When it comes to President Donald Trump, some things never change. In fact, the man is so passionate about what he thinks and says that he does not feel the necessity to change his style of functioning which is basically boorish. In a televised town hall in Miami, Florida and some 1000 miles away from his Democratic opponent, Trump still behaved the same way he did in the first debate on September 29; the only difference was that this time he was interrupting NBC’s anchor hosting the show; did not hesitate to look straight in the camera and utter things that were profoundly wrong or downright silly; and somehow tried to come out of the coronavirus issue by saying that it was all the fault of China and that his administration did indeed well as only 2,18,000 people have died so far as opposed to an initial projection of 2.2 million!
American history textbooks will characterize the November 3, 2020 elections in very different ways; some will call it the most bizarre Presidential elections; a few will term it as one of the most wasteful exercises in modern times with issues hardly at the centre stage; and others still will talk about the contrasting styles of campaigning of two men in the time of a pandemic in which one of them pretended that there is nothing called COVID and that his own infection came by way of a Divine Intervention! But once a supremely confident genius is desperately seen running around battleground states hoping that his supporters and still undecideds will lend at least one ear to what he has to say. Unfortunately, even at this late hour, the incumbent Republican seems hellbent on distorting the truth on issues that really matter to America.
Sixteen days is all that is left for the electoral showdown in which Trump is trailing Joseph Biden in all national polls and in the battleground states as well. The margin of Biden’s lead in the crucial battlegrounds may not be on a par with what is taking place nationally, but still the former Vice President has made a dramatic comeback in many of the states of the Mid West that Trump managed to bag in 2016. And millions of Americans have exercised their right to vote early in what is being seen as a possible advantage for Democrats. The viciousness, venom and the vain in Trump has only energized the Democratic Party that has raised a record US$1.5 billion between July and September; the Trump campaign supposedly managing only about one half of this amount for the same period.
The utter brazenness of the incumbent on such issues as COVID-19, cavorting with white supremacists, downplaying or turning the tables on racial tensions and inequality, insisting on filling the vacancy in the Supreme Court, waltzing with world dictators and refusing to reveal his tax returns have all left even some of his ardent supporters—not the extremists of course—quite distraught to the point of even thinking of abandoning the Grand Old Party. In fact, one thinking in the Republican Party is that the way things have unfolded in the last four years, many are expecting a bloodbath on November 3 to the point that those hanging on thus far to the coattails of Trump have started to distance themselves from the man who was once considered invincible. A part of the Republican establishment now believes that when the chips are finally down and counted, the GOP is going to be minus three—White House, House of Representatives and the Senate. And all because of one Man.
Appearing in Philadelphia at the time Trump was indulging in a shouting match with the anchor in Miami was the professorial Biden who may have been boring and not exactly exciting but down to earth and perceived as honest in his answers. Biden flayed Trump for the manner in which the White House and the administration handled the coronavirus as some kind of a Public Relations exercise even after acknowledging at beginning of the year that the virus was indeed deadly but did not wish to push the panic button. What has made matters worse is the President openly ripping the mask off his face and keep insisting on the falsehood that 85 per cent of people wearing masks still get infected with the coronavirus when most studies have debunked this notion.
What has placed Trump in a difficult position is that of his insistence on deflecting genuine questions be it with respect to his failure to condemn white supremacists or promoting crazy theories of groups like the QAnon who have spread the word that the Democrats are a part of a global satanical paedophile ring. Trump is quick to say that he is unaware of the QAnon but that it is against paedophilia but that the real problem is that of Antifa, the radical left wing group going berserk in cities controlled by Democrats. And what is also making many nervous is that the incumbent President refuses to publicly say that he will go away peacefully if defeated on election day; and keeps repeated yet another claim of “widespread fraud” associated with mail-in ballots. When pressed that the Director of the FBI had concluded that there is no “widespread” fraud, Trump’s answer was quick and expected: “Then he’s (FBI Chief Christopher Wray) not doing a very good job”.
There is still no definitive word on whether the final debate between the candidates will take place in Nashville, Tennessee on Oct 22; and if so in what format. If the two contenders do indeed meet face-to-face, Americans and interested people around the world will have to be prepared for a re-run of the first debate, perhaps with greater vigor from the incumbent sitting in the Oval Office. That it will be seen as an embarrassment is a thought that will not even come across the person who is not about to lose a wink of sleep.
(The writer was a former senior journalist in Washington D.C. covering North America and the United Nations).