Thursday 21 November 2019

Editorial: 'As Trump falters, only certainty in US politics is how divided it is'

US President Donald Trump. Photo: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
US President Donald Trump. Photo: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta


Time waits for nobody. So, we can park the surprise that on this day next year, November 4, 2020, we will know who will be president of the United States of America for the following four years.

A torrid political 12 months in the US beckons and this week things will be ramped up as the opposition Democratic Party tries to turn up the heat on the country's most unorthodox president for many a day. Donald Trump's opponents are bidding to oust him from the White House and effectively ban him from public office thereafter when voters go to the polls next November.

But this one is terribly complex and it is not yet clear who Mr Trump's Democratic election rival will be, let alone how effective he or she may be.

Up to the middle of last month, it looked rather like 'The Donald' may be set fair for another stint in the White House.

But by now, things do not look entirely buoyant for Mr Trump. His decision in the middle of last month to abandon the Kurds in northern Syria was a major blunder.

The Kurdish people are among the world's most betrayed races. More recently, as allies of the US in the war against Isil, they lost 11,000 troops. The thing here is that hard-right US allies, and core supporters of Mr Trump, rate loyalty and sacrifice and they are seriously upset by their leader's ham-fisted and crudely explained volte face on this issue.

Yet it is far too early to bill this as the beginning of the end for Mr Trump. So much is unknown about how the United States and its politics will look on November 3 next year.

Foreign policy is one thing. But if the US economy continues to motor as it is right now, then the president would look to be in a good place.

The only certainty we have right now is how divided the people really are.

There is considerable evidence that too many people on both sides of the argument are hunkered down in their respective silos and not hearing the counter-arguments. Some observers argue the country has not been so divided since the street violence of the late 1960s associated with the civil rights movement.

The USA's politics reflect rural-urban divisions. In rural America, largely white communities depend on work depleted by outsourcing and automation. In more urban areas, racially diverse communities are driven by services and technology industries which are more buoyant.

These divisions predated Mr Trump. But his behaviour and coarse language have emphasised these schisms. No US president in the history of opinion polling has caused such public division.

Conversely, the opinion surveys show there has never been such a level of public interest in a presidential election.

Let's recall that only about half of those US citizens entitled to vote show at the polls to choose "the leader of the free world". There may be more who vote come next November.

To win, Mr Trump must replicate the enthusiasm among his core backers. That will be hard to do.

Irish Independent

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