• Thomas Godfrey

Out of 330 Million, how did America end up with Trump and Biden?

I don’t envy the people of America.

With 105,000 Coronavirus deaths, a second coming of the civil rights movement and no sign of the much fabled ‘V-Shaped’ economic recovery that embattled President Donald Trump has predicted will surge the economy in time for his judgement day on November 4. Among the cesspit of social, economic and physical destruction left in the wake of the Pandora’s Box Pandemic, it’s easy to forget there’s an election this November.

Yet both candidates feel massively underwhelming. One is a career politician who’s been in American politics since election to the Senate in the 1972 midterms, the other is, well, Donald Trump.

On the lips of most middle-class American families lies one thorough and deep-meaning question: why can’t they both lose? It’s the main reason I don’t envy these people, choosing between Trump and Biden is like choosing a twin to put up for adoption. Whatever you do, you won’t feel good afterwards, and the one you’re left with won’t feel as special either.

For most undecided middle-class families, who, as highlighted by Pew Research Centre, decided the last election with a 52/48 swing to Trump, 2020 may prove to be the devil’s election. Neither candidate is particularly liked, with Trump’s approval rating dropped on the 8th June to a measly 38%, drawing level with Jimmy Carter, who also was voted out after just one term after an uninspiring Presidency in which he tanked the economy by sending everyone to sleep for four years using only the monotonal power of his voice.

Biden doesn’t fare much better, he is still under close examination from those on the left of the Democratic party who have yet to move past historical sexual assault allegations levelled at him by Tara Reade.

Biden’s response to Reade (who in 1993 was an assistant to the Delaware senator) was to deny it ever happened and ask the Senate’s Secretary to identify any complaint filed in the early 90’s, something Julie Adams, the Senate’s Secretary, later said she couldn’t legally do. Biden’s blunt denial contradicts his previous importations to “believe women”, unless, of course, those women were accusing him of misconduct. In that case, we should listen to him. Only him.

There’s hints - if we’re to believe Fox News (we’re not) - that Biden’s health is on the decline. Even if that isn’t true, it’s not as if he is completely gaffe-free. Often on a campaign trail, a good idea is to make people want to vote for the causes you are championing.

Not Biden. On a one man mission to reduce the number of his supporters, he’s routinely told potential voters at rallies to not vote for him. At one Iowa rally, he told 83 year old he was “fat”, called him “damn stupid” and finished the triple salchow of enthusiasm reduction therapy by telling him he was “too old to vote for” the former VP (although, at 77, this presumably also rules Biden out of voting for himself).

In an an interview with ‘The Breakfast Club’, Biden told black voters to “look at his record”, which notably includes working with segregationists on opposing desegregated school bussing and designing the infamous 1994 Crime Act, which is seen as responsible for mass black incarceration. The Center for American development said the bill “Expanded the school-to-prison pipeline and increased racial disparities in juvenile justice involvement by creating draconian penalties for so-called super predators — low-income children of color, especially black children, who are convicted of multiple crimes.”

Biden’s next station on the trainwreck express was to incomprehensibly say "If you've got a problem figuring out whether you're for me or for Trump, then you ain't black.", drawing credible allegations that Biden saw black voters as empty vessels carrying no free thoughts of their own, only a blue vote. One such critic was USA Today’s Paris Dennard: “no 77-year-old white man from Delaware has the right, authority or rationale to question my blackness or the blackness of millions of Americans exercising our God-given right to be free and exercise our constitutionally granted power to vote for whomever we want, even if they are Republican.”

On the plus side, Biden does have experience of the Oval Office, despite Trump’s insistence he “can’t remember what he did yesterday”. His eight years alongside President Obama were widely regarded as a success; Gallup found 49% of Americans viewed him favourably in 2015. If the closest thing to Obama Democrats can find is his right hand man, it’s likely a compromise the middle class are willing to take.

