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Dhaka Tribune

Choice between a crook and a geezer?

What may be the outcome of the next US presidential election?

Update : 10 Mar 2024, 12:45 PM

With the primaries (which the major two US political parties hold in different states to nominate their candidate for next presidency) now concluded in more than one third of the states, it is now clear that the Presidential race this November will be between incumbent President Joe Biden and the twice impeached (but never successfully) former President Donald Trump. 

President Biden is a natural choice for the Democratic Party since he is the current incumbent, and traditionally the incumbent is the party’s nominee if he is not in his second term. There was a chance that Joe Biden might not choose to run a second time because of age (he is 81). But he put at rest any thought of an alternative candidate when he declared last year that he would run again.  It is, however, Donald Trump who is now looming large as the party’s candidate emerging as the most favorite of the majority of Republican party members and ditching the other republican hopefuls.  

When the first drumbeat began, there were 20 Republicans who expressed their intent to run for Presidency. The most notable among them were Vice President Mike Pence, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Governor Ron DeSantis, Senators Ted Cruz and Tim Scott, Ambassador Nicki Haley, Congressman Hutchison, and businessman and political newbie Vivek Ramaswamy. But by the time the first Presidential debate for the Republican Party was held August last year, only eight made their appearances as the others had bowed out already.  

 As the next debates progressed, and the Republican primaries started to take place, the hopefuls began to fall like nine pins, leaving only Donald Trump and stubborn ex UN Ambassador and Governor of South Carolina-Nicki Haley in the field. Nicki Haley, who trailed Trump with a difference of thirty to forty percent in opinion polls, continued her stubborn Presidential nomination race in the first five Presidential primaries in five states ending in losing all of them, as Trump enjoyed unbinding loyalty of his supporters and more in those states. 

The last hole in Nicki Halye’s presidential campaign was bored in last Tuesday (March 5) when she lost in primaries in fourteen out of fifteen states. The stubborn lady finally bowed out of the two-person race in her Party leaving Donald Trump as the clear next choice of the Republican Party. What will happen next is a ceremonial approval of the choice in July when the party delegates will meet to declare the official Republican Party candidate.  In other words, Donald Trump, a twice impeached President (albeit unsuccessfully), and now facing 91 charges in four criminal cases against him, will be a Presidential candidate once again.

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These charges against Donald Trump have the potential of Trump getting convicted and sentenced to an extraordinary punishment of several hundred years of jail time. This will be in addition to about $500 million of fines that have been imposed on him in two separate civil cases. But it seems in state after state supporters of Donald Trump are undeterred by the criminal and civil cases against him. Almost all of his supporters are blasé about these criminal or civil case and are solidly behind him despite these or perhaps in some cases because of these. Like their leader they consider each criminal charge against Trump is a badge of honor, and just in criminal cases where had to be shown under arrest and his mugshot (photo in police station) taken, copies of his mugshot were a hit among his feverishly loyal acolytes. Recent polls show that a majority of his supporters will vote for him even if Trump is convicted and sent to jail. Now this is a major point to ponder!

This is an extraordinary time for the United States. While the Republicans, at least majority of them, gloat over the prospect of having Donald Trump as their candidate and probably have him back at the White House, the Democrats have the unenviable prospect of having an octogenarian running as an opponent to a wily, bombastic, and crooked businessman cum politician who can manipulate any adversity to an opportunity. 

In contrast to Donald Trump Joe Biden has an impeccable legacy of decades of service to his nation as a county councilor, Senator, and Vice President. In his long legal and political career spanning nearly six decades, Joe Biden never faced any legal charges for any illegal activity or association with any felonious agency or people. He had a clean image then and he has it now. The only problem is his age. At 81 he is the oldest US President ever. Although with regard to age, Donald Trump at 78 will also be the second oldest person to run for Presidency, Biden’s age seems to be a stumbling block for his supporters. 

But as November draws closer, and the two candidates appear to be surest nominees of their parties, the hapless Americans are between a rock and a hard place. Should they throw their lot choosing a crook who has already decided on a regime of extreme policies when elected, or selecting an apparently doddering person for whom a next term of four years may prove to be too burdensome.

reuters 2 

Unfortunately, the choice is not limited to age. Despite overall growth of the economy and economic prosperity, Joe Biden has not been able to dwell on it to attract popularity. His team has not been able to cash upon this success.  Challenges with Covid-19, immigration, the war in Ukraine, and finally the Gaza crisis have seriously impacted his image as a successful President. But as an outsider and a successful rabblerouser Donald Trump has used all of these as serious failure in rallying his supporters. He has used these issues along with his complaints of victimhood in charges against him which he terms as political. 

There are only eight months left before the November elections. Much may happen during these months when we can see Donald Trump getting tried in courts for several of these cases, two of which are charges of insurrection in the Capitol on January 6, 2021, and illegal retention of federal classified documents in his private mansion. There are more than ninety individual charges associated with these cases.  These are due for hearing before the November elections.

Chances are all of these may not be over before the elections. But whether these are over or not, the elections will take place come November and people will vote. The sky may fall, but Trump supporters and a great majority of the Republicans will vote for Trump. The Democrats are rallying behind their octogenarian President hoping that he will be able to beat an upbeat Donald Trump. But to do that they will have to rally the support of one-third of the populace who are independent voters. It all boils down to how they decide whether to let the country be run by a crook or by an honorable and experienced politician of six decades. 

Whatever happens, if Donald Trump were to be elected the next President, US should not go fault finding far. The fault will lie among the Americans who chose to vote for him and others who abstained for the alternative. 

 
 

Ziauddin Choudhury has worked in the higher civil service of Bangladesh early in his career, and later for the World Bank in the US.

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