Trump defeat will transform US in way we haven’t seen in decades

The pandemic has killed more than 215,000 Americans and abruptly – and tragically – ended Trump’s economic boom that saw low unemployment and rising wages among broad swathes of workers. Since the death of George Floyd in May, racial tensions have led to more political polarisation, culminating in rising criminality and disorder in major cities.

Trump is not responsible for America’s wounds. However, as the distinguished conservative columnist Bret Stephens has identified, Trump “is the reason some of those wounds have festered and why none of them can heal, at least for as long as he remains in office.”

Demonstrators in Los Angeles protest on June 3 against the death of George Floyd nine days earlier. Credit:AP

Although his opponents overreached by subjecting his campaign team to a witch-hunt – Robert Mueller never proved any collusion with Russia – Trump disregards norms of political behaviour and erodes public confidence. Which is why he has hardly expanded the narrow base that gave him just 46 per cent of the popular vote in 2016.

Biden has his problems: he’s gaffe-prone and a creature of the derided establishment; his ability to recall names and events has deteriorated; and, at 78 on Inauguration Day in January, he will be the oldest president ever. Biden, though, is not Hillary Clinton, and it can’t be stressed enough how much Trump benefited in 2016 from anti-Clinton feelings.

Why is Biden’s average double-digit polling lead much higher than that held by Clinton in October 2016? For one thing, the Left is more energised in 2020 than they were four years ago: many socialist supporters of Bernie Sanders stayed at home to protest Clinton’s nomination whereas this time they can’t wait to see the end of Trump.

Meanwhile, Trump’s standing among many moderate college-educated Republicans has fallen. In 2016, they held their noses to vote for him because they held Clinton with disdain.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton at their second presidential debate in 2016.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton at their second presidential debate in 2016.Cred it: AP

However, they are now more likely to vote Democrat, just as they did during the 2018 mid-term congressional elections. Many Republican women believe that the boorish Trump is driving women away from the party while many seniors and suburbanites just can’t stomach the President’s polarising style of politics, never mind his character and temperament.

All this means that, instead of another close election that Americans thought they would have, there is a very good chance that they are heading for a Democratic rout, which would make it easier for Trump to accept the election’s outcome. This will have enormous political consequences.

Presidential nominees usually move to the political centre once they secure their party’s nomination. Yet Biden, a professional partisan Democrat with no strong political beliefs, has moved further to the left since the primaries and adopted much of the policy platform of his former rival Sanders.

Witness the Democratic party’s attacks on market capitalism, its critique of America as irredeemably racist, its religious devotion to zero emissions, its commitment to stacking the courts with politically activist judges, and its support for identity politics, which seeks to divide people by race, religion and gender.

Democratic candidate Joe Biden speaks in Florida on Tuesday.

Democratic candidate Joe Biden speaks in Florida on Tuesday.Credit:AP

Such a radical agenda should scare Middle America. However, the stench of failure around Trump is so great and the mood of the nation is so grim that there is a growing sense that this election is Biden’s to lose.

Democrats will hold the House of Representatives and, if they gain the Senate (which polls show is likely), they could end the 60-vote legislative filibuster, which would forestall the need to compromise with the minority. That would fulfil all sorts of progressive ambitions, including statehood, plus two Senate seats each, for Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, not to mention adding justices to the Supreme Court.

All this could place the 2020 election on a par with the policy transformative elections of 1932 and 1980, which witnessed the births of the New Deal and the Reagan Revolution.

Analysis is not endorsement. As someone who believes in a prudent and inclusive conservatism and in market reforms that stimulate growth and spread prosperity, I’m worried at the prospect of an America lurching left. But the reality is that we are about to witness something extraordinary: in what’s called “the Right Nation”, a Democratic House, Senate and White House could take office in January with the most progressive domestic agenda since Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the Great Depression. Not the legacy you’d expect from a populist disrupter of the Washington establishment.

Tom Switzer is executive director of the Centre for Independent Studies and a presenter at the ABC’s Radio National.

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