The last ten to fifteen years have seen the rise of new global powerhouses, from China to India to the Gulf States, and it is a common conception that America does not hold the sway it once did. While it’s true that we no longer live in the unipolar world of the 1990s, reports of America’s death have been greatly exaggerated. The role of the American President is still viewed by many as the most powerful on the planet. The US elections are always crucially important, and in the uncertain and volatile world we live in today, next year’s matters more than most.
If Trump, who will almost certainly win the Republican primaries, were to be re-elected, there would be major global impacts, in some cases practically overnight.
He has pledged that he would end the Russo-Ukrainian war in “no longer than one day”, and has strongly signalled, along with much of his party, a desire to either drastically reduce or entirely cut American aid to Zelensky’s war effort. He has also indicated pulling US involvement in the diplomacy surrounding the Israel-Hamas war, telling CNN recently that the world was “probably gonna have to let this play out.”
Aside from the immediate impact of Trump’s possible re-election on Ukraine and Gaza, he has a raft of other bold plans for his second turn at the helm. Plans that, from what we know so far, would make his first term “look almost modest and moderate by comparison.”
[Trump’s plans for a second term] would make his first term “look almost modest and moderate by comparison.”
An Axios report suggests that he plans to purge thousands of civil servants in favour of appointing ideological loyalists who would not challenge the expansion of his presidential power. As well as using the justice department to persecute perceived political enemies, he also wants to pardon a “large portion” of the January 6th insurrectionists.
Furthermore, Trump has proposed punishing doctors providing gender-affirming care, tightening restrictions on voting in elections, and eviscerating diversity, equity and inclusion programmes in education. According to Washington professor Allan Lichtman, a potential second term for Trump would also be a “disaster for the planet”, as he plans to “drill and dig and burn.”
You may think that the combination of these worrying and widely-publicised plans with Trump’s ever-mounting list of criminal charges would create something of an open goal for the Democrats come election time. However, the latest polls actually indicate a slight lead for Trump over Biden in the popular vote.
This is despite Biden’s objectively impressive record over the last few years – major success with tackling inflation and unemployment, injecting new life into America’s infrastructure, writing off millions in student loans, leading global support of Ukraine etc. In truth, the polls seem to reflect less of a concern about policy, and more of a concern about the man. More specifically, about his age.
‘Sleepy Joe’ might have become something of a meme, but the potency of Biden’s image as old and doddery is a weapon that the Republican Party can and will use to wreak electoral destruction. At 81, Biden is already America’s oldest ever President, and if re-elected, he would finish his second term at 86. He seems to be constantly making gaffes of one sort or another, from welcoming “Rashi Sanook” as the new British PM, to falling off of bikes and up staircases, to this Thick-of-It style error in a 2019 address – “poor kids are just as bright and talented as white kids.”
This series of slip-ups, both literal and verbal, have reinforced the notion that Biden is too old for the job. In fact, in an August poll, a staggering 77% of Americans said that they thought age would be a problem if Biden were to return to the White House. Common words to describe him in the poll were “old and confused.”
A staggering 77% of Americans said that they thought age would be a problem if Biden were to return to the White House.
Despite being 77 himself, Trump exudes the air of a man 15 years younger than Biden. Even his numerous critics acknowledge his energy and vigour. In a world of populism, cults of personality and social media, this really matters. Details are often boring – people want candidates with easy answers to complicated questions – a mould Trump fits perfectly with his incessant use of hyperbole. Of course he can’t actually end the Russia-Ukraine war in a day, but it makes for a good soundbite.
The Democratic primaries aren’t until next year, but they will be something of a formality as the party faithful have already declared for Biden, and no clear opponents have come forward. History is also with Biden, as no incumbent US President has ever failed to achieve renomination.
The failure of the party to produce any credible alternatives to Biden could be a catastrophic error. If the Democrats truly believe Trump is as much of a threat to America and the world as they say he is, the party has a responsibility to put forward the candidate most likely to ensure his re-election does not happen. And unfortunately, by supporting an octogenarian as their primary candidate, they may very well have shot themselves in the foot.