by Geoffrey Churchman

I think people respect the Presidency. They may not respect the particular individual in the office, but they respect the Presidency.” — former American president George W. Bush speaking before the 2008 election.

But after 4 years of Donald Trump’s polarizing style, the Presidency may not be so respected now. Much of the turmoil that has taken place was predicted before he was sworn in. Trump is not noted for diplomatic skills, and combined with an erratic, often contradictory approach to both issues and supporting or non-supporting facts, it’s no wonder he is poorly regarded by a big chunk of the population.

It’s also no wonder there has been a revolving door with some of his top appointments. As I found out with Cr Prvanov locally, you can’t work with someone who is tempestuous and dominating, whose stance on things can change from one week to the next, but most of all just doesn’t listen to what others say.

While trade protection to boost domestic industrial production is a traditional political platform plank — of the Democrats rather than the Republicans — two other Trump slogans in 2016 were more populist sentiment than achievable reality: “build the wall [with Mexico]” and “drain the swamp [of Washington DC].” Successful border barriers involve bare strip separation between two fences with laser-beam trip ‘wires’ rather than solid walls which can be easily scaled with ladders or burrowed under, and surveillance drones are more effective anyway except in populated areas. And just like KCDC bureaucracy, the Washington ‘swamp’ is incapable of being drained.

But there has been a plus side to Trump’s term in office often ignored by NZ’s Left-wing mainstream media. His belief in a return to the non-aligned isolationist foreign policy which characterised the US until World War II has meant a big reduction in US service personnel killed in foreign wars, serious conflict with Russia (which seemed likely under Hillary Clinton) has been avoided and there have been peace deals brokered between Israel and Bahrain, UAE and Sudan. Oman seems set to follow.

Trump’s pursuing policy promoted by the Republicans generally, but opposed by the Democrats was inevitable and that is the nature of American politics. I’ve heard it said a few times by Americans that they need a strong third party to moderate the excesses of the swings between those who don’t like big government (Republicans) and those who don’t like big business coupled with Wall Street shenanigans (Democrats). The problem is that, although there have been independents elected to both the House and Senate, the electoral system isn’t supportive of anything other than the two-party club which often results in partisan grid-lock.

In 2012 Americans had a good choice of President in Obama versus Mitt Romney, but 4 years later it was a bad choice, and it’s no better this time. There is a lot of speculation over Joe Biden’s memory with increasing signs of dementia and that could help Trump. If the Democrats had chosen a good candidate who wanted the job and not someone who was pressured into taking it by the DNC because it thought Bernie Sanders was unelectable, then I would be more confident of a Democrat going to the White House in next week’s elections than I am.

In short, if I lived in the US, I wouldn’t be voting for either main candidate.

It ain’t over till the fat lady sings. –Common colloquialism

By Roger Childs

Upset in 2016

A fortnight out from the 2016 US Presidential election, Hilary Clinton the former Secretary of State and Democrat Senator for New York, looked like a shoo-in. She was up against businessman and television host Donald Trump who started in late 2015 as the joke contender for the Republican Party nomination. Amazingly, against all the odds he received the endorsement of the GOP at the 2016 Convention. His campaign had its ups and downs and TIME magazine produced two covers in October showing Trump in meltdown and total meltdown. Then 12 days out from the election the FBI Director, James Comey, announced that the Bureau were reopening the investigation into Clinton’s use of her private e-mail address for official communications when she was Secretary of State.

Her lead in the polls took a hit, but she was still expected to win. After the election I read a political article in the New Yorker magazine written just before the election but coming out just after. The piece started with the assumption that American readers would by now have the first female president-elect in American history. 

The reality was different – despite losing the nation-wide popular vote by 2.9 million votes, Trump had won the presidency by taking important battleground states and their Electoral College vote allocations, especially in the northern ‘rust belt.’ Hilary Clinton had not been universally popular with Democrat voters and many supporters of her chief rival in the primaries, Bernie Sanders, stayed away from the polling places.

Many elections and possible outcomes

By late Wednesday evening next week our time we should know the result of the presidential election. However, it is important to remember that there are many elections on Tuesday, including the whole of the House of Representatives, one third of the Senate and votes for legislatures and governors in many states. 

In the big one, the polls currently show Biden with a handy lead, and hopefully not even the hastily approved new Supreme Court Justice, conservative Amy Coney Barrett, can save him. The projections show that the Senate could well revert to the Democrats who are also likely to keep control of the House of Representatives. If those projections become reality, Biden and Harris should be able to get their legislative programme enacted. 

Of course the conservative pro-Trump media — Fox News, Epoch Times, Breitbart News, Murdoch papers etc.  — take a different view of the likely presidential outcome and have been on the lookout for anti-Biden scandal. 

Is the end nigh for Trump?

Hopefully, the Trump madness of the last four years is coming to an end and the election outcome won’t go anywhere near the Supreme Court. If the president loses, he still occupies the White House until 20 January 2021. Traditionally on Inauguration Day the old president and the president-elect ride in a carriage to the Capitol building in Washington DC for the swearing in.

There is sense of desperation about the last days of the Trump campaign – pleading for support; throwing the glamorous Melania into the fray reciting words prepared by a White House speech writer; the president continuing to complain about fraudulent mail-in ballots and Donald Jnr suggesting that the radical left are trying to steal the presidency from his father and wanting able-bodied people to form an “Army for Trump’s election security operation.”  Hopefully the result will be decisive and they won’t have to drag Trump kicking and screaming from the White House.

An outdated electoral process

As many know, the presidential election is decided by the archaic electoral college system which dates back to the late 18th century. It’s worked on a state by state basis with electoral votes determined by the state’s population – e.g. California has 55, Alaska 3. In the vast majority of states, the winner of the popular vote takes all. In total there are 538 electoral college votes so the successful candidate needs 270. So it doesn’t matter if a candidate wins the US total popular vote, the outcome is often decided by the vote in particular swing states like Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Florida.  Hilary Clinton actually gained 2,868,696 votes more than Trump in the 2016 election. No wonder there is a strong movement to reform the system of deciding the result.

As in New Zealand, historians will see this presidential contest as the Coronavirus election. However, true to form earlier this week the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy cited ending the COVID-19 pandemic as one of President Trump’s first-term accomplishments. The only thing Trump has got right about Covid-19 is that it started in China. 

I hope there is no second term.