The Re-election of Donald J. Trump

The Re-election of Donald J. Trump

Michael J. Nighan

(Writer’s Note: I hope my reading of events is wrong and that on January 20, 2021 Trump will return to being simply an embarrassment to his family rather than an embarrassment to his country. But unfortunately events seem to be unfolding in a direction that could in all probability return him to the White House for another four horrific years.)

LET’S START WITH A FEW FACTS……

1) After almost three years of misgovernment, pathological tweeting, narcissism, borderline treasonable conduct and assorted peccadilloes, Trump, who won the presidency with just 46.1% of the popular vote, still retains an approval rating of a rock sold 40+%. A study in Psychology Today ascribes this in part to the obsession by many Americans with entertainment celebrities, to NeoCon paranoia, and to the inability of his supporters to grasp just how uninformed they are.¹

2) Regardless of what evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors the impeachment hearings bring to light, it is an impossibility that 20 Republican senators will join with the 47 Democrats and Independents to reach the 67 votes needed for Trump’s conviction and removal from office.

3) Earlier this year, the Republican-controlled Senate released a two volume report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, covering both attacks on the voting infrastructure in all 50 states, as well as attempts to influence the electorate via social media. Both threats were found to be credible and on-going, and although of limited impact on the 2016 election, they were deemed to constitute a possible dress rehearsal for a more robust attempt to alter the outcome of future elections.²

4) In a survey of 50,000 voters, the Cooperative Congressional Election Study found that 12% of those who supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primaries ultimately ended up voting for Trump in the November election. A review of the data shows that had only half of those Sanders voters who went for Trump in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania either voted Democratic or simply stayed home on Election Day, those states, and the presidency, would have gone to Clinton. The significance of these numbers is muted somewhat by the fact that several states unfortunately hold open primaries in which voters can cast a ballot in any party’s primary without being a member of that party. Thus a number of the Sanders-to-Trump voters were obviously Republicans, assorted NeoCons and other non-Democrats who were likely to be voting for Trump anyway and were indulging a personal agenda of disrupting the Democratic primaries.

Cooperative Congressional Election Study

5) Clinton received a higher percentage of the votes cast by Democrats in 2016 (94%) than Obama had in 2012 (92%), but nevertheless received a few hundred thousand fewer votes over all than did Obama. While at the same time Trump received two million more votes in 2016 than Romney had in 2012. The extent to which these number are attributable to Clinton being a poor candidate is open to debate.

6) Despite weak spots and the increasing advantage of Trump’s economic policies to the 1%, the overall economy and employment picture is viewed by most analysts strong. A major asset to any incumbent president.

7) Of the five presidents prior to Trump (Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, Obama), all but one were re-elected to serve a second term.

8) While Gallup polls show that Americans are increasingly identifying themselves as liberal, those who see themselves as conservative still held a significant lead of 35% to 26% as of 2018, although down from 36% conservative to 17% liberal in 1992.

9) Despite macho blustering and saber rattling, Trump has managed to avoid getting the US into a shooting situation, let alone a war.

AND SO……?

So where does all that leave us? And why do I see these as indicators of a Trump’s re-election next year? My thought process is as follows:

First, as previously stated, Trump starts with at least 40% of the electorate who will stick with him regardless. This does not account for additional votes attributable to what I would call the “paper bag factor”. Namely voters who support Trump but for whatever reason will not admit it publicly, such as to pollsters.

Second, the obvious flip side of polls showing that about half of Americans support Trump’s impeachment or even his removal is that the other half oppose such a move. Trump’s guilt or innocence, and whether his actions warrant impeachment and conviction/removal is no longer the issue. No matter what happens, the results of the impeachment hearings will come down to two possible scenarios, both beneficial to Trump:

1) If the hearings do not result in a House vote to impeach, Trump will crow that he has been vindicated and that the hearings were a “witch hunt” that damaged the country.

2) If he is impeached by the House, his inevitable acquittal by the Senate will permit him to claim that he’s been vindicated, and that he’s a martyr to a Democratic plot to overturn the 2016 election.

Either outcome will in my opinion serve to dishearten Democrats while energizing the Trump base and potentially rallying to his cause many “undecideds” who might otherwise have at least stayed home on Election Day. In addition, to millions of voters Democratic opposition to Trump will thereafter be viewed as sour grapes for failing to get him out of office.

