During his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, some of U.S. President Donald Trump’s Republican colleagues in Congress started chanting, “Four more years!” Come November, that’s what the world could be in for.
Mr. Trump’s re-election is looking increasingly likely. And if the Democratic Party doesn’t get its act together, and soon, it could become inevitable.
It’s been a good week for Mr. Trump; since the night of his surprise election, it might be his best ever. That sounds like the sort of over-the-top thing he might have said about the tastiness of Trump Steaks or the impeccable educational offerings at Trump University, except in this case the hyperbole isn’t misplaced.
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On Tuesday morning, Gallup released a poll showing his approval rating is at its highest-ever level – 49 per cent. That night, he delivered the President’s annual report to Congress, and did so without even mentioning impeachment. Which was just as well because, on Wednesday, the charges against him went bye-bye, with the Republican-dominated Senate voting to acquit.
Mr. Trump once claimed that he could shoot somebody in the middle of New York’s busy Fifth Avenue and not lose any of his loyal voters.
“It’s, like, incredible,” he said at the time.
Those are not exactly the words we’d use to describe the situation – we were thinking more of terms such as “troubling” or “despair-inducing” – but at this point it feels as though he might be right. A few GOP Senators worked up the courage to criticize Mr. Trump for using threats and public money to pressure the government of Ukraine into becoming part of the dirty-tricks branch of his re-election campaign, but on Wednesday only one, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, dared to vote to remove him from office for it.
Meanwhile, the only thing between Mr. Trump and another term in office – that would be the Democratic Party – was still trying to figure out who won its Iowa caucuses.
The cause was the crashing of an untested and unnecessary vote-counting app, which left the party that claims to hold the key to a better future for America looking as though it was still trying to find the Post-It note with the password for its dial-up internet connection.
Mr. Trump gleefully tweeted that it was an “unmitigated disaster.” For Democrats, yes. He declared himself the winner of the Democratic Iowa caucus. Again, no hyperbole.
As for the Republican Party, it is now well and truly Mr. Trump’s party. Back in 2016, the GOP had a big group of “Never Trumpers” who were dead-set against his takeover of American conservatism, but that’s ancient history. Non-Trumpian conservatives still run think tanks and write op-eds, but there aren’t many in elected office.
Which means that the only way the U.S. government will change, and change course, is if a Democrat moves into the White House. For that to happen, a Democrat has to win in November. And for that to be possible, the Democrats have to nominate someone who can not only get out the vote of loyal Democrats but also win over swing voters – people who voted for Mr. Trump in 2016 and might do so again.
A handful of states matter, mostly in the Midwest and near the Canadian border. The Democrats have to nominate someone whose personality and policies will appeal to those people, rather than scaring them away.
The four candidates who look most likely to end up as the Democratic nominee are Pete Buttigieg, a policy moderate and Indiana mayor, pitching himself as the man to win over swing-state voters; former vice-president Joe Biden, who is aiming at the same voters and whose slogan might as well be “Cut the Malarkey, Make America Sane Again"; Bernie Sanders, who wants to radically remake America’s economy and social programs, and who often gives the sense he’d rather be running against other Democrats; and billionaire and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who isn’t even bothering to campaign in the early primaries.
The rest of the planet doesn’t get to vote in American elections, but we have to live with the results. When the elephant gets a cold, we sneeze; when the elephant goes on a rampage, the rest of the world’s crockery gets smashed.
America’s friends are counting on Democratic voters to choose wisely, and then to get out the vote. Otherwise, hunker down for four more years.