One against 21: Trump is running against 21 Democrats who aspire to take his place in January 2021. The current balance of power would seem to say that it is an unequal battle, and not one which favors the incumbent president, who was as much of a pompous blowhard as he’s ever been on Tuesday, when he officially kicked off his campaign for re-election with a rally in Orlando that never seemed to end.
In actual fact, the rally was not really the beginning of anything, as Trump has never stopped playing the role of the eternal candidate after his shocking upset victory in 2016. Back then, the presidential contest did not feature an incumbent president fighting directly against a challenger from the rival party; furthermore, while the Democratic Party had one candidate who became the clear favorite (Hillary Clinton), that was not even enough for her to overcome her main rival, Bernie Sanders, who in other times would have been easy to defeat without underhanded if not downright fraudulent maneuvers.
Meanwhile, the Republican camp was consumed by bitter infighting, with a pack of uninspiring candidates who attacked each other mercilessly, and a strange outsider who dished out more than he took, and who during the primaries looked more like a stunt candidate than like someone destined for victory. The Democratic Party chose the wrong candidate; the Republican Party chose the one who won. To a certain extent, the outcome was made possible precisely by the absence of an incumbent, and by the parallel anti-establishment turmoil in both camps.
There will be no such parallel this time. On one hand, there is an incumbent now, a president who is running again and has no serious rivals in his party, while on the opposite side there is a multitude of candidates, which—while their numbers will be whittled down with time—is giving the impression in the meantime that the party is full of internal squabbling and has no common direction. It is inevitable—and also perfectly logical in the context of the primaries—that the contenders will clash amongst themselves, taking the spotlight off the real enemy they’re up against.
The question on everyone’s mind is: given these facts, is Trump headed for re-election? And will the Republican Party be able to ride his coattails to preserve their dominance in the Senate and even to reconquer the House of Representatives?
That would be the nightmare scenario, of which we have been given an unmistakable taste at Trump’s Orlando rally, where he gleefully trotted out the whole of his xenophobic-racist-sexist repertoire, which has been a trademark of his public outings ever since he first showed up on the scene. To this toxic brew, he added a sprinkle of delusional promises and childish lies: CNN counted 15 blatantly false statements during the 76 minutes of his speech.
Will there be four more years of a narcissistic psychopath in the White House? Many people don’t believe it, clinging to the hope that the impeachment push will gather steam and that the many still-ongoing investigations of the various judiciary bodies will put him on the ropes.
No one knows where that road will lead—however, in the meantime it is only sharpening the divisions within the Democratic Party between those who think that going forward with impeachment will only hand Trump a free gift and those who say that the truth about his misdeeds will deal him a lethal blow, even if the impeachment process does not lead to his removal from office.
There is another hope: namely, that the “most electable” candidate will soon emerge out of those in the field. In the latest polls, Joe Biden has a significant lead, followed by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who is gaining on the two frontrunners little by little.
Biden is considered by many to be the most suitable candidate to run against Trump, because, in some ways, he has certain traits in common with him—although some of these would not be anything to brag about in any other context. He makes plenty of gaffes, but he has good communication skills, especially when it comes to speaking to industrial workers, who have ended up in Trump’s orbit.
However, politics rather than his personality is the crucial factor here. Biden embodies the centrist moderation of the old Democratic tradition. The support for his candidature is based on the notion that in 2020, the game will be won in the political center, and that the radicalization brought by Trump is just a temporary blip in the democratic life of the country.
Further to the left, Warren’s rise suggests there is much more behind her support than just the idea of running a progressive woman to counter a man who is the symbol of the worst reactionary and obnoxious chauvinism. When it comes to actual policies, Warren has long espoused positions similar to those of Bernie Sanders, and not far removed from the radical proposals of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
The question of where and how one of them can find enough votes to win—of how to delineate a clear candidate profile—is a headache-inducing puzzle, especially against an opponent like Trump, who is never a fixed quantity and who is now able to combine his no-holds-barred histrionics at his rallies with a political cunning that could enable him to make inroads among moderate Republican voters and among the undecided.
The polls at this point are looking very bad for Trump, even in uber-Republican Texas, but it’s not clear what to make of this. For now, one can say that the enthusiasm at his rallies counts as a plus for Trump, while the polls count as a minus. If the polls are to be believed, it would be best for his opponents to focus all their attention on the candidate who will be chosen to ride this wave, joining their efforts to come up with a winning platform, and setting aside the obsession with ousting Trump from the White House via the judiciary investigations into his past misdeeds.
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