Covid-19 leadership-less mismanagement (sadly also going as far as not condemning white supremacists during the first debate).
- In addition to the “Law & Order” salvation message, Trump now focuses on “patriotism” and the roots of America, wanting to stress that what mattered was 1776 (arguably a strong majority of Americans agreeing) and not 1619, the year when the first Africans arrived in America, a year that was put forward by the New York Times “1619 Project” as a sensitive academic-like and public discussion follow-up to the BLM events.
- The treble drive of Trump is to appear as a traditionally patriotic, Law & Order-focused and economy-friendly candidate against a candidate who is prisoner of its African-American (and by and large minority) voter base and would lead to a revisionist view of what is America while taxing more its citizens and financially supporting at federal level unproductive elements of society.
- The key high wire act for Biden will be to support the plights of the minority groups, that traditionally support the Democrats, this through a set of gradual reforms eventually benefitting society “at large”, while not appearing as soft on order in the street and too willing to accommodate views linked to the destruction of statues and the reshaping of both American history and traditional ways and values.
- The world order and foreign policy issues, including on the Trump side the subject of nemesis China, are largely absent from the presidential race, putting aside the slots reserved to them in the three debates between Trump and Biden.
- One of the less addressed and key features of the November election will be the potential change of control of the US Senate which could give Biden, if elected, a Democratic Congress at least for two years, enabling him to roll back to an “old normal” in American affairs.
A Martian observer could indeed come to the above remarks. However, we are not from Mars and this election not only impacts Americans but all of us the world over, all the more in a changing world leading architecture, with an inexorably rising China. November 3rd matters to all of us.
The American presidential election is about programmes at all levels but also and essentially about values and style and ways to get the job done. Lincoln, FDR, JFK and Reagan made the point. Not all presidents are without flaws but they all treated the role and their country with the requisite and expected respect.
A key factor to remember is that this election is not about just a President but also about a team around him. The low quality of Trump’s inner circle was clearly and increasingly (when “the adults left the room”) on display with loyalty being the key feature. Joe Biden may be old and not as a great a debater as a JFK but he would bring competence and experts to the White House and the various departments managing the US. The world would be better off.
On a side but meaningful note, one over-riding feature for Trump’s re-election drive is not to face additional scrutiny and likely legal developments that could lead to jail sentences regarding alleged tax frauds, a subject the President was adamant to keep under wraps by the unusual non-public disclosure of his tax filings in the past.
Now let’s hope Americans massively vote like Europeans do for once – this safely (at all levels) by mail or in person. And let’s hope the strange electoral college process does not lead to what was arguably, in essence if not in form, an undemocratic outcome four years ago.