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There is so much riding on the upcoming Presidential Election. Having racked up the highest number of Covid-19 deaths in the world and overseen an economic nosedive, President Trump is more reliant than ever on the dog-whistle populism that got him elected in 2016. His re-election has been on the rocks since the start, and at this point he needs a miracle.
In the blue corner, struggling to tell the difference between his wife and his sister, we have Joe Biden. On practically every metric, Mr Biden is worse than Hillary Clinton, who herself was one of the most unpopular candidates in US presidential history. Both candidates are swamped in scandals and controversies, as well as being integral to a loathed political establishment. Biden however, almost a decade older than Clinton when she ran, is showing clear signs of cognitive decline. In campaign speeches and debates, he is often nonsensical – to some degree, the pandemic affords Biden the advantage of very limited exposure to the US public.
This is a critical problem; let there be no ambiguity, it is crucial that Donald Trump is unseated in November. In 2016, Trump amounted to nothing but a rich, old, privileged man using blunder and bombast to get into a job he is in no way qualified for (*cough* neoliberalism *cough*). Now, in 2020, Donald Trump represents something altogether different: the embryonic stages of a classical fascist movement.
Before Covid-19, the socio-economic conditions were simply bad – economic stagnation, a paralysed political class, the clear decline of US global hegemony. By now the socio-economic conditions are almost unparalleled in post-war history. In Trump’s authoritarian response to the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, we see the germ of a second-term Trump presidency, especially if his party wins a majority in both Houses of Congress. The now infamous “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” tweet is a signal to a growing fascistic fan-base, fed on a red-meat diet of fanatic conspiracy theories and rabid xenophobia.
One small mercy is the obvious unpreparedness of the Trump camp for the nomination of Joe Biden. Trump’s labelling of him as a dangerous socialist and extremist sympathiser feels hollow – this campaign strategy was clearly planned with former Democratic frontrunner Bernie Sanders in mind. Looking at Biden (safe-pair-of-hands moderate anti-left Biden) it’s almost impossible to paint him as any sort of radical.
With that said, President Trump’s campaign is having some effect. Since the Republican National Convention (where more members of the Trump family spoke than actual elected Republicans), Biden’s national poll lead has taken a small dip, despite his large lead overall. More importantly, in the swing-states that favoured Trump in the last election, Biden’s lead has diminished and in some of the big-ticket states disappeared completely. Biden’s victory, while still likely, cannot be guaranteed – his poll lead is comparable to Clinton’s at this stage in the election cycle.
A Biden win will ultimately do little to remedy any of the major issues of our time, be it climate change, anti-democratic threats from China and Russia or the rapid deterioration of financialised capitalism. But, given the choice, a vote for Biden over Trump is for throwing a wet flannel over a house fire rather than a can of gasoline.