Felix Rackow

Report: Izaak Gilchrist examines the effect of Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter protests on Donald Trump's re-election...

With everything going on at the moment, it is easy to forget that we are rapidly approaching the US Presidential Election. Trump stunned the political establishment when he defied the odds to beat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election back in 2016, however things are not looking so rosy for him this time around. With just 5 months till the polls open across the 50 states, we examine whether the coronavirus pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement will change the occupants of the White House from Red to Blue.

Trump’s handling of these two huge and landmark events of his presidency can be described in one word… chaotic. As the recent BLM protests enter their 4th week, US coronavirus cases exceed 2m and deaths push ever upward of 100,000, Trump’s actions have been ineffective and, in some cases, inflammatory.

A day after the first confirmed domestic case in January, Trump claimed that the disease was under control and the US was very well prepared. Trump barely mentioned Coronavirus in his State of the Union address in early February, which contributed to a delayed US response to the virus, allowing it to spread like wildfire in some parts of the States. In late February, Trump appointed VP Pence to head the coronavirus response team, rather than the Secretary of Health and Human Services or a medical expert and predicted that the disease would disappear ‘like a miracle’, both of which show his inexperience and naivety in a global crisis. Trump has even promoted usage of drugs such as hydroxychloroquine, a drug used to treat malaria, and even injecting bleach as a potential treatment for the disease, despite his obvious lack of the necessary qualifications to do this. These actions and countless others have been universally condemned and have led to the US becoming the worst affected country in the world and the literal antithesis of countries such as New Zealand, Japan and Germany.

Trump’s response to the BLM protests could be described as comical if it weren’t for the deeply devastating implications of his actions. 3 days after the brutal murder of George Floyd, one of Trump’s tweets contained “…when the looting starts, the shooting starts”. This is a phrase that can be attributed to a racist Miami Police Chief. Even if Trump claims he didn’t know of its prior meaning, such language will be seen as encouraging a violent response from the police forces to these protests, which is an unbecoming action from the Leader of the Free World. Additional threats from the newly self-proclaimed ‘President of Law and Order’ of army deployment and even the labelling of some peaceful protestors as ‘domestic terrorists’ have further shown his incompetence in office.

So, will an invigorated black electorate contribute to Joe Biden beating Trump in November? Whilst we have to remember that black people are not a homogenous voting group, it is an observed trend in US politics that minority voters tend to vote for the Democratic Party. Back in 2008, for Obama’s first election, 65% of black people eligible to vote actually voted, of which 95% voted for Obama. Fast forward to 2016 and Clinton didn’t excite the Black vote as much, with 61% of eligible black voters actually voting, of which 91% voted for her. Whilst these numbers are still high, we have to remember that 4 states won by Trump were won by less than 2%. With an increased black voter turnout, the result of the whole election may have been completely different. Black and other POC groups are likely to increase their voter turnout as a result of current events, so therefore we could see a massive increase in the vote for the Democrats in key states such as Michigan, Florida and Wisconsin.

The US economy has been devasted by the impact of coronavirus. The Federal Reserve has predicted that the US economy will shrink by 6.5% this year and unemployment rates peaked in April at 14.7%. Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, Trump boasted about record numbers and highs for the stock market and the general economy. His re-election bid would have been based around these claims, so therefore has coronavirus wiped out the President’s Trump card? The economy was rated by 84% of voters in 2016 as a very important issue, so the economy could be Trump’s undoing.

Trump has always been unpopular when it comes to his personal approval rating. He had a -10-point approval rating at the beginning of the year, peaking at a -5 point approval rating at the end of march, with the US public generally supportive of his response to coronavirus, and now sits at a painful -14 point approval rating. But leaders are always fairly unpopular right? Obama may have also sat between a +2-point and a -2-point approval rating around this time in his re-election bid, but never hit the lows that Trump has hit.

The general election polling data makes for even more painful reading for any Trump supporter. If the polls were reflected in November, Trump would receive 41.7% of the national vote, the last two presidents that received lower than this polling number in their re-election bids were George H.W  Bush and Jimmy Carter, neither of which won their re-election bids back in 1992 and 1980, respectively. Whilst the polls were wrong in 2016, the polls only ever predicted a narrow victory for Hillary Clinton, and we can’t forget that she actually won the popular vote. Joe Biden holds an average of an 8.1 point lead, with some polls even putting his advantage over Trump into double digits. More concerning for the Trump camp is his predicted losses in key battleground states like Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan, which if realised in the actual election would lead to his failure to get re-elected and condemnation to the ranks of a one-term president.

Trump is an unpredictable political phenomenon- he survived the Me-Too movement back in 2016 but is his support resilient enough to survive these two historic events come November? Only time will tell, and Trump is running out of that precious commodity.