Can Donald Trump Retain the Keys to the White House?
Can Donald Trump Retain the Keys to the White House?
Almost one year ago, the US Presidential Elections began the countdown to next November’s Election Day. Despite negative impressions among many voters, I think that Trump was widely - if not almost unanimously - expected to win a second term.
All economic indicators were very positive, and the populist ‘nationalist’ fervor which secured his victory in 2016 was still evident. Indeed, continuous attempts by Trump’s opponents and ‘haters’, be they senior figures in the Democratic Party leaders or in the Liberal media, only strengthened his control of the Republican Party which has throughout the last three years become his pliant tool; as a result, his moderate opponents and critics within the party were gradually marginalized.
On the other hand, Trump’s ‘nationalism’ on the international stage, helped increase his popularity internally. This was, especially, the case with his tough stance against China, which served him well in his legal fight to overcome the accusations of receiving Russian help, which helped him win in 2016. In fact, Trump has succeeded to turn the accusing fingers towards China, as the major future threat to America’s global influence, rather than Russia. The situation continued like this up until last February, when Covid-19 spread inside America, from its initial source, the Chinese city of Wuhan.
During the early days of 2020 the worst of the pandemic was concentrated in China, before it began to spread in Europe, beginning with Italy, Spain and France, and later the UK. Until that time the US was barely affected.
However, while the World Health Organization (WHO) was still unsure about the threat of what it called Covid-19, and whether it was a global pandemic or localized epidemic, President Trump began his attacks on both China and the WHO. He accused China of keeping quiet about the Wuhan infections for too long, instead of alerting the world. As for the WHO, it was accused not only of inefficiency and failures, but also of political collusion with the Chinese authorities.
Trump’s agitation was, then, well-received by the Republican Party supporters, because it was designed to avert measures, such as nationwide lockdowns, curtailing economic activities, launching massive government spending programs that would secure public health plans; all of which were measures ideologically opposed to the Republican thinking, which sees them as a threat to economic growth and jobs.
Anyway, America’s suffering with the pandemic began when Ohio reported the country’s first case on January 7, 2020. The following day the US ‘Center for Disease Control’ issued its first official warning.
Then, on January 20, a case was reported involving a US national returning from Wuhan to Seattle (the largest city in the state of Washington), and on the 21st another case was reported in California. Still, the following day, President Trump dismissed these developments by answering a question by saying “… We have it under control. It's going to be just fine”.
During the next few days and weeks, however, things deteriorated rapidly; with the first death reported in California on February 6. Then, things got much worse by early March, when what were isolated and contained cases started to spread to other states, especially, the states of the northeast led by New York. Soon enough, New York City found itself in the eye of a disastrous storm which shook its medical facilities and public health service, and the pandemic; and the pandemic engulfed several major cities in the north and the northwest, such as Detroit, Chicago, Boston, and others. This situation spurred Democratic governed states and cities to impose lockdowns and adopt preventive measures, but not Republican controlled states and cities.
By March 20, in a worrying acceleration of infections, the number of cases surpassed 19,000 and fatalities 289. Then, within five days George Floyd, a black man in the city of Minneapolis, died in the street while under police custody, adding the racist dimension to the already inflamed anger and divisions widened by diverging positions toward the pandemic and its repercussions.
At this point, political calculations got mixed up, taking more serious and dangerous dimensions that could threaten the country’s demographic and social fabric, its class and ethnic structure, as well as the nature of its political and constitutional system.
Consequently, this explosive mix managed during the first four months of 2020 a lot of American political, social and economic givens. Furthermore, the image of President Trump, who had initially benefitted from almost every development, became a hostage of very complicated considerations. Unemployment figures made frightening reading with around 50 million Americans losing their jobs, and according to ‘The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ unemployment rate rose from 3.6 % in May 2019 to 14.7% in April 2020; noting that the previous record in BLS; statistics was 10.3% in 1948.
On the other hand, a study published near the end of April showed the pandemic hit hard during the first four months of 2020 what was steady economic growth. It also said that GNP dropped by an annual rate of 4.8%, which is the first drop since 2014, and the worst quarterly figures since the ‘Great Recession’ of 2008. The same study went on to forecast more difficulties, including the shrinking of the GDP by no less than 30% if not more; which is unmatched since the ‘Great Depression’ of 1920. As for the recovery, the study expected that it may never begin before the mid-2021.
On the political front, the situation looks almost as bad. The pandemic’s high human cost (3.48 million cases and more than 141,000 fatalities), and its disastrous economic repercussions, are now threatening the former pro-Trump broad consensus within the Republican Party. Despite the fact that some of the President’s supporters managed to win their preliminary Republican elections, his support among of many other Republican candidates has waned, as opinion polls consistently show Trump trailing his Democratic presidential opponent, especially in key battleground states that voted for him in 2016 such as Florida, North Carolina, Michigan and Pennsylvania. He is shown to be behind, even in Texas, the Republican’s greatest stronghold.
Of course it is far too early to say that Trump is going to lose in November, but feeling the need to change his campaign manager clearly shows that the President is now worried that his message is not getting through to his supporters as he expects and hopes.