Is this a race Driven by Policy, External World events, or Social Change?

By Aaron Newton: Political columnist

His previous campaign was… unconventional. Some of his stances are… controversial. The man that was initially a running joke to many astounded all with his historic win. Shortly afterwards, the realisation about policy change sunk in. Has Trump really made America great again? Or has he only endangered its global position for the future, with the country potentially doubling down in 2020 on ‘The Donald’? 

Donald Trump has started the 2020 campaign on a different tack than in 2015. Back then there was a clear policy and a set of snappy slogans to pervade the American voters mind. Right now, the landscape could not be more different. In 2015, the air of change was tangible; the Obama administration was the figurehead of the old regime that needed revamping. In 2020, that underdog spirit has faded somewhat. It is a lot easier to campaign for change than it is to campaign to keep the status quo, especially when the status quo today is incredibly unstable. 

Global events have not been kind to his administration recently. The coronavirus pandemic has caused almost the entire US economy, which was heralded as strong at the start of his tenure, to tank. This contraction at -32.9% is the worst since US records began in 1947, showing an unprecedented dynamic to the political race. For a campaign from a businessman, the perception of tight fiscal control is most certainly a big factor in the minds of the voters. Whether the voters will see past this to his earlier successes remain to be seen.

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Can he be trusted to accomplish what is a wildly changing set of campaign promises, given his track record? Research undertaken by the Poynter Institute collated all of the 2015 campaign promises into categories of ‘broken’, ‘compromise’, ‘kept’, and ‘stalled’. According to their figures, Trump thus far has ‘broken’ 49% of his campaign policy promises, with 25% ‘kept’. Comparatively, of former president Obama’s 8-year tenure it was approximately the inverse: 24% of promises were ‘broken’ and 48% were ‘kept’. Again, it is difficult to effectively say whether this history will translate to those voting in November.

The White House: Centre for USA Government. Photo: A. Kittredge

It is uncertain whether the election in November is even going to take place at this point. Trump divisively has called for the election to be postponed due to suspected election fraud in main-in votes. Due to the absolute lack of concrete evidence regarding this currently, it can only rationally be said it is the ploy of a man running scared, in an effort to buy some breathing space until a more favourable time. Given the backlash of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests and the internationally-rebuked handling of the coronavirus, it is not a stretch to see why. 

It is often said that politics in particular are uncertain and that anything can happen. Trump embodies this. Although his running opposition Joe Biden is nearly double figures ahead in the polls, do not be surprised that if, despite everything, ‘The Donald’ has the last laugh. What that means for the US is unclear, but it can only reinforce the legitimacy of current domestic and international policy. The outcome will mean a lot to all of us.