Despite the GOP’s inroads into securing the median wage earner vote for themselves, it will be fresh in Biden’s memory that Obama won 53% of the middle class vote - 1% higher than Trump’s haul in 2016 that helped him over the line in key states such as Florida, the felling of which to the GOP side of the tree signalled the beginning of the end for the Clinton campaign four years ago. If Biden can reinstall faith in the Democrats among the millions of moderates who took a chance on Trump over more of the same, he’ll once again have the edge where he needs it most.

Americans are often hesitant to vote out the incumbent president. After all, they elected Bush twice. So what about the good things Trump has done?

Whilst the average family’s conscience may tell them to turn on ‘The Don’, their pockets would favour four more years of lower tax and smaller government.

Trump’s landmark piece of economic legislation, his 2017 tax reform, cut taxes for 2/3 of Americans and put an average of $2000 back into the pockets of a family of 4. The economy, before the terror of pandemic-instigated chaos, was healthy under the guise of the Billionaire, with GDP consistently performing at over 2.5% quarter on quarter growth.

Unemployment, which was already falling when he took office, was the lowest in 50 years at just 3.6% in January 2020, with Black unemployment the lowest on record at 5.5%. These are meaningful achievements for any president, and one the man himself didn’t stay quiet about, bragging “our economy is the envy of the world. Perhaps the greatest economy we’ve had in the history of this country.”

As Trump has said himself, few would bet against him to rebuild the economy if the people gave him another four years at the rudder of the world’s largest economic ship. But that phrase “As Trump has said himself” may be what comes back to bite the president. His biggest shortcoming isn’t the economy, or foreign policy. It isn’t even his attempts to roll back his libertarian history to remove protections for LGBT workers. It’s his brash, bold and alienating rock and roll style of politics.

Direct, insulting and combative, ‘dull’ is not a word you can use to describe Trump’s “circus” of a White House. The President’s own campaign advert uses this to its advantage, loudly declaring “He does things his way, not the Washington way.”, though it isn’t clear who outside of Trump’s guaranteed voter base actually thinks this is in any way beneficial.

It’s not unfair to say that every Trump speech since 2016 has felt like a campaign address. Even his controversial and occasionally mindless “Coronavirus Daily Briefing” (it will never catch on over here) was eventually dropped by ‘Fake News’ CNN and MSNBC for sounding too much like campaign rhetoric.

At one point, the briefing was turned into a de facto propaganda splurge designed to indoctrinate journalists by showing back to them their own disparaging coverage only to then inform them why they were in fact wrong.

As the four minute video played on, Trump stood gleaming to the side of the podium occasionally rotating his full body to nod smugly at the unimpressed press corps.

Equally cringe-inducing was his statement of “law and order”, read off of two teleprompters he claims to despise in the White House Rose Garden amidst a backdrop of flash-bang grenades in the nearby Lafayette Square, as hordes of protesters were cleared by police to make way for the President’s photo opportunity with a bible at St John’s Church, coined the President’s church. Trump’s handling of the rift in race relations only got worse when, in the crossover episode that literally nobody asked for, the President said May’s pickup in employment was a “great day” for murdered black man George Floyd, claiming 'Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying "this is a great thing that is happening for our country." It’s a great day for him”. There is no real equivalent of the “Westminster bubble” in America, the proliferation of cable news and opinion shows sees to it that everything a politician says is pumped on max to a partisan audience ready to be told what to think (this is also true of both sides). Trump’s “good day” for dead Floyd comments would have reached those hesitant about his premiership extending.

As Biden emerges from isolation at home in the state he served for 37 years, Biden’s greatest weapon may be his silence. By going by his own penchant for gaffes, it feels at times as if both candidates are simply evening the odds with undecided Americans with relentless dumpster fire interviews and bewildering press conferences.

In truth, if one chose to stay silent they would do more good than harm to their campaign. I must confess, I still don’t know who I would vote for. In a country that regards itself as the freest on earth, with a population of over 330 Million people, somehow the American people have a choice between two, relatively unpopular men in their 70’s.

Not for the first time, the American middle class will decide the future of our greatest ally.

Buckle up, expect a turbulent ride. The election is on, whether middle class America likes it or not.


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