1 October 2020

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VERY UNUSUAL ELECTIONS

Not only Democrats but also many Republicans confront Donald Trump

Author:

01.09.2020

The US presidential elections will be held just after two months, on the date statutorily set in the constitution as "the Tuesday next after the first Monday in the month of November", that is, on November 3.

Numerous polls show that the Democratic nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden is ahead of the Republican candidate and incumbent president Donald Trump both nationwide and in key swing states. So, according to the two most popular analytical websites - RealClearPolitics and FiveThirtyEight - Biden is ahead of his rival by 8 and 9 points on average, respectively. For comparison, in May the difference was 3 and 4 points. According to analysts, Trump's rating was negatively affected by his inactivity in the fight against coronavirus and during the economic regression in the country.

The Financial Times and the Peter Peterson Foundation also conduct their polls based on what they claim to be the most accurate barometer - a technique used by Ronald Reagan in 1980 in his confrontation with President Jimmy Carter, when the former asked voters whether they felt better than four years ago. Amid the economic recession at the time, the majority of voters answered no and Reagan won the elections. In August, more than a third of potential voters said that their financial situation is no better than at the beginning of Trump's presidency. About 30% of respondents reported worsening and improvement of their condition. At the same time, 48% believe that Trump's policies have contributed to the economy positively, while 44% think the opposite. In February, only 13% of respondents said the epidemic forced them to change their daily activities. Now this figure is 71%.

Meanwhile, there is a new and growing phenomenon in the United States - self-censorship. Two-thirds (62%) of Americans say the political climate prevents them from expressing their true beliefs. According to the CATO Institute, almost a third (32%) of working Americans are concerned that they will miss out on career opportunities or even lose their jobs if they expose their political views.

 

Between light and dark

After the national conventions held in August by both leading American parties, when candidates received formal mandates to participate in the presidential elections, the most active stage of election campaigns began.

The Democrats prefer to advertise the contest for presidency as an apocalyptic war between the forces of light and dark! This is how Joe Biden paraphrased it in his closing DNC speech. He never mentioned Trump by name, but instead repeatedly returned to the idea that the United States was involved in a battle between these two forces. “The current President has cloaked America in darkness for much too long, too much anger, too much fear, too much division. Here and now I give you my word, if you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us not the worst. I'll be an ally of the light, not the darkness."

Biden also promised that, if elected, he would form a new government that would be "the most progressive administration since Roosevelt." According to Senator Ted Kaufman, head of Biden’s transition team, these are not just nice words. “I think it's about bringing in experienced people who are really qualified to do the job. This has nothing to do with ideology or anything else. The point is that we will face a situation when most of the departments are empty with specialists left," Kaufman told Politico.

Some candidates for departmental posts are already known. Senator Elizabeth Warren is seen as a potential Secretary of Treasury. Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice in the Obama administration may become a state adviser. Former mayor and presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is a likely candidate for the post of an Ambassador to the United Nations or Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

A distinctive feature of the Biden cabinet may be the inclusion of a representative of the Republican Party. And it is not because Biden merely wishes to win the votes of ordinary Republicans disillusioned with Trump. Perhaps for the first time in the US history, many prominent representatives of the GOP not only do not vote for their candidate and the current president, but also strongly support the Democratic Party nominee.

 

Can of tomatoes

Four years ago, 50 senior Republicans, including former ministers, state advisers, and intelligence officials, signed a letter saying that Donald Trump would put the country in jeopardy if he was elected president and that they would not vote for him.

But then their appeal did not affect the opinion of ordinary voters. On the contrary, for them Trump was the very force that could cause trouble for those in power. He promised the voters a wind of change, and they believed in him.

The Stop Trump movement was formed before the 2016 elections. After Trump unexpectedly won the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries, many Republican leaders called on the party to rally around a single leader to stop his nomination. Since Trump's election in November 2016, some members of the movement have refocused their efforts on defeating Trump in 2020.

There are factions in the GOP confronting Trump even now. But unlike the previous presidential race, when their efforts were unsuccessful, this time the rebel Republicans teamed up in more organised groups. Some of them even openly support Democratic opponent Joe Biden.

“I think it’s qualitatively different. A lot of people who opposed [Trump] did the whole, ‘Oh, Hillary’s also bad, and Trump’s bad, and everybody can vote their conscience’ kind of thing,” Republican operative Tim Miller, who co-founded one of the main anti-Trump organisations, told The Guardian.

“For four years, we have watched with grave concern as the party we loved has morphed into a cult of personality that little resembles the Party of Lincoln and Reagan,” said Karen Kirksey, one of the leaders of the new anti-Trump Super PAC, who has previously worked for the Bush administration. “Our endorsement of Biden is not necessarily in full support of his political agenda but rather in full agreement with the urgent need to restore the soul of this nation," she said later.

There are some rich Republicans whose business has been growing in recent years, yet they will vote against Trump. They believe Trump poses a long-term threat to democracy and the health of the GOP. Moreover, not only are they ready to vote for Biden, but they also invest millions in Biden’s campaign fund, as well as in anti-Trump republican groups.

The most famous of these groups is the Lincoln Project founded in 2019 by Republican strategists who have long criticised Trump. Among the co-founders of this group is George Conway, husband of Kellyanne Conway, Trump's counsellor. Moreover, unlike other anti-Trump Republican groups, the Lincoln Project is actively trying to influence the elections to Congress.

