Since 1900, when Theodore Roosevelt came to the White House, to date, with Trump seeking re-election, the United States has had 20 presidents. Of these, one was never elected: Ford, a vice president who succeeded Nixon when he resigned in 1974. And another, Franklin Roosevelt, was reelected 3 times, dying of natural causes shortly after starting his fourth term. Of the 17 remaining presidents, the general rule has been to renew for a second term. Two died before they could stand for reelection: Harding, of natural causes, and Kennedy, assassinated.
All the others were re-elected for a second term except four: Taft, who in 1913 suffered the split of the Republican party and the ambiguous position on American participation in the possible world conflict, which finally broke out in 1914, Hoover, who suffered in 1933 the wear and tear of the Great Depression, Carter, hit in 1980 by the Iranian revolution, the humiliation by American hostages in Tehran and the economic recession after the second oil crisis and Bush Sr., who despite winning the Gulf War in 1992, He unexpectedly encountered an economic crisis for which he had few answers (“It’s the economy, stupid!”).
All the others have enjoyed a second term. And it is that, the candidate that appears to the elections being president, leaves with a huge advantage over his rival. Reviewing the above list, we see that the reasons that prevented his re-election in the four cases mentioned (Taft, Hoover, Carter and Bush Sr.) were quite profound. Therefore, in theory, Trump should be the frontrunner in this electionExcept if we consider that we are in an exceptional situation like those that prevented those four re-elections in the last 120 years. I believe that there are, and that they can be summed up in the 5 “denials” of the Trump Presidency that have caused the discomfort of a good part of the American population.
1. The “denial” of Covid-19
Despite not having been one of the first nations to be hit by the pandemic, as was the case of China and other Asian countries or Italy and Spain, in Europe, far from preparing for what was coming, the severity of the disease was minimized. epidemic, comparing it to a common flu and defending the “herd immunity” model as the most efficient option to “avoid damage to the economy”.
Fortunately, health powers are transferred to the different States, which have taken containment measures. Despite this, the health damage has been enormous, as shown in Table 1, which shows the incidence of Covid-19 in the 20 most populated countries on the planet, measured by the number of cases and the number of deaths, both in absolute terms as in relation to the population. Despite being the third most populous country on the planet, the USA occupies the first position in number of cases, both in absolute and relative terms.
They also rank first in number of fatalities, four times the American dead in the Vietnam War, and second in the world in relative terms, only behind Brazil. It is consistent that, as Table 1 shows, of the most populous countries in the world, those with denialist leaders (the US, Brazil and Mexico) are the ones that present the worst results in terms of the incidence of the pandemic.
Despite the severity shown by Covid-19 in his own country, Trump continued to attack the most combative governors against the virus (Michigan, California, New York), mocked the use of masks, recommended ingesting bleach as a healing method and, despite being infected and hospitalized with a certain severity, he returned to the arena without any regrets for his initial position.
2. Denialism in the face of climate change
The scientific evidence supporting the hypothesis of a global warming caused by the action of the human being has become overwhelming in the last decades. This has resulted in a mobilization of the population and pressure on political leaders. Sponsored by the UN, in December 2015 the Climate Conference (Cop21) reached the Paría agreement, signed by 195 countries including the United States, then ruled by Obama.
In 2019, Trump formalized the withdrawal of the US from said agreement, whose exit would be ratified in November of this year, just after the elections. Withdrawing from this agreement is an enormous frustration for a significant portion of the American population. Also for that business fabric that was committed to renewable energy, electric mobility, energy efficiency, recycling or sustainable construction.
The most populated countries in the world, those with denialist leaders (the US, Brazil and Mexico) are the ones that present the worst results in terms of the incidence of the pandemic.
3. Denialism in the face of China’s economic leadership
The American economy remains one of the richest in the world, measured by its per capita income, and it will not be easy for China to surpass it this century. However, when we consider GDP, that is, the product of per capita income by population, we see that the size of the Chinese economy is very close to that of the United States.
According to the IMF, China’s GDP, measured in purchasing power parity (PPP), was ahead of that of the US in 2014. Measured in dollars, there is still a significant gap, as shown in Chart 1. China’s GDP in 2019 reached 65% of the US GDP. But the rate of growth of both countries means that this gap closes quite quickly. Only with the IMF forecasts for 2020 (-4.3% in the US and + 1.9% in China) and for 2021 (+ 8.2% and + 3.1%, respectively), will this gap close by 9 points to 74%.
The other 26 points difference, at a somewhat lower rate of convergence, of about 4 points per year, could be closed in 6 and a half years. That is, China will most likely overtake the US in 2027-28, much earlier than many economists anticipated (2040 or 2050).
China’s growing presence in Latin America and Africa, together with the project of the New Silk Road (“One belt, one road”) that seeks economic integration with Europe, indicate that China is willing to exercise that world leadership. Trump’s policy, based on “America first”, leaving Latin America abandoned in the crisis derived from the pandemic, fighting China and Europe with tariffs and other trade barriers, far from stopping Chinese leadership, will reinforce it.
4. Denialism in the face of inequality
There seems to be a consensus that internal inequality has worsened in all industrialized countries, derived from the asymmetries of earnings due to globalization and the impact of very expansionary monetary policies, which have favored the highest incomes.
Far from recognizing this problem and offering palliative measures that do not worsen economic efficiency, the Trump administration has ignored it and has continued with the policies of tax cuts to the highest income brackets. Without actually dismantling it, as was its objective, it has slowed down the expansion planned for both Medicare and Medicaid, despite the consequences of Covid on the health of the most vulnerable groups.
Covid-19 has also demonstrated the eastern superiority, both of China and Korea, to develop applications that allow tracking the progress of the epidemic.
Life expectancy, one of the most important indicators of human development, has decreased in recent years. Trump has stirred up the latent racial conflict in the US after his appeal to the principle of “Law and order”, which also applies to the immigration problem. Disregarding affirmative action policies, has introduced uncertainty in the progress of gender equality, and reopened the debate on the right of women to decide on their own motherhood. Also in LGTBI matters, it has shown aggressiveness, vetoing the transgender military and threatening to modify the law that prohibits dismissal based on sexual orientation.
5. Denialism in the face of the relative delay of the US in technological matters
The barriers imposed by Trump on the deployment of 5G technology are nothing more than a sign of American weakness in the face of China’s advance in information and communication technologies. The Covid-19 pandemic has also demonstrated the eastern superiority of both China and Korea to develop applications that, using big data, allow the progress of the epidemic to be tracked. In Artificial Intelligence, the US is lagging behind the eastern countries, and something similar is happening with electric mobility in which, with the exception of Tesla, the US seems to have thrown in the towel with Japan, Korea, China and even India.
It is difficult to know how much these denials may affect the electoral result of Tuesday, November 3. One would think that the envelope of all of them could reach a large percentage of the American population: older people, vulnerable to Covid, young people aware of environmental problems, business sectors linked to the fight against climate change or technological development, racial minorities, immigrants, feminist or egalitarian women, LGTBI groups, universities that are committed to technological innovation and artificial intelligence, the industry whose value chain is affected by the tariff wars.
But, as I said at the beginning of the article, the “incumbent” candidate has a lot of advantage. And the US majority system has already played a trick both in 2,000 with the defeat of Al Gore by a handful of votes in Florida, governed by the brother of the Republican candidate, and in 2016, in which the Democratic candidate triumphed in number of votes , but lost the elections. Cross our fingers.
Miguel Sebastián – Complutense University and ICAE