What are the reasons for Trump's controversy?
Ten reasons that speak against a re-election of Donald Trump
The political context of the impeachment process
Washington, DC is in impeachment fever these weeks. New details of Donald Trump's Ukraine affair come to light every day. At the same time, the impeachment proceedings will show how stable the “checks and balances” still are in the USA, the balance of power between the executive, legislative and judicial branches. On the one hand, the process will influence the election campaign politically. On the other hand, it is already clear to what extent it will further exacerbate the unpredictability of US government policy and thus have consequences far beyond the USA. Because against the background of this process, Donald Trump will do even more to secure his power internally by all means and to cover the media coverage of the process with other headlines.
There is no historical precedent for this process, and so little to predict how it will turn out and how it will affect the presidential election in the coming year. Never before has a president faced impeachment proceedings in the middle of an election campaign. It is highly unlikely, however, that Donald Trump will actually be removed from office, as this would require the support of at least 20 Republican senators. It is much more likely that the people of the United States will be left to judge their presidency in the fall of 2020 elections.
Which speaks for Trump's re-election
Based on this, there are a number of reasons that speak in favor of Trump's re-election. Historically, the incumbent has almost always won a second term. Donald Trump's approval ratings among registered Republican voters are higher today than they were in the 2016 election, and in contrast to his first election, this time almost the entire Republican party is unanimously behind him. Prominent critics like Jeff Flake from Arizona have turned their backs on active politics, Trump's great internal party ideological adversary John McCain has since passed away. Another argument in favor of Trump is the fact that it is up to the Democrats to do better than 2016, especially in the election-winning states in the Midwest, in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. In these states in particular, however, the voters are disproportionately old, white and poorly educated, all factors that play into Trump's hands.
In addition, every democratic candidate will be a bit battered by the hard internal party primary campaign by the summer of 2020 and face the challenge of winning over the supporters of the other candidates. Trump also has a financial head start and has already collected a record amount of donations. Last but not least, Trump benefits from the (still) stable American economy, which would clearly speak in favor of his re-election, at least for any other president.
Ten reasons against his re-election
And yet there are weighty reasons why Trump could fail at the ballot box in the coming year.
- The Approval values for Trump have been stable for years, but at an extremely low level of around 42 percent. Historically, the approval ratings for a president paired with economic development are the most important indicators for his re-election. 42 percent approval is a value that makes re-election not impossible, but extremely difficult, since Eisenhower has not won a candidate with such values. There are also no developments in sight that could lead to significantly higher approval ratings for Trump, as he continues to orient his policy exclusively towards mobilizing his own base and does not make any attempts to attract new groups of voters.
- These approval ratings are in the context of the longest continuous growth period of the US economy all the time, low unemployment and rising wages. But there are the first signs of a weakening of the US economy, partly due to the simmering trade wars of the Trump administration. This economic downturn has not yet been felt for most Americans, but if it should impact average households by the time the election takes place, the approval ratings of the president are likely to decline further and a re-election of Donald Trump will be a long way off.
- The Democrats achieved a historic election victory in the mid-term elections in autumn 2018 and also gained significantly in the elections-critical states of the Midwest. These elections were already a first referendum on Donald Trump, and that will be the case in the coming year. And although Trump was able to mobilize record numbers of Republican voters in the midterm elections, the Democrats for their part managed to mobilize even more voters, especially in key constituencies. If the Democrats think of this mobilization can build on, then there is a lot to be said for them.
- Trump continues to determine that media discourse like no other president before him. However, this is a double-edged sword. Many of his statements and policies in recent years have harmed him. His obsession with being the center of attention himself and his lack of self-control and discipline harbor the risk, especially in a tight election campaign, of deterring alternate voters. Surveys suggest that his lack of civil discourse and public abuse are particularly repulsive to many Americans in the suburbs that make the election.
- The Age development the electorate speaks for the Democrats. In next year's elections, the under-39s will be by far the largest potential group of voters. All polls show that these voters are demographically more diverse than the country's average and politically much more progressive. Historically, voter turnout by young generations in the US has been very low, but that seems to have changed since 2016. The strong democratic mobilization in the 2018 mid-term elections is largely due to the rapidly growing turnout of young voters. Motivated by strong political youth movements against gun violence, against climate policy and for equality, they could decide the election for the Democrats.
- One of the most important sociopolitical trends in the US is the growing role of Women in American politics. It is primarily women who set the tone of political resistance in the US, from the Women‘s March to the #metoo movement. Women ran successfully in record numbers in the last mid-term elections and are now the defining faces of the Democratic Party, from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Nancy Pelosi to Elizabeth Warren. Of all eligible voters under the age of 60, more women than men voted in 2018. At the same time, there is a noticeable gender gap in the assessment of Donald Trump. In a survey in June 2019, 62 percent of the women questioned said that they would definitely not vote for Donald Trump in the coming year.
- It is relatively likely that in the coming year a self-proclaimed "Outsider“Enters the race for the Democrats. Of the three current front-runners in the primary, this is Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. For 40 years, with the exception of George H. W. Bush, the winner has always been the one who was able to portray himself as an outsider, i.e. someone who has kept a distance from the Washington political elite, be it politically or biographically. In times of growing loss of reputation for the democratic institutions in the USA, such an anti-Washington discourse is problematic with regard to the democratic stability of the USA, but it could increase the chances in the upcoming elections.
- Whoever competes for the Democrats won't Hillary Clinton be. None of the current Democratic front runners has such negative popular ratings as Hillary Clinton did in 2016, when a majority of Americans judged them negatively. In recent polls, including Fox News, all three top Democrats are ahead of Donald Trump in national polls. At this point in time, polls of this kind are only of limited use and do not take into account the situation in the decisive states, but it is definitely an advantage for the Democrats to go into the election campaign unencumbered by Clinton history.
- In 2016, most potential Democratic voters assumed that Hillary Clinton would win the election anyway. For many, emotional choices outweighed tactical considerations. Quite a few progressive voters did not even vote, especially disappointed supporters of Bernie Sanders. Others voted for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate. In times of Trumpism and the continued political polarization of the country, things should look different in 2020. Most progressive voters realize that every vote counts in this election, that this election will be anything but a sure-fire success. That should drive up the mobilization on both sides and it for third parties or make independent candidates much more difficult to gain a foothold.
- The Democrats are closer to the political preferences of a majority of the population than the Republicans on many political issues, from affordable health care for all citizens to stricter gun laws and reproductive rights for women. Should they, for their part, make controversial proposals in socio-politically contested policy areas, such as a radical reform of immigration policy, then that could harm them. But basically, the Democrats are currently closer to the pulse of the changing socio-political attitudes in the US than the Republicans.
In current American politics, a year is half an eternity, and much will change politically in the coming year. But it is clear that there are good reasons to assume that Trump's re-election is on the brink. Whether Donald Trump would accept defeat at the ballot box is another question.
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