The Republican Voters Against Trump was formed this spring. However, its founders have been preparing for this for a long time. “What was missing in 2016 was a real concerted effort to take the voices of real people who have deep reservations about Trump, but who identify as Republicans, and allow them to be the messengers,” one of the group's founders, political consultant Sarah Longwell, told The New York Times.

After nearly three years of focus groups and intensive research, they created a website that hosts 100 videos, most of which were filmed on smartphones, with Republican voters explaining their decision to break with the party.

“I voted for Donald Trump [in 2016]. If [Joe Biden drops out] and the DNC runs a tomato can, I will vote for the can, because it can do less harm than our current president," a farmer from North Carolina admits. His video has received over a million views in Twitter. Another voter, a Brooklyn resident, says Republicans "will have four years to rebuild the base, re-educate the party, bleach out the Trump cult stain and then come back."

Right Side PAC was formed in July. Its goal is to rally former members of the George W. Bush administration to support Democrat Biden. They claim that the upcoming election is all about an answer to a single question: "Are you for Donald Trump or are you for America?".

There is a group of Republicans representing national security bodies, including, for example, former Bush's homeland security adviser Ken Weinstein. Another group is led by Bill Kristol, a prominent neo-con who led the staff of the former Vice President Dan Quayle (1989-1993).

"We have a particular set of skills that make us a nightmare for people like Donald Trump," Canadian Global News quoted Rick Wilson, one of the organizers of the Lincoln Project. They use their rich arsenal of political and warfare tactics, which had been honed for years on the Democrats, against the current leader of the Republican party. They believe that the GOP needs to be sidelined entirely from governing because it has enabled a man who is unfit and unworthy of occupying the Oval Office.

The Lincoln Project and other groups that know how to get the attention of ordinary Republicans began to release anti-Trump videos this year, which criticise Trump for his inadequate response to economic problems, the health crisis, racial tensions and so on. One such video called Mourning in America accuses Trump of failing to respond to COVID-19, while another one calls into question the health of the incumbent president...

 

New strategy

Trump does not ignore all the attacks from fellow party members, calling them "human waste." Erin Perrin, his campaign spokeswoman, is confident that the level of support for Trump among Republicans is "something that any former president of any party could only dream of."

The President and his team are vigorously defending their methods of running the country, in particular the fight against the epidemic and the economic downturn. They also argue that it is Biden, not Trump, who is not competent to lead. They criticise the Obama administration for poorly dealing with the 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak, which killed between 2,500 and 6,000 people in the United States.

At the heart of Trump’s campaign against Biden lies the tactic of questioning Biden’s intelligence. In addition, Republicans build up on fear that if the Democratic Party comes to power, the country will be seized by left-wing radicals, communists who will raise taxes, close plants and coal mines, let millions of impoverished immigrants into the country, etc. Their ads warn the centrists and older Americans: "Your job, your savings and your future will not be safe in Joe Biden's America."

The Democratic campaign are planning to hold daily events scheduled to start next week, which will be attended by prominent personalities and focus on various crises "caused or exacerbated by the chaos of President Trump."

Democratic strategists increasingly refer to the term of "chaos" as an argument against Trump. Several speakers at the convention, including Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton and Kamala Harris, used the term in their speeches at the recent Democratic National Convention.

Remarkably, both parties in their advertising campaign moved away from the long-term practice of focusing on television broadcasting. They switched to digital and social media, in particular YouTube and Instagram, as well as thematic sites.

Last month, Trump's campaign released ads on the Food Network in an attempt to attract female voters from the suburbs with its message of America's Great Return.

"Biden is where people don't expect to see him," Lindsay Holst, who oversees the party's digital strategies, told Axios. Her team launched an ad campaign on sites popular among Americans such as WebMD, FunnyOrDie, Patheos, GearPatrol, etc.

Each site has its own slogan. For example, an advertisement on WebMD says: "For the health of our nation". On Patheos.com, which writes on religious topics, the slogan is "For the soul of the nation", and so on.

 

The third candidate is…

Trump and Biden are not the only ones preparing for the elections. They also have a common rival. Rapper Kanye West (husband of Kim Kardashian) also runs for president, albeit a little late. Although he runs as an "independent candidate", the collection of signatures and registration of his candidacy in the states is handled by lawyers and activists of the Trump campaign headquarters. West does not hide this, willingly admitting in his interviews that his campaign is aimed at harming Biden's candidacy.

Since announcing his candidacy in July, West has met the requirements to include his name on the ballots so far in just five states: Arkansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Utah and Vermont. In 30 of the 50 states, he certainly will not run for office anymore, including the swing states of Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin, as well as the District of Columbia. In some states, the registration deadline is over; in other states, he could not collect the required number of signatures or the signatures were invalid.

Despite the mathematical impossibility of obtaining 270 electoral votes, some sociologists believe that West’s campaign may still cause some damage to Biden. There are voters who are equally dissatisfied with Trump and his rival. West enjoys 2% national support, according to a poll conducted in early August. Among black respondents, he received support from 2%, among Hispanics - 4%. His highest support - 6% - was among Generation Z voters (born 1995-2010).

The first debate between Trump and Biden will take place on September 29 in Cleveland, OH the second on October 15 in Miami, FL and the third on October 22 in Nashville, TN. Naturally, Kanye West will not take part in any of them.

Vice presidential candidates Mike Pence and Kamala Harris will debate on October 7 at a televised debate in Utah.

In the 59th US presidential election on November 3, candidates, as always, need to win 270 out of 538 electoral votes to win. The current elections, among other things, are also special in that the current president hinted that he might not recognise their results.



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