“Make America Great Again” — there arguably hasn’t been a more divisive slogan in the last 20 years. The tension in the modern political climate will either make an American scoff or pridefully smile at the slogan whenever one brandishes the eye-catching red of a MAGA hat. And now that the first Democratic debates have been broadcast, the momentous 2020 election truly feels like its starting gun has gone off. And yet, despite the DNC’s hopes, Trump’s odds are looking better than ever.
Dreams of ushering in a fresh Democratic administration keep the Democrats confident as the election approaches, yet many left-leaning citizens are just waiting to see Trump get his political comeuppance. Still, many Americans continue to fear a Trump victory in 2020, and it would appear these worries are far from unpopular. Polls from December of 2018 showed that 81% of Americans disappointed by Trump’s economy felt that he’d lose re-election. While fairly high, this number has already changed to 67%, showing that confidence on the left is dwindling.
Despite concluding almost three years ago, Americans still remember the 2016 election for the whirlwind of controversies, the heated dinner table arguments and the jaw-dropping twist ending worthy of an M. Night Shyamalan film. When Trump announced his campaign for office in early 2015, America let out a hearty chuckle. When Trump defied the odds and persevered over his Republican competitors, America continued to laugh, believing it was a harmless, albeit surprising, slew of luck. The concept of a Trump presidency continued to nervously amuse Democrats up until the infamous election night of Nov. 8, 2016 when their perception of American politics was altered in the span of a few hours.
It’s possible that the happy ending Democrats have been craving for two-and-a-half years will need to be put on hold. This is due to the abundant advantages Trump has going into reelection, the biggest of which might be his incumbency. Since FDR, every incumbent who has eluded a recession prior to election has won.
Take former President Richard Nixon, for example. Throughout his first term, he was reportedly narcissistic, paranoid and outright hated by most news outlets. This’ll probably sound familiar to modern Americans. Yet, despite this, Nixon won his 1972 reelection campaign in an overwhelming landslide, amassing 61% of the popular vote and 521 electoral college votes.
It’s easy to point to Trump’s disapproval rating of 53% and say any rising Democratic candidates will eviscerate him in the polls. While this may be true, it should be noted that his approval ratings have recently reached record high levels, not to mention that Walter Mondale was ahead of Ronald Reagan by 10 points in June 1983.
According to a Gallup presidential approval tracker, Donald Trump has 90% of the Republican party backing him as his reelection campaign commences. This differs from the president’s shaky relationship with his own party in the 2016 election, especially after Republicans attempted to distance themselves from Trump shortly after a TMZ video of his boasts about groping women was released to a disgusted public. And yet, Trump proceeded to win a month later.
Donald Trump will most likely bring up the supposed accomplishments of his presidency in the prospective presidential debates to make himself look more favorable to undecided voters. This would include his claim that he curtailed the threat of North Korea. Since North Korea hasn’t tested a nuclear device since November 2017, this argument would have some leverage behind it.
While the Democrats have some strong candidates currently in the running, such as Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg, each of them seems to be making a substantial shift to the left in an effort to grab their party’s attention. The first round of democratic debates was heavily indicative of this, with every candidate raising their hands in favor of giving healthcare to undocumented immigrants. While this may be appealing to the far left, this is a poor strategy by the Democrats as they aren’t taking the more moderate “pivot” counties of the midwest into account. This will play right into Trump’s hands when election night arrives.
This can all sound pretty disconcerting to Americans eagerly awaiting Trump’s departure from office. While the nation’s prospects may seem grim at the moment, 2020’s election night is still 16 months away, and there’s no telling what will occur before then.
Ian Welfley is a junior media arts & design/communications double major. Contact Ian at email@example.com.