It was an election like no other. Commentators and talking heads have repeatedly tried to make comparisons to Bush/Gore in 2000 and more obviously Clinton/Trump in 2016, but neither of those races to the white house meant so much to so many people. This is a tale of two presidents, the recently ruby red maverick and incumbent president – Donald J Trump – and his challenger – the veteran ‘sleepy’ statesmen – Vice President Joe Biden.
The most famous man in the world
On election night 2016, the world, the global markets, and both the republican and democrat camps expected a resounding victory for Hilary Rodham Clinton.
The American electorate had other ideas.
Nobody was more surprised than Donald Trump and his immediate, inner circle. In an excerpt from journalist Michael Wolff’s 2018 book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump Whitehouse, Wolff described how Donald Jr said his father “looked as though he had seen a ghost”.
The scene described in the book is not one of celebration but total abject fear. Melania was supposedly in tears – and not of joy – and Steve Bannon, who helped run the Trump campaign said he saw Trump morph from “a disbelieving Trump and then into a horrified Trump”
Those close to Trump believe he had ambitions of a glorious defeat. A week before the election he had told former Fox News analyst Roger Ailes that the whole election run was “bigger than I ever dreamed of. I don’t think about losing, because it isn’t losing, we’ve totally won”. Trump was sure he would lose the election but use his platform to launch a new TV station and be “the most famous man in the world.
Four years later, Trump is still President (despite several Democrat coups), there still isn’t a wall, Mexico didn’t pay for it, there is no replacement for Obama care, the so-called ‘swamp’ hasn’t been drained and 270,000 Americans have died of the Coronavirus. For a man who booked his stay in the White-House on a ticket of change, the Trump deliverables have been more copper than gold.
Team Trump would argue that the growth of the S&P 500, the slashing of regulations, and his surprisingly effective foreign policy peacekeeping are sure fire indicators that America is booming under his presidency – but at what cost? 2020 has proven that the United States are currently anything but united.
Tempers flared after the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement rallied a global charge of anti-racist rebellion and pushback.
Tens of millions of Americans have needlessly suffered due to the President’s inability to strike an economic stimulus deal with Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump continued to make outlandish claims and suggestions about the Coronavirus. “Put disinfectant in your body” he suggested. “Put the light in your body” he puzzled. “I am a perfect, physical specimen” he boasted.
The President was struggling to take charge of a global crisis, failing to care for the safety of his key voting demographic, and actively stoking a culture war. It’s easy to understand why so many pollsters, commentators and politically left-leaning individuals expected America to decidedly vote for a change of leadership in 2020.
The former Vice President
Hilary Clinton was a decisive candidate who had a seismic political career and carried the baggage of conspiracy. Bernie Sanders is about as popular as Jeremy Corbyn is with British voters, and is viewed by traditional republican voters as somewhere between Che Guevara and Joseph Stalin.
In comparison, Joe Biden is a very palatable candidate for the average American. Biden was Vice President for eight years in the Obama administration, and has been at the heart of American politics for decades. It really is quite simple to translate the appeal of a Biden Presidency to a swing voter – he’s experienced, he’s handled a pandemic response before, and he’s not going to tweet policy or agitate fellow world leaders digitally while you are sleeping.
Better yet, Joe Biden is synonymous with Obama care, a popular policy that acts as a lifeline for tens of millions of Americans every year.
Donald Trump’s election team had a huge challenge to overcome – how do you target a sleepy man who has handled himself with grace and decorum throughout his time in politics?
Start a mud-slinging match and see what sticks? Yell conspiracy from the rooftops? Regurgitate attack lines that worked against Hilary Clinton?
Team Trump did all three – with surprising efficiency.
Not dismayed by Coronavirus, Donald Trump used the same playbook, but this time he dialled up the divisive rhetoric at packed campaign rallies. The incumbent president made personal attacks on Biden’s son Hunter, he said Biden is controlled by radical leftists who want to turn America into Venezuela. He even changed election law preventing early vote counting in swing states, added Amy Coney Barrett to the supreme court against Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s dying wish to wait till after the election, and told white supremacists to “stand back, and standby”
The President was determined to rally his base, create a voter fraud narrative, and devise a plan to cling to power if “sleepy” Joe Biden managed to claim 270 electoral college votes.
Just as in 2016, most pollsters and citizens of the world firmly believed a Democrat would bring an end to Donald J Trump’s political journey. The polling had suggested that Sleepy Joe Biden would be so inoffensive to everyday Americans that he would comfortably pick up the keys to the White House on the back of a Blue Tsunami.
The American electorate had other ideas.
Early data looked promising for the Biden campaign; the non-college graduate demographic had not come out in the same numbers as they did in 2016 when they carried Trump to victory in many states.
Then everything started to take a surprising turn, the Donald was not losing votes, he was gaining them. Biden had drawn far fewer Hispanic voters than his predecessor took in 2016. Cuban Americans & Puerto-Rican Americans decisively turned their back on Sleepy Joe, “it was a bloodbath,” Joe Garcia, former chairman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, said of his party’s showing there.
The Trump campaign was emboldened, leading in key battle-ground states and restricting Biden in Florida. Republicans began to believe that their campaign king had once again defied all the predictions and polls. This excitement was short lived and slowly started to transcend into a nightmare on Pennsylvania avenue.
The postal vote counting had begun.
In true Joe Biden style, the democratic candidate was sleepily overturning deficits in states that earlier in the night looked to be swaying Republican. Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Arizona all started to become close contents or projecting Democrat victory.
In response, The Trump Campaign team claimed victory, cried voter fraud, demanded counts be paused, and made the case clear that they would escalate this matter to the Supreme Court.
Biden, now confident of victory, pleaded for calm from his base – reassuring his voters that victory was imminent. It has now been three days since Americans took to the polls, and although it looks like a Biden victory is all but assured – The incumbent president is refusing to concede.
Lawsuits are being raised, and if Donald J Trump wants to be president for another four years – his team will have to produce sufficient evidence of voter fraud and election tampering to have a case that will stand up in court. Even with a heavily conservative tilted supreme court, it would lead to a constitutional catastrophe if they were to overrule 70 million American voters based on hear-say, or ballot-thin evidence
For what was supposed to be a cakewalk to the white house, Joe Biden will be disappointed in what appears to be his inability to turn the senate democrat. For domestic matters moving forwards, Biden will be restricted by a Republican senate set on frustrating his policy for the next four years.
A Biden presidency may re-join the Paris Climate accord, the Iran nuclear agreement, and perhaps be tougher on Russian interference – but it will be almost impossible to raise taxes, tackle big-tech or to roll back the regulation slashing that took place under President Trump.
Nikki Haley, former ambassador and early favourite to replace Donald Trump on the Republican ticket in 2024 tweeted from her iPad on Thursday night, “We all owe @realDonaldTrump for his leadership of conservative victories for Senate, House, & state legislatures”.
Trump isn’t going to go down without a fight, but Nikki Haley is right – Donald Trump has ensured a conservative supreme court, a (highly probable) Republican senate, and successfully engaged demographics that would never have voted for the GOP before. Trump may one day leave the White House, but Trumpism is here to stay.
Not bad for someone who only wanted to be “The most famous man in the world”.