Steve Bannon, the dishevelled rogue who was once Donald Trump’s Svengali and now faces criminal charges, predicted last week that should Mr. Trump lose on Nov. 3, he could very well run again in 2024.
It’s conceivable. The Constitution doesn’t forbid a once defeated president from making a comeback. And there is precedent. Grover Cleveland, the reform Democrat, won the White House in 1884, lost in 1888 and came back to win again in 1892.
A resurrection of Mr. Trump will be all the more possible if he is defeated only narrowly in next Tuesday’s election, leaving him and his legions of angry white males to claim the election was tainted or stolen. He could have enough backing to maintain control of the party long into the next election cycle. If not him, then his hotheaded son Don Jr. could mount a strong bid for the nomination.
To vanquish the scourge of Trumpism, Joe Biden needs a resounding victory, a rout that leaves the Republicans with no choice but to abandon their demagogue and much of what he stands for. It need be a wave election that includes a Democratic takeover of the Senate and the defrocking of the Machiavellian leader of that body, Mitch McConnell.
If it’s a close verdict, Mr. Trump, as he has warned, could very well refuse to concede and challenge the results in the courts, inducing upheaval in a country where political polarization has reached levels rarely seen since the Civil War. Some even fear an attempted Trump coup in the wake of a defeat. But given that he lacks control of the military and the media, going to that extreme is unlikely.
But a crushing defeat will scuttle the chances of a contested result and of a Trump comeback down the line. A rout is necessary to signal a turn away from all he has nurtured: the xenophobia, the racism, the authoritarianism, the sexism, the flaying of democratic institutions, the debasing of the presidency.
To restore the reputation of the United States around the globe, it need be shown that Trumpism was an aberration. A slight Biden victory won’t do that.
The fact that this President has maintained the support of more than 40 per cent of the population throughout his first term and is still within striking range of re-election is a searing indictment of the American political culture, one that can be placed largely at the feet of the white male population. A majority of them, according to recent polls, still intend on voting for Mr. Trump. They stand four-square behind him.
If he is ingloriously frogmarched from the White House, it will be to the credit of the female population. The gender gap is a canyon. Some polls indicate women will be voting against this President by a remarkable two to one margin.
Women, people of colour, the young and the more educated segments of American society are the coalition that brought in Barack Obama for two terms. That coalition appears to be coming together again to defeat the reactionaries and reunite the country.
A drubbing would signal the last hurrah not only for Mr. Trump but perhaps also the troglodyte wing of the Republican Party, which became a prevailing force under House Speaker Newt Gingrich 25 years ago. He fed off the politics of personal destruction, showed contempt for bipartisanship and institutions, appealed to the lowest common denominator. The party has been burdened by backwardness ever since, but never more so than in its current incarnation.
A resurgence of the more conventional conservatism of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan would not be easy. As Patrick McHenry, the Republican Congressman from North Carolina, stated earlier this year, “Trump has touched the nerve of my conservative base like no person in my lifetime.”
In tandem with an electoral thrashing could come a legal reckoning for Mr. Trump – possible charges of bank fraud, tax fraud, conspiracy and the like could entomb any possibility of a political future.
A Biden landslide is looking more and more possible. His stumble with his debate pledge to take the country totally off fossil fuels may hurt the Democrats in oil producing states. But many polls show him building on his already substantial lead in most of the swing states.
Mr. Trump’s disastrous handling of the resurgent coronavirus plague continues to erode his support. One plague looks to be driving out another.
Grover Cleveland lost his re-election bid in 1888 only by a razor thin margin, thus opening the door for his return four years later. Unless there’s a Republican rally over the next week, Mr. Trump could lose his re-election bid in a way that won’t leave him with that option.
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