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Mixed prospects

Dec 14,2022 - Last updated at Dec 14,2022

A week after his Republican Party won a narrow majority in the US House of Representatives inthe November mid-term election, Donald Trump declared his intention to run again for the presidency If elected in 2024, he would become only the second inhabitant of the White House to serve two non-consecutive terms. Grover Cleveland, who served from 1885-1889 and 1893-1897, was the first. 

His biographer Allan Nevins wrote, “He possessed honesty, courage, firmness, independence and common sense.” He was successful on the legislative front but deeply unpopular bythe end of his second term.

Psychologists Aubrey Immerman and Anne Marie Griebie of the College of St Benedict at St John’s University wrote of Trump’s time in power: “His executive leadership style in office has been bold, competitive and self-assured... tough and directive... impulsive and undisciplined... and disruptively tradition-defying, with an inclination to shade the truth and skirt the law.” 

He was an extremely destructive chief executive. Trump divided the nation by setting individuals and groups against one another: Liberals against conservatives, whites against blacks, and men against women. He made the largest corporate tax cuts ever reducing revenues, revoked environmental protections, appointed ultra-conservatives to the federal judiciary and Supreme Court, imposed restrictions on immigrants and visitors, capitulated to Israeli demands and launched a trade dispute with China. He dismissed climate change as a hoax, losing four years of US compliance on emissions controls, and derided COVID and proposed unscientific remedies, dooming hundreds of thousands who followed his lead. Trump withdrew the US from the Paris accord on climate change, the World Heath Organisation, the UN human rights body and the UN cultural and educational organisation. He ended US funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency caring for 5.7 million Palestinian refugees and abandoned the 2015 six-power agreement to lift sanctions on Iran in exchange for limiting Iran’s nuclearprogramme. Thanks to Trump, Iran has not abided by the deal and has acquired a massive stockpile of enriched uranium and hundreds of advanced centrifuges to purify more. He left office with a 29 per cent approval rating, the lowest of previous presidents. 

Nevertheless, he remains popular with his largely radical conservative Republican base. 

Fivethirtyeight.com reported that on December 7th Trump had an average favourable rating of 40.2  per cent and an unfavourable rating of 55.3 per cent. 

Trump’s current ratings compare favourably with those of Biden, who has already declared his candidacy although his approval rating stood at 42.5 per cent and his disapproval rating was 52.4 per cent. These figure, which combine the results of all opinion polls, do not bode well for Democrats in the ongoing race for second terms.

Neither Biden nor Trump received the enthusiastic endorsement of party stalwarts and the general public. On November 9th, the day after the mid-term election, Biden, now 80, said he planned to run again but would make an official announcement early next year although many Democrats are concerned about his age. Trump, 76, did not make his declaration at a mass rally but before a cheering gathering of loyalists at his Mar-a-Largo resort. He has not addressed a mass rally since then. He seems to have made a decision to be uncharacteristically cautious since he faces one scandal after another, the Republican “wave” of victories in the Congressional elections did not materialise, and high profile candidates he backed lost. 

Prominent conservative politicians and financial backers have defected. He continues to  claim falsely that he won the 2020 presidential poll and he was castigated after dining with an antisemitic rapper and a white supremacist. He responded to criticisms by saying the US should abandon its sacrosanct Constitution. For some, this amounts to treason. 

Trump faces possible indictments for trying to change the result of the 2020 election in the state of Georgia and for incitement to riot on January 6th, 2021, with the aim preventing Congressional certification of Biden as president. Trump’s family firm has been found guilty by New York courts oftax evasion although he has not been cited personally.

One of the reasons he seeks to re-enter the White House is he would regain immunity from prosecution as head of state and government.

Trump’s prospects are mixed. While Biden’s approval ratings are only slightly higher than his, Biden steered his Democratic party to a victory in the Senate race and denied Trump’s Republican triumph in the House of Representatives contest. While high petrol prices and  inflation were blamed on Biden, he won over voters by warning that a return of Trump could pose a threat to democracy. Some conservative Republicans are migrating from Trump to popular Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, 44, a Trumpite, who won a resounding victory in the mid-term polls. Others prefer low key Mike Pence, 63, who served as Trump’s vice president and appeals to conservative evangelical Christians. The list of hopefuls is long. If the field of candidates is short in Republican primary elections, DeSantis could defeat Trump as the party’s nominee. Meanwhile, Trump is expected to playthe “victim” card during the campaign, claiming he has been subjected to a “witch hunt” and denial of his rights. 

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