As I write this, the outcome of the 2020 US presidential election is not yet fully known. What is clear, however, is that the prospect of a Joe Biden presidency is now almost a certainty.
With a few states still left to declare, it would take a political shock of divine proportions to see Donald Trump get the keys to the White House for another four years.
Whilst Trump has lost this battle, he is winning the war. Theoretically, this election should have been a slam-dunk for the Democrats. Joe Biden – although intensely unremarkable – faced a President who, in normal times, would have been politically obliterated at the polls.
There was a feeling, after Trump’s shock victory in 2016, that he would mellow and govern in a presidential fashion. The reality was very different: his gladiatorial, combative, and somewhat aggressive style of politics has infected the West Wing for the past four years.
His administration was, frankly, chaotic. We witnessed mass resignations; a Russia investigation which failed to completely exonerate the President on collusion allegations; an impeachment; a wrecking ball being taken to the rules-based international order; and an unprecedented economic slump triggered by a questionable response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In policy terms, the Democrats had a lot of meat to work with. They had also utilised their grand weapon of attack: a spectacular character assassination of the President.
Their main plank at this election was simple: vote for us to oust this deeply immoral man. Vote for us and play your part in ousting this narcissistic, fascist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, nativist demagogue from office.
This strategy, coupled with strong polling numbers, placed Biden in a strong position to win.
Technically, Biden has won. Technically, the election is over. However, this is no victory.
The strength of rhetoric materialising from the Biden campaign, the media, the corporate world and within intellectual circles against Trump was tantalising. Surely such rhetoric would have ensured a Biden landslide? It hasn’t.
Although Biden will cross the line and gain the required number of Electoral College votes, he will stagger over the line battered and weakened. This will not be a seismic victory. This result is not a rejection of Trumpism.
It is my sincere belief that Joe Biden’s presidency will be one of the most unremarkable and insignificant administrations in American history. Biden – the centrist maverick that he is – does not have any grand plans to change America for the better. His domestic and foreign policy plans are, in a nutshell, dull and unambitious.
His presidency will be dominated by cleaning up the debris caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Rather than attempting to focus on ‘normal’ political ambitions, his main focus will be on damage limitation.
He has the added difficulty of facing what is likely to be a Republican-controlled Senate, which, as he is well aware, will make his life as difficult as possible.
The appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court further adds insult to injury in ensuring that the Supreme Court is solidly conservative, with their main impetus being to curtail some of Joe’s more liberal proposals.
If all that wasn’t bad enough, one must also consider his age. His advanced years and questionable cognitive abilities were prime tenets of the election. At 78, he will comfortably be the oldest person ever to take office as President. The prospect of a second term therefore seems highly unlikely.
Without being ageist, I suspect it would be highly undesirable to most Americans for Biden to embark on a second term in the White House at the ripe age of 82. His presidency will be overshadowed with all eyes on his charismatic, female and considerably younger Vice-President, Kamala Harris, who is already being viewed as his successor in 2024.
Harris, to many Republicans and independents, has a reputation akin to that of Hillary Clinton: deeply undesirable. To many, she is viewed as The Enemy –a liberal-minded Californian with some strongly held liberal convictions and a general aura of ‘careerist’.
This puts Trump in a prime position. The usual consensus is that, when Presidents leave office, they leave the political arena for good. They disappear into their mansions and spend the winter of their years building libraries and playing golf. The ‘usual consensus’, in case anyone hadn’t noticed, doesn’t apply to Trump.
He is well within his rights to seek a second term in 2024. Given the almost divine status that he holds amongst his base, he is already in a prime position to appeal to grassroots Republicans. The sparse talent present in the Republican Party, in conjunction with Trump’s strong electoral appeal (he has garnered over 70 million votes as of 7 November 2020) would stand Trump in good stead if he sought a second term in 2024 – which I strongly suspect will be the case. Steve Bannon seems to think so too. A loyal Mike Pence will likely put his own Oval Office ambitions on hold to support Trump next time around.
Given the sclerotic admiration that Biden has, even from his own voters and supporters, many might be willing to take the plunge and vote for Trump. If, as I prophesise, Biden’s presidency will be unremarkable, Trump’s hopes of re-election become even stronger.
It is very likely that it will be Biden’s hand on the Bible on 20 January 2021, taking the oath of office and becoming Commander-in-Chief.
I have a strong feeling, however, that Donald Trump’s famously small hands may well be on that Bible on 20 January 2025, taking the oath of office once again.
Time will tell. Trump may have lost this battle, but he could well win the war.