A sign of things to come
As the US nears its Presidential Elections, there are ample indications that things may not go as planned. Since the start of his term as President, Donald Trump has based much of his performance and now re-election campaign on the state of the US economy. All throughout the impeachment scandals and other fiascos that Donald Trump has collectively labelled as a 'witch hunt', the US President faced multiple rallies with a whole host of US economic milestones that he claims to have been instrumental in achieving. Needless to say, the pandemic and the resultant global economic slowdown has dampened Donald Trump's efforts to appeal for an easy re-election campaign in a country where only 10 of the 45 Presidents thus far have failed to secure a second term. The US is under siege from all directions. The country faces the largest instance of COVID-19 outbreaks anywhere in the world. At the same time, America is also in the middle of a job loss crisis that exceeds the scale of the Great Depression when it comes to sheer numbers. Add to that the racial tensions and civil disturbances caused by the murder of George Floyd and you have a recipe for political disaster. Those who lead during a crisis are usually playing a game of Russian roulette. You can never be certain as to what will cause the political fortunes to go against you. Sometimes you must make decisions that may harm you politically, even if they are the right ones to make during the time of crisis. Sometimes, the so-called 'wartime leaders' are simply ousted because they represent a time that the public would no longer care to revisit and a change of administration becomes a symbol of recovery. Winston Churchill's shocking loss in the 1945 UK elections can be considered one such instance. Trump has attempted to portray himself on similar lines many times during this year of crisis and yet unlike Churchill, Trump's popularity and approval are already waning away even before his political fortunes can turn on him.
In the run-up to the November elections, many polls (including one by the Trump campaign itself) have shown Trump losing to his rival Joe Biden in terms of popularity across the nation. A new poll by the Pew Research Centre shows that 87 per cent of the Americans who were polled are unhappy with the state of affairs in the US. Trump has been perceived to be ineffectual in his response to the COVID-19 crisis and all the related problems caused by it. Many have noted that Trump's initial reluctance to even acknowledge the scale of the crisis lost the US valuable time in responding to the pandemic. At the same time, the President has also been seen peddling misinformation on everything from potential cures to the scale of the outbreak in America. Normally, this would be taken as par the course in this highly unusual time in American politics but 2020 has changed that. It would not be far fetched to say that Trump is losing popularity by continuing to act the way he always has. At a time of real crisis, the American people do not need a political outsider to lead them, they need the reassuring calm of a seasoned politician and leader. Even Christian leaders and evangelical movements have shown their disapproval of Trump in the year 2020 despite generally being staunch Trump supporters. Trump's controversial photo-op outside St John's Church following riots over the killing of George Floyd was met with widespread disapproval by his own religious base that saw the use of religion in partisan politics as shameful.
Trump for his part, is aware of the fact that holding elections during such a tumultuous year is almost guaranteed to go against him. As such, he has tried his best to disturb the entire process. Trump has repeatedly forwarded the unfounded claim that mail-in voting — an essential alternative to in-person voting during a pandemic — is rigged and prone to many deceptions and frauds. Recently, he escalated this narrative by suggesting that allowing mail-in voting would lead to the most fraudulent election in US history. He furthermore suggested that the US elections be delayed so that people can vote in person when things have settled down.
While his own party members have shot down this suggestion and reminded him that the US President does not have the power to delay the elections, the timing of his suggestion is still telling. Many critics are already suggesting that Trump is simply laying the groundwork for rejecting any election results that go against him. Many see this as the first of many moves that Trump will make in increasing desperation. With some even raising doubts over whether Trump will be willing to leave his office in case of an undisputed loss, it is safe to say that the US elections are headed to a conclusion that will be as disruptive as the year of 2020.