Presidential elections present a choice between two parties, two visions, and two candidates. But when you drill down a couple of layers below the surface this time around, you will soon realize that voters in 2020 will actually be choosing not so much between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, as between Trump and the Trump administration.
Before you go hitting your back button or wondering if that’s a typo, stop and consider the wide gulf between Trump the person and Trump the president.
Even Trump’s most faithful backers in the populist-nationalist movement he spawned more than five years ago will admit their support had little or nothing to do with the person of Trump. In fact, a majority said their support was not because of his personality, but in spite of it. No, it was all about his audacious swamp-draining agenda, the promise of actual reform to a political system which had left so many forgotten souls behind, and their conviction that he meant what he said.
The Trump faithful were also drawn to their man’s independence – he didn’t need the fame, the power, or the money. He already had all of that. If anyone could deliver genuine reform, it would be him, because he cared not a whit what the political establishment – of either party – thought of him. He represented in the minds of so many disaffected citizens the last best hope of a return to the days when the welfare of ordinary Americans actually mattered more to the political hierarchy than maintaining their own power at any cost.
And now, the 45th president has delivered on so many of those game-changing promises – foremost among them a revitalized economy and virtual full employment up to the COVID outbreak – that one would be hard-pressed to argue that his record is broadly unacceptable to an electorate that usually grants a second term to presidents they elected once – especially when they have delivered peace and prosperity.
Yes, COVID-19 presents an undeniable political problem, as it would for any chief executive on duty when tens of thousands are dying. But voters also know that Trump is not responsible for the virus. They know that the winner of this election will not take the oath of office for another four and a half months, in which time the pandemic could well have subsided. Thus it appears unlikely, no matter their opinion of Trump’s handling of COVID, that voters will place overriding importance on that issue.
It seems equally implausible that voters will accept the Democrats’ charge that Trump is to blame for the outbreak of urban violence, since everyone knows that Democrats have long been in charge of every single city struck by uncontrolled riots.
At the same time, any fair examination of the half century-long record of Trump’s opponent provides nothing in the way of a counterpoint to Trump’s three and a half years in the White House. In four days of the DNC convention, Biden’s six terms as a U.S. senator were barely mentioned. And it’s hardly a wonder. In 47 years spent in the “world’s greatest deliberative body,” his dossier was paper-thin. In some cases, it was downright embarrassing for a Democrat – championing the 1994 crime bill, support for NAFTA. Then there’s the Supreme Court confirmation process being dragged, likely permanently, into the gutter during his chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the repulsive Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas hearings.
Yes, there’s nothing to see there. Joe Biden is a virtual blank slate – a decades-long moderate by Democrat standards, now suddenly woke and in the embrace of socialists wresting control of his party from the conventionally liberal establishment typified by Biden himself. But mostly, he is simply not Donald Trump. That will have to be enough reason to vote for Mr. Biden – or, more precisely, against Mr. Trump.
And therein lies the true adversary of the Trump administration – not Joe Biden, but Trump the person. Given insufficient rationale to boot this president out after one term based on a long list of kept promises and tangible accomplishments – like them or not – the voters would likely dismiss this president only because they simply can no longer countenance his rhetoric, style, and personality. He is the most atypical president in American history, and thus an acquired taste to so many who are accustomed only to typical presidents with relatively predictable political style and personality. Then again, the voters knew all that when they elected Trump in 2016. How many voters in his winning coalition will abandon him for the greener pastures of Joe Biden this time around?
The spectacular imbalance in the elite media, selling its journalistic soul for the sake of taking down Trump, certainly magnifies this issue for the president. If we were privileged to experience anything resembling objectivity among the self-proclaimed titans of journalism – from The New York Times to the major networks – there would be no need for this column. An honest, objective recitation of the facts would make Trump the clear, or even overwhelming, favorite to win on November 3. But these false-narrative-driven (see Russia collusion, et al.) Trump-addled leftists produce almost 100% subjective, negative coverage of a man they openly detest. They preach about what a horrible person Trump is while they redact all but passing mention of his actual record – except when they are actively distorting it.
So, with a virtual mainstream media blackout on honest journalism, voters from coast to coast, already beleaguered by this year like no other, will have to work and think harder than ever between now and November 3 to discern the real truth of both Trump the man and Trump the president – and decide between them.
Read more from Tim Donner.