The new year should be one of some satisfaction for the United States. With its goldilocks economy, the country should be moving along contentedly, like it did in the 1920s or 1950s. Not only are the wealthy doing better, median incomes are on the rise as well. Jobs are plentiful; the Dow Jones is through the roof.
Instead, 2020 dawns with the country split into two solitudes, with each side seething. Half of Americans crave Donald Trump’s re-election. The other half hopes that he is turned into one of the malicious epithets he laid on Bette Midler: A “washed-up psycho.”
No one knows what will be the outcome of this turning-point election, but what is clear is that the path to it will be bitter and wrenching. As degrading as American politics have been in recent years, they stand to get worse in an election year that will begin with a president impeached.
Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden got a taste of what’s to come at a rally in Milford, N.H., on the weekend. Audience members lashed out at him with myriad insults.
The 77-year-old has been accused of being too touchy-feely with girls and women in past campaigning. This prompted someone to shout, “Don’t touch kids, you pervert!”
The ex-vice-president, who was also called “quid pro Joe” in reference to the Ukraine imbroglio, informed the guy that ”this isn’t a Trump rally.”
The blasphemer would have none of it. ”The truth is going to come out, buddy.”
The Republicans are targeting Mr. Biden because he is the likely Democratic nominee. Many handicappers envisage a Democratic ticket featuring him with a woman from the Midwest – such as Amy Klobuchar – as his running mate.
Biden-Klobuchar would make a formidable ticket. But Mr. Trump doesn’t only have a rocketing stock market to boast about. Lost amidst the exhaustive scandal coverage on Russian collusion and Ukraine are other developments pleasing to conservatives and maybe undecideds as well, such as trade agreements, a crackdown on illegal immigration, appointments of conservative judges at a record pace and tax cuts.
His administration has also brought in criminal-justice reforms, slashed support for Planned Parenthood, overseen a surge of domestic energy production, marked the killing of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and cajoled NATO allies into paying more for defence outlays.
Any normal president with these achievements on his ledger and riding such an economic wave would be in clover. But this is a president who has opted for confrontation over conciliation at almost every turn. He has needlessly created so much anger and division and hate that it could doom him.
Mr. Trump is so desperate for aggrandizement and survival that there’s no telling what extremes he will resort to in this campaign in order to win. Should he lose, he might claim the election was stolen and reject the verdict. Should he win, there will be no controlling his authoritarian impulses. Populist white nationalism will have scored a victory under a hollering demagogue with consequences too depressing to imagine.
Mr. Trump’s first order of business will be to press the Senate to acquit him of the impeachment charges voted in by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. A New York Times report a few days ago revealed the extent to which White House insiders were scheming to withhold defence funding from Ukraine unless its government announced an investigation into Mr. Biden and his son Hunter. The Senate trial needs to hear from these insiders. But in all likelihood, they will be blocked from testifying in a trial that will be farcical and leave Democratic supporters enraged.
Democrats have never been so driven to unseat a president. On gun control, despite the serial mass shootings, he has done nothing. On the climate crisis, he’s been the coal king; on health-care reform, obstreperous; on morality, in the sewer; and on the international liberal order, a heretic.
Democrats are banking on enough Americans wanting a restoration of moral order and traditional American ways to carry the day for them.
But even if they are to win, the searing divisions will remain. In 2008, Americans voted in a healer in Barack Obama. Even he couldn’t bridge the growing fissures that Mr. Trump has seized upon.
A defeat of Mr. Trump in November would not go unavenged. No matter what, 2020 will end in turmoil. But the result will be momentous. It will stir hopes of a new age – or augur a dark one.
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