Observations of an expat: The end of Trump?

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It has been a bad June for President Donald Trump – and the month has just begun.

The death of African-American George Floyd at the hands (or, if you prefer, knee) of a Minneapolis policeman has sparked demonstrations and riots across America and the wider world.

The president’s plan to wrap his proposed military clampdown in a religious cloak badly backfired when he was condemned by mainstream American religious leaders for using the Bible as a political prop.

It looks as if the president is about to lose another Secretary of Defence, Mark Esper. And his first and most popular Defence Secretary, Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis has finally ended his long self-imposed silence and denounced Trump as “divisive”, “immature” and “incompetent”.

But it gets better, or worse if you are Trump or one of his supporters. The president’s decision to withdraw from the World Health Organisation has met with universal condemnation from world leaders. They largely accept the American premise that China delayed passing on vital information about coronavirus, but reject Trump’s sinophobic and UNphobic assertion that the WHO colluded with Beijing.

Then there is the forthcoming G7 summit which Trump wants to expand to re-admit Russia and include India, South Korea and Brazil. Basically he is trying to stack the deck in his favour after being snubbed at the two previous G7 meetings. This has gone down like the proverbial lead balloon in the foreign ministries of the existing G7 countries, and could easily spell the end of the G7.

Finally, there is the coronavirus pandemic. This week the death toll broke through the emotive 100,000 barrier and unemployment soared from 3.5 percent three months ago to 14.7 percent — the highest since the peak of the Great Depression in 1933.

All of this – plus a growing distaste for Trump’s style – is having a growing impact on the opinion polls with less than six months from the elections.  A Reuters/Ipsos poll taken on Tuesday showed that two-thirds of Americans sympathised with the demonstrators protesting the death of George Floyd and opposed to Trump’s get tough law and order policies. A similar number also thought that the president was doing a terrible job of managing the response to the pandemic.

Of course, among Republicans, the story is different. Ninety-five percent of them are sticking by their man. The problem for Trump is that there are 55 million registered Republican voters compared to 79 million registered Democrats, and the Democrats are as opposed to Trump as much as the Republicans support him. There are also registered independents – 42 million of them. And before the recent riots they were split 40/60 against Trump and for Biden.

In 2016, 138 million Americans voted. The figure is expected to be higher this coming November as Trump’s divisive politics has galvanised both his base and its opposition. Going on the figures above, and working on the assumption that all the registered Republicans, Democrats and Independents vote, Joe Biden would receive a crushing 102,700,000 votes compared to a humiliating 73,600,000 votes for Donald Trump if the election was held today.

But then it is not the popular vote that counts in US presidential elections. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016 but lost the election because America’s federal structure dictates that the presidency goes to the person who secures the most electoral college votes. According to polls taken before the riots, Trump is doing badly here as well.

He still scores in the deep south and rural Midwest, but these are sparsely populated and thus offer him only a handful of electoral college votes. In Iowa, for instance, Trump has a ten point lead, but the state offers only six electoral college votes. The really big electoral college pots – California (55) and New York (29) are solidly Democrat. The key lies in the swing states which in 2016 swung to Trump.  Ohio (18), Pennsylvania (20), Wisconsin (10), Florida (29) all narrowly went to Trump in 2016. But the margin of the victory is immaterial as the Electoral College is a winner takes all system.

As of a week ago opinion polls in each of the above states show Biden ahead. In some states such as Florida and Wisconsin it is only three points. But in Pennsylvania he has a healthy eight point lead. Even in heavily conservative Texas (38 electoral college votes), Trump’s lead is down to one slim percentage point.

The obvious retort to the above analysis that it is a long time to November and at this stage in 2016 Trump was trailing Hillary Clinton by 16 points. True, but in 2016 he had the advantage of being baggage-free. He is going into the 2020 election with a railway train of baggage carriages. The worst of these is the economy and Covid-19 which has sunk it.

Donald Trump has bet heavily on the county’s economic performance. Until the pandemic hit it looked as if he was right to do so. Coronavirus has created economic chaos, especially among the blue collar workers who comprise the bulk of his political base. The lockdown – hopefully –
will be over by November, but all the economists say it will take a lot longer than that for jobs to reappear. Trump will try to shift the blame onto the Democrats and the Chinese. It won’t work.

* Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and author of “The Encyclopedia of the War” and the recently published “America Made in Britain". He has a weekly podcast, Transatlantic Riff.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • I do so hope Tom’s assumption is correct.

    My memory of American Presidents goes way back to Harry.S. Truman and given that we’ve had eleven Presidents since I’ve never known, even including Nixon, such a dreadful flawed divisive character in the White House. The man is almost a caricature of Mussolini and the sooner he goes the better.

  • Since the police custody death in Minnesota and the following demonstrations Trumps approval rating has turned mround and is now heading back up, whilst the swing states are now more marginal than they were even 7 days ago, when he was trailing badly in one or two. He will triumph. The Democrats will win their strongholds like New York, New Jersey, Washington State, California etc by very large margins, but Trump will just squeeze in in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania, and that will give him the elecoral college. Biden could win by 5 million and still lose the College. Its a banal system but there you go. The one unknown is whether in fact Biden will be the candidate, he does not look too well and makes gaffes, plays into the Trump base in those very close swing states.

  • I would not write Trump off yet, he seems to bounce back from imminent disaster and Americans are much more flexible in their work than Europeans but that will probably mean an even bigger divide between those doing well and those on their uppers – isn’t that the nature of the country? What inspiring message does Joe Biden offer? Bit sad, though, that it is going to be a battle of somewhat tired old men for president, both prattling on in a totally predictable manner.

