American and global audiences have now had a formal introduction to all the primary contenders in the 2020 U.S. presidential elections. With the conclusion of two presidential and one vice-presidential debate, all four contenders in the November 3 elections have presented themselves on public platforms, where their ideas, policies, and positions on key issues of concern in the upcoming elections have been duly scrutinized. PREMIUM TIMES presents comprehensive bios of all election hopefuls.
• Full name: Donald John Trump
• Age: 74
o Fordham University
o University of Pennsylvania, Economics (1968)
Before his election as president of the United States on the platform of the Republican Party, Donald Trump was a democrat. He was a member of the Democratic Party from 2001 to 2009. In fact, he has had six different political affiliations since he first registered as a republican in 1987, flip-flopping between both major parties as well as declaring himself an Independent – unaffiliated with any party – and running for president on the platform of a fringe political party, the Reform Party, in 2000. Since disrupting the primaries process and emerging nominee of the party in 2016, Mr Trump’s republican credentials have remained in question. Although he has walked the talk of the party, aligning with right-leaning, conservative ideals on thorny issues like gun-control and abortion, his decision-making and political rhetoric place him more squarely in the right-leaning, populist spectrum.
Mr Trump’s surprise victory in the 2016 elections, beating projected winner Hillary Clinton through the electoral college, threw a spanner into the well-oiled, almost-predictable politics of Washington, D.C. Campaigning as an outsider aiming to disrupt political establishment, a fluid phrase that encompasses long-standing political office holders, Mr Trump barrelled his way, first through the Republican primaries, and to his shocking victory in November 2016. Since then, his non-traditional governance style has simultaneously endeared him to his base while galvanizing an opposition from both traditional conservative republicans and members of the opposition party. Having selected a loyal, evangelical conservative as his running mate, it is not clear how much of his 2016 victory is attributable to Mike Pence, who served to buffer conservative concerns over the thrice-married, bombastic businessman and TV-show host. Data shows an increase in voting patterns of key conservative demographics in 2016, White, evangelical Christians and Catholics. However, the electoral outcome of 2016, particularly in the light of Mr Trump’s Electoral College win, was arguably mostly determined by economics and the repudiation of the Democratic Party by White, working class Americans, who have felt neglected by the party for decades, among other subtle socio-cultural factors that likely led to Mrs Clinton’s loss.
President Trump has had a turbulent tenure. With a cloud of Russian-interference hovering over his election victory, he has struggled to assert his legitimacy in the face of fierce opposition by the members of the Democratic Party. This culminated in his December 2019 impeachment by the House of Representatives, who accused him of seeking foreign interference to aid his 2020 bid against Joe Biden, a decision that was overturned by the Senate two months later. Accused of abuse of office and obstruction of congress, he is the third American president to be impeached by the House of Representatives. In office, Mr Trump’s foreign policy choices have proved unpredictable. His dismantling of long-standing relationships and withdrawal from multilateral arrangements and institutions, while simultaneously fostering friendship with rogue regimes like North Korea and Russia, have left U.S. allies confused. Mr Trump’s domestic focus borrows from his party’s viewpoint of the basis of U.S. Foreign Policy, an ideology of ‘American Exceptionalism.’
Although past Republican presidents did not operationalize this belief system by divesting from international arrangements, George W. Bush used such relationships most effectively to compel allies to join the so-called ‘War on Terror’ after the 9/11 attacks on the U.S., Mr. Trump’s interpretation of an ‘American First’ agenda has been mostly isolationist and unilateral.
Perhaps the most distinguishing factor of Mr Trump’s presidency has been his unprecedented method of communication. His savvy use of Twitter has de-formalized presidential communication, making the president’s unfiltered thoughts and ideas instantly accessible. Although this has gained him popularity and followership on the social media platform, his unrestrained rhetoric and positions, instantly communicated via these channels, have sometimes inspired vociferous censure from Americans and globally, further fuelling his tumultuous administration. Mr Trump is also noted for his unrestrained, sometimes offensive, rhetoric, particularly reserved for his political opponents, perceived or real.
Yet Mr Trump has managed to retain the unwavering support of his party base, who argue that he has kept his elections promises. His controversial immigration policies have been much in line with his 2016 campaign rhetoric, including promises to build a wall along the southern US/Mexico border as a measure of restricting illegal immigration. He has also helped the Republican Party secure a conservative leaning Supreme Court, first achieving a 5:4 balance with his 2017 nomination of Neil Gorsuch, and then securing a conservative majority with his controversial nomination of Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. In the 2020 elections cycle, the Republican Party has used this achievement as a rallying point for continued support for Mr Trump, even as the Congress is on the verge of appointing another conservative judge, Amy Coney, into the highest court of the land, scoring a third Supreme Court nomination feat for Mr. Trump. Projected to make the highest court the most conservative it has been in over half a century, this is arguably one of Mr. Trump’s biggest legacies as president.
As his first term draws to a close, President Trump is grappling with unfavourable polls, placing him slightly behind his opponent Mr. Biden, especially in battleground states. Having often based the evidence of his administration’s success on the economy throughout his first three years, the effects of COVID-19 on the economy have dampened his much touted unemployment numbers, now at 7.9 percent, higher by over two percentage points than when Mr. Trump first took over office. In other words, Mr Trump has left the economy in a worst state than his predecessor left it, using unemployment rate as indices. To complicate the economic situation and its link to the coronavirus outbreak has been public perception of the Trump administration’s management of the pandemic. Recent polls show that 57.4 percent of Americans disapprove of President Trump’s response to COVID-19, of which he was recently a victim. Although President Trump’s poor economic numbers are a direct result of the global health pandemic, it is not clear how much the electorate will be willing to forgive him at the polls.
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