The day that Donald Trump was acquitted of the charges put to him by the Democrats in the Senate was always going to live long in the memory. History will record that date as February 5th, 2020. Although the story is making headline news around the world, it’s not considered to be a shock. Short of the Republican party suddenly and inexplicably turning against their man under the glare of the world’s spotlight, they were never going to vote to remove him. Why the Democrats ever decided to give him the opportunity to be tried and acquitted will probably always remain a mystery. It was a spectacular own goal – and yet it wasn’t even the biggest own goal the Democrats scored this week.
If you want to be trusted to run a country – especially one with the size and profile of the United States of America – it generally helps if you can convince the public that you have the ability to count a few thousand ballot papers or operate an app on a mobile phone. Unfortunately for the Democrats, they’ve failed on both counts. The ongoing farce in Iowa is such a spectacular catastrophe that it may ultimately do the Democrats more damage than the failed impeachment attempt. Even at the time of writing, more than 48 hours since the Iowa result was due, we still only know 62% of the results. There’s no acceptable explanation for this in 2020. It makes the Democrats look incompetent, and it’s a stain that’s going to be hard to erase over the next few months.
As contentious as the lack of results is, it’s not as contentious as the way that Joe Buttigieg has claimed victory based on the share of the votes made public so far. Given the makeup of the areas that results are not yet available for, it’s highly likely that Bernie Sanders will win there, and therefore take Iowa overall. For a lot of top-level Democrats, this is their ultimate nightmare. For Sanders supporters, the apparent technical difficulties are further evidence that the powers-that-be within the Party is trying to deny their man the chance to run against Trump. The same thing happened in 2016 with Hilary Clinton. At exactly the same time the Republicans are putting on a more united front than we’ve seen at any time during the past four years, the Democrats are turning on each other, falling apart, and failing to perform basic administrative tasks.
The big question in all of this is, ‘what does this mean for the 2020 Presidential Election?’ If your first thought is that it probably means good things for the Trump campaign, you’re almost certainly right. As recently as a year ago, most political commentators presumed Trump stood no chance when the election rolled around. He was a figure of fun in the world’s press. There was an online slots game released at casinos called ‘Trump It’ on websites such as Rose Slots, and it was deliberately designed to mock him. We don’t think that the President is a big online slots player, but he knows a thing or two about casinos, and he knows a thing or two about beating the odds, too. Twelve months ago, a bet on him to win was probably about as safe as a bet on that online slots game. Today, he’s the odds-on favorite to win the election with the overwhelming majority of online bookmakers. There’s been a huge swing in his favor in the past week, and it’s now on him and his administration to ride the wave all the way to a second term in the White House.
What’s less clear is which, if any, of the Democratic candidates has the best chance of stopping Trump from securing that second term. Joe Biden, former Vice President to Barack Obama and once the outright favorite in the race, now seems destined to finish third at best. Elizabeth Warren, who also had a brief moment as the front runner, also appears to be falling away. As much as the senior figures in his own party hate him, Bernie Sanders has to be considered a front runner, with Buttigieg his most likely opponent. While both of them have obvious – and very different – appeals to certain sections of the Democrat vote and those on the left of American politics, we would humbly suggest that neither is likely to win.
Bernie Sanders, while doubtless a man with good intentions and a kind heart, is 78 years old. By the end of any term in office, he would be 82. He’s already had one heart attack. Could he realistically cope with the rigors of being the President of one of the most powerful countries in the world? Even if he could, is it realistically possible that centrists could be persuaded to unite behind him and vote for him? His supporters are fanatical and see him as a revolutionary, but he would likely encounter the same problem that Jeremy Corbyn recently encountered in the United Kingdom. His supporters believe that he’s the only solution. His detractors believe that he’s an even bigger problem, and in some quarters of American society, ‘socialist’ is still a dirty word.
Buttigieg is a better fit for middle American than Sanders from a politics and policy perspective. He’s not radical, he’s not revolutionary, and he’s unlikely to upset the interests of big business. He’s also gay. It’s 2020, and that shouldn’t be an issue, but only a fool would pretend that homophobia doesn’t exist in America, and doubly so in Bible Belt states. Getting Barack Obama elected was an important victory over racism for the American public and the cause of progress. Getting a homosexual man elected would be an even bigger success story, but the unfortunate truth is that America probably isn’t ready to take that step just yet. Even if it only affects the way that 5% of people in the country vote, that’s probably enough to hand victory to Trump.
If Donald J. Trump wins re-election at the end of what’s likely to be a bruising and divisive election year, it won’t necessarily be because the American people believe that he’s done a job. It may have more to do with the fact that the Democrats can’t keep their house in order, and can’t present the public with an electable candidate.