  • John Marriott 5th Jun '20 - 2:34pm

    So, according to Mr West, ‘Bunkerboy’ lives to fight another day. What a crazy set up over the pond. Let’s start with the Presidential election. A candidate, who gets millions of votes less than their rival, can still win, thanks to gerrymandering of Districts, voter suppression and the wonderful Electoral College, where the winner in most of the states takes all of the votes allocated to that state. That might have made sense 200 hundred years ago; but surely not today. And then, after having overturned or attempted to overturn, everything their predecessor’s administration had achieved in their first two years, they spend the next two years worrying about getting re-elected.

    Then there’s the Senate, where each state elects two Senators regardless of population size – another relic of a creeking Constitution fashion in a bygone age of kings and queens with real power that is in urgent need for an update. What about the unlimited funds that can be spent by parties in elections and the lies told and the muck raking that starts well before the starting pistol fires? I could go on.

    Mind you, our so called democracy is hardly a model for anyone to copy. Those queues snaking round the Westminster estate are the latest manifestation of the pigheadedness of our so called ‘Mother of Parliaments’, or at least the current administration, elected by well under 50% of those, who could be bothered to vote.

    The only consolation might be found in the words of JFK when he visited the Berlin Wall back in the early 1960s.They went something like; “Our democracy isn’t perfect; but at least we don’t need a wall to keep our people in”. However, if only people on both sides of the Atlantic would take heed, our democracies could be so much better. As JFK’s brother famously said; “I dream of things that never were and ask why not”.

  • John Marriott 5th Jun '20 - 3:03pm

    I’ve just revisited that quote I attributed to JFK. It was part of his famous “I am a doughnut” speech aka “Ich bin ein Berliner”* he gave in front of the Berlin Wall on 26 June 1963. His exact words were:

    “Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect; but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us”.

    Reading that again reminds for some reason of Trump’s desire to build a wall between the USA and Mexico, paid for by the Mexicans.

    Sorry about that “200 hundred”. Mind you that’s how long we might have to wait for some people to see the light!

    * the joke being that a “Berliner” is a delicious jam filled doughnut to a German. Kennedy should have omitted the indefinite article if he intended to say “I am a Berliner” (“ich bin Berliner”).

  • Great speech by Joe Biden two days ago.

    Biden campaign turns speech on nation’s unrest into battleground digital ad
    CNN.com·1 day ago

  • The evangelicals and right wing in the US will forgive Trump anything (and I mean anything)….
    When challenged about Trump’s lewd comments about women (details would probably not be acceptable on LDV) a female supporter excused him with the comment, “If he had known he was being recorded he wouldn’t have said it”…????????????.

  • Alex Macfie 5th Jun '20 - 4:51pm

    John Marriott: I think that Berliner story is a urban myth. The Berliners would have understood what he meant, namely that he was an ally to Berliners. “Ich bin Berliner” means “I am [literally] from Berlin,” so would not have made sense if he had said it. The indefinite article makes it into a figurative statement, rather than a literal one.

  • Careful, Alex. Mr Marriott, Sir, will tell you off for forgetting a consonant before a vowel…….. and forgetting the ‘ein’ in the sentence. Ich bin ein berliner…. I am a Berliner.

    As a Young Liberal I watched the speech on TV. Did you ? Here’s a link. You can see the speech with an explanatory commentary.


    Kennedy, John F.: “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech
    Britannica – 8 Nov 2019

  • Alex Macfie 5th Jun '20 - 5:10pm

    David Raw: Sorry for missing out the first “n” in “an urban”; that was a typo. The lack of an Edit feature in this blog is annoying, but I know I’m not the first to say this and won’t be the last.
    You missed out the link to the video. I wasn’t born when JFK made that speech. But here’s Wikipedia on the Doughnut urban myth:

  • Paul Barker 5th Jun '20 - 5:31pm

    Ive just looked at the latest US Polling & I cant see any evidence of a Trump recovery, he still has poor Approval ratings & is consistently behind Biden.

    Its True that Trump has a number of very loyal bases but they dont add up to a majority & many of them are in long term decline. Given the way The Republicans have become “The Trump Party” in a way not seen in US Politics for a very long time, Trump may well have damaged them for Decades to come. If they try to move back to The Centre after Trump they run the risk of alienating their New “Core” without winning over Centrist Voters to replace them.

  • John Marriott 5th Jun '20 - 5:39pm

    @Akex Macfie
    Having studied (1963) and worked (1973/74) in West Germany and having taught the language for 33 years, I reckon I have a pretty good idea what I am talking about. The reference to “Ich bin ein Berliner” and, if you listen to JFK’s speech it actually sounds more like “Ich bin ein Beeliner”, came originally from a German colleague of mine and was clearly common knowledge back then. Sure, the Germans knew what he meant, as, earlier in the speech he has used the phrase “civis Romanus sum”, and tge symbolism of being a citizen of Berlin was not lost on anyone in solidarity with West Berliners; but that doesn’t alter the fact that his addition of the indefinite article opened the door for a joke. However, could you imagine Trump doing what JFK did, or even what Reagan did for that matter two decades later when he visited the infamous Wall?

  • George Kendall 7th Jun '20 - 7:15pm

    I wish I was as confident as you.

    But the stakes are so high – a Trump re-election would do far more damage to democratic norms that the original Trump victory – that we can’t afford to be complacent.

    Last time, too many anti-Trump voters didn’t vote for Clinton, they attacked her, and then either abstained or voted for another candidate. If there is similar complacency this time, the same could happen again.

  • George,

    I couldn’t agree with you more. There is no room for complacency. The article was not meant to encourage people to rein in. My hope is that it will spur them on as they head towards the final furlong, if for no other reason than that I believe doesn’t just need to be defeated. He and his polices have to be thoroughly discredited by being beaten into the dust.

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