Author: Harry Liao | Editor: Zhining Zhao | Updated September 18th 2020
Last Sunday, during recess of my sculling practice, I asked my boat-mates working in the field of finance and entrepreneurship, on who would win the 2020 election.
To my surprise, all of them voiced strong belief of Donald Trump beating Joe Biden. They even began betting against one another that if Biden wins, one of them who was forced to bet for Biden would get two hundred dollars, whereas if Trump wins, the two guys who bet on Trump would only receive fifty dollars.
Reasons exist for people believing in Trump, or even voicing uncertainty in the coming election despite Biden having a huge lead in the polls.
Although the numbers suggest Biden to have a commanding lead over the incumbent, Donald Trump has numerous advantages in his emphasis on the economy, campaign strategy, and personal charm that will ensure his victory over the increasingly left-leaning, lethargic Democrat nominee. Some of the advantages of Trump’s campaign are even the Democrats’ own making.
Indeed, Donald Trump’s mishandling of Covid-19 as well as the BLM movements greatly injured his image as the President. The US became the most infected nation under Trump’s watch, while the stock markets tumbled during early spring. Millions of Americans lost their jobs while Trump rallied against mask protection. Although Trumps has been blaming China for the virus and has since diverted some public attention to the Chinese, most people still criticized his pandemic mismanagement. Moreover, the recent BLM movements highlighted Trump’s inability in resolving racial tensions, which handed Biden advantage among minority voters. Yet, one must keep in mind that people are prone to forget disasters.
First, damages caused by Covid-19 appear to be subsiding. Figures suggest the economy is recovering from devastation. Stopping at the week ending on August 29th, total first-time recipients of unemployment compensation numbered 880,000, lower than 1,010,000 for the previous week as well as the expected number of 950,000 for the week in question. This suggests a diminishing population is filing for unemployment, reflecting an economy rapidly recovering from Covid-19. Additionally, stock prices have almost regained their previous high before February, adjusted for inflation.
I think the failure of virus control in the US should not be blamed solely on Trump and his anti-mask rhetoric. Instead, the political system as well as the culture in the country are what should be blamed. There are no lines in the Constitution mandating the federal government’s role in fighting a pandemic, so battling COVID should be solely the responsibility of the states. Trump already fulfilled his federal duty in contacting factories for vaccines, funding medical programs, issuing monetary and fiscal stimulus, and providing resources to each state.
According to professor Lujun Li in the Sichuan Party School of CPC, Trump’s national policy differs from previous presidents’ in that he holds “economic development” as the absolute core strategy of the nation, complemented by two basics----national security and welfare of the people. This sounds strangely familiar to Deng Xiaoping’s theory of “Maintaining economic development as the core national strategy, complimented by the adherence to ‘the four basic rules’ and ‘opening up’”. The emphasis on economic development can be seen in his tax cuts in lowering the cost of market transactions for corporations as well as his repeated outcries for reopening the country during the shutdown caused