What a Biden-Trump rematch entails for the US - Hindustan Times

What a Biden-Trump rematch entails for the US

Feb 19, 2024 10:11 PM IST

The stage is definitely set for a potential Biden-Trump rematch. What might such a rematch entail?

With every passing day, it is becoming clearer that the United States (US) presidential election this November will be a rematch between President Joe Biden and Donald Trump who he unseated from the White House four years ago.

After Trump lost to Biden in 2020, many believed that his political career would come to an end (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, REUTERS/Russell Cheyne/File Photo)
After Trump lost to Biden in 2020, many believed that his political career would come to an end (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, REUTERS/Russell Cheyne/File Photo)

The Democratic Party’s nomination of Biden, as the incumbent, was virtually assured the moment he declared his intention to seek re-election. Trump, who had a number of competitors, has emerged as the overwhelming favourite to clinch the Republican nomination after just one caucus and two primaries. The former president will likely ensure securing his party’s nomination by “Super Tuesday,” on March 5, when 15 states will hold their primaries, representing 36% of GOP delegates.

The race could effectively be decided as soon as February 24 in the Republican primary in South Carolina. Trump’s opponent there is Nikki Haley, an Indian American who served as governor of the state and as a former ambassador to the United Nations. Trump currently has a significant lead in South Carolina. His winning by a large margin would likely intensify pressure from the party establishment on Haley to withdraw from the race.

After Trump lost to Biden in 2020, many believed that his political career would come to an end. It is exceedingly rare for a losing presidential candidate to be renominated by a major party. The last individual to accomplish this was Richard Nixon, who, after his defeat by John F Kennedy in 1960, secured the Republican Party’s nomination eight years later.

Trump’s return, however, does not come as a surprise to anyone who has followed American politics over the past decade. He has wielded influence over the Republican Party since the summer of 2016 when he won the nomination for president. While in office as president, he intensified his grip on the party and refused to let go of his control after his defeat in 2020. “Donald Trump is now the GOP establishment,” proclaimed a CNN headline after the Iowa caucus in December. A columnist in The Hill concurred last month, declaring, “Now Donald Trump is the Republican Party.” It’s doubtful that any leader in American politics has had such control over a major party while out of power. “

The stage is definitely set for a potential Biden-Trump rematch. What might such a rematch entail?

Given the age of both candidates — Biden is 81 and Trump will be 78 in June — their mental competency will be front and centre. While the media has focused on the president’s age for most of his presidency, Trump has received a pass despite making numerous gaffes of his own. Lately, however, Haley has been criticising Trump on this issue, and the Democrats are certain to make it a focal point this summer and fall.

In a typical presidential election cycle, voters are primarily concerned with bread-and-butter issues such as the economy, taxes and health care. In addition, national security and immigration have also been consistent concerns for American voters in recent election cycles. However, if Trump is on the ballot, we will enter uncharted territory regarding the issues at play.

What is alarming in Trump’s case is that his bid for office serves not only as a political endeavour but as a means to potentially evade legal repercussions and avoid possible imprisonment. Currently, the Republican frontrunner faces four indictments encompassing a total of 91 felony charges. His legal team is advocating for trial delays until after the election, with the hope that a successful re-election bid could shield him from prosecution. This is the first time that an ex-president has been charged criminally and also the first time a candidate with numerous criminal and civil cases against him is running for the highest office in the land.

Given this context and with his future hanging in the balance, Trump is expected to launch a scorched-earth re-election campaign. Indeed, that campaign has already begun. The former president’s Make America Great Again (MAGA) base has fostered internal divisions on national security issues, particularly concerning the Russia-Ukraine war, where a significant portion of the Republican Party in Congress is refusing to provide US financial aid to Ukraine.

From the time he announced his intention to run for president in 2015, Trump has weaponised the immigration issue and made it a central feature of his political strategy. In recent weeks, at Trump’s request, his MAGA supporters in Congress refused to support a bipartisan border deal aimed at curbing illegal immigration.

Election denial is poised to become another issue the American electorate will unfortunately have to contend with once again. Following his defeat, Trump’s campaign and supporters filed 62 lawsuits challenging the certification of Biden’s victory, none of which found favour with judges, including many judges he appointed. Trump departed the White House in January 2021 in a manner unprecedented for a losing president, refusing to concede defeat — a tradition in American politics — denying the legitimacy of the election. No one can predict his actions this November if he loses another election.

Finally, what is more concerning than Trump’s scorched earth re-election campaign is what the retaliation campaign might look like if he manages to win the presidency again. Trump has openly vowed to undermine NATO and pursue legal action against his political opponents if he returns to the White House. His MAGA supporters have also developed a comprehensive plan for politicising the federal government. Those actions would be just the beginning for Trump. But they would also be the end of American democracy as we know it.

Frank F Islam is an entrepreneur, civic leader and thought-based leader in Washington, DC. In full disclosure, he has been a donor and fundraiser for President Biden and other Democratic candidates for office. The views expressed here are personal

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