Pelosi and the House leadership, and those members pressing for impeachment, would have been well advised to first sit down and view the movie “War Games”. This movie, in which a computer evaluated all possible scenarios for an atomic war, ended with the computer concluding that, “The only winning move is not to play”. The goal is to get rid of Trump. The impeachment process has only made that harder to accomplish. Far better for the House to have done nothing than to open an investigation of Trump.

Third, although I’m not seeking to be branded as a conspiracy nut, I would point out that the mandated migration from the old (unhackable) mechanical, lever-action voting machines to zoomy new (hackable) electronic machines and interconnected vote processing systems mandated by various ill-conceived provisions of the Help America Vote Act of 2002, has left our vote counting processes far more open to manipulation than before. And let’s face it, should Russian or other hackers help to re-elect Trump, proof of this would not be available until long after he’s declared victory. At which point, what government official would be willing to unleash national chaos by publicly announcing that Trump’s election was a fraud and that his Democratic opponent should be sitting in the White House?

Bernie Sanders rally at Monroe Community College; Sanders at podium 4/12/16 [Photo David Kramer]

Fourth, it’s no secret that Will Rogers’ adage, “I’m not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.” is truer than ever today. The 2016 Democratic primaries made clear that many of those who voted for a candidate other than Clinton were less-than-enthusiastic when Election Day came around and either stayed home in a snit or even voted for Trump, while Republicans turned out in greater numbers than ever to support their candidate. Given that the 2020 Democratic field is fragmented between old time liberals backing Biden, and so-called “Progressives” split among Warren, Bernie and political lightweights like Buttigieg and Gabbard, there’s little reason to doubt that more Progressive noses will be out of joint when their candidate fails to get the Democratic nomination next July and that once again stay-at-home sulkers will fail to grasp that that Medicare-for-All is not the issue. That college tuition is not the issue. That climate change is not the issue. That social justice is not the issue. But that, for now, beating Trump is, and MUST be, the ONLY issue.

Fifth, to secure the objective set forth in the fourth point above, Democrats (particularly the Progressives) must grasp that although the party already has a lock on left-of-center voters, they have to face the fact that the majority of the American electorate is still conservative and that accordingly the Democrats need to take a temporary turn to the political right and refrain from promoting programs and positions, as necessary as they may be, which scare off those voters in the center and the center right of the political spectrum. Bottom line, the only way in the foreseeable future get progressive programs passed is to get rid of Trump in 2020.

Sixth, two potential bright spots for Democrats are the so-called “Blue Wave” of recent Democratic victories in states and districts that Trump carried by double-digit totals in 2016, and the fact that Democratic voter registration numbers are up nationwide. Of course whether the Wave will sweep Democrats to victory on a national level is anybody’s guess, particularly since the lack of a linkage between local/state election results and national election results is well-known. As to voter registration increases, these numbers do not tell the whole story. For example, although Democratic voter registrations were also up between 2012 and 2016, Clinton clearly did not benefit from them. And given that 22 states do not permit registration by party, making a determination of potential increased voter support for a particular party is problematic.

MY CONCLUSION:

2016 was a sea change year for the American electorate. 2020 will likely be even more of a shock to traditional presidential politics. In addition to his status as an incumbent, we have a president who will claim credit, whether he deserves it or not, for a strong economy and a nation at peace. A president who will run on the laughably inaccurate, but nevertheless effective slogans of “Promises Kept” and, “Keep America Great”. A president for whom, in a perverse manner, every set back and loss has served only to energize his base. A president who will almost certainly benefit from some form of foreign intervention in the election. And a president who will be able to tar brush his Democratic opponent, whoever it is, with the fact that the Democrat’s attempt to impeach and oust him failed.³

And against all that, the Democratic candidate will have……… what?
_________________________________________________________

NOTES

¹ “A Complete Psychological Analysis of Trump’s Support” was published by Psychology Today in December 2018. It makes for very scary reading.
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mind-in-the-machine/201812/complete-psychological-analysis-trumps-support

² A heavily-redacted version of Vol. 1 of the report can be found at:

https://www.intelligence.senate.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Report_Volume1.pdf

³ Forgotten by many is how, in late October 2016, in the face of what appeared to be an impending loss to Clinton, Trump was tuning up a claim that the election was being stolen. Should polls in the fall of 2020 show similar indications of a Trump defeat, we can be assured that he will again trot out this reddest of red herrings to energize and infuriate his base.

About The Author

dkramer3@naz.edu

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, and the CITY.  My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.

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