Beating an incumbent president has always been strenuous. In 2020, the task might be almost impossible.
The arguably most controversial president of modern times is on course to achieve a milestone that some of his predecessors, including illustrious names such as Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush failed to reach; a second term as President of the United States. This is a paradox for many people in the US and, indeed, around the globe.
Twitter antics and continuous lack of presidential decorum had raised the left’s hope that Donald Trump’s tenure would combust and make him a one hit wonder. While his base has never left him, he has become persona non grata for moderate Americans, despite a booming economy and record unemployment figures. The Democrats were supposed to feed off the anti-Trump vibe in the country and regain power. Their surge towards the left, however, could have alienated more central voters, leaving them with little to no alternative to vote for Donald Trump.
To understand how the party has shifted away from moderate politics of the Clinton era to Barack Obama’s “leading from behind” approach, one has to look no further than Congress. Here, newly elected representatives seek to change the party’s makeup drastically. At the forefront of this operation are newly elected representatives such as Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and most importantly, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The three are not opposed to clashing with the President, and have recently made global headlines after being the targets of one of Trump’s famous Twitter rants. Omar is under criticism for minimising the 9/11 attacks with the quote ‘some people did something’ in an interview, and has been accused by the President of being a supporter of Al Queda. The congresswomen have caught some heat for what some see as controversial ideas. For Ocasio-Cortez, the country’s biggest issue is climate change.
How urgent is it? Well, according to Ocasio-Cortez, the World will ‘end in twelve years’ and hence she identified climate change as ‘our World War II’. In response, she subsequently drafted the Green New Deal, which outlines her goal to cease all CO2 emissions and guarantees jobs for everyone. In the end, her own party voted against the bill. Ocasio Cortez is also a very vocal opponent to migrant detention. She came under fire for comparing the centres to ‘concentration camps’ at its border, referring to illegal immigrants being put into cages, while mothers are being separated from their children. Last week, Ocasio-Cortez even insinuated party leader Pelosi, who has not been too amused about the progressive coup d’état, was deliberately targeting herself and other ‘members of colour’. Pelosi, who has always been an uber-liberal, believes that no Green New Deal nor comparing the Trump border policy to concentration camps will get the Democrats anywhere.
But whoever thought that the progressive takeover of the party was limited to the congressional caucus must have had a rude awakening after the first debates of the 2020 hopefuls. The majority of the candidates have entered a bidding war it appears. Whoever promises more, whoever challenges the status quo more, is likely to win the nomination. So much so, however, that the first debates made one wonder whether the candidates were addressing the progressive Twitter universe and its followers or the average American voter.
Bernie Sanders, a socialist, was a political anomaly in 2016 and subsequently lost the nomination to Hillary Clinton. One would think that the message was received. Socialism may win a seat in the Senate or the House, but surely not a democratic nomination, and almost certainly not the presidency. Three years later, however, Bernie Sanders’ ideas are not even deemed preposterous anymore. Statements such as ‘healthcare is a human right’ are not only being celebrated by the audience but also by other candidates. His program has not changed. Just like in 2016 Sanders is in favour of putting an end to college tuition fees, erasing all student debt and taxing ‘the rich’ significantly.
Another example is Andrew Yang. He seeks to establish a guaranteed income of $1.000 per month – for every American over the age of 18. It is supposed to create a ‘trickle-up’ economy and thereby decrease poverty. And then there is Mayor Pete Buttigieg. A former scholar and combat veteran, who pledges to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 hourly. Twenty years ago, these would have been manifestos for an election campaign in Sweden. In 2019, it may bring the nomination for the Democratic Party.
One scene in particular, however, summed up the party’s current state best. At one point during the debate, the candidates were asked who of them would support free healthcare for illegal immigrants. Every single one of them raised their hands – including the two moderate favourites Biden and Harris. The following day, the New York Post’s front title cover read ‘who wants to lose the election’. Underneath it, the image of the candidates’ raised arms. This kind of political peer pressure cannot work in 2020 and certainly not against Trump. Sure, many progressive voters concur with this approach. But why a majority would vote in favour of paying their hard-earned tax money towards providing free healthcare for people, who do not have the right to be in the country, to begin with, remains a mystery.
These propositions and the connotations they carry will likely make it easy for Trump to get re-elected. Then despite the aforementioned resentments by moderate Americans, Trump will run on his track record and provide the American people with a choice. A choice between his track record and what Democrats appear to represent these days: namely open borders, illegal immigration and socialism. Not a hard choice to make, one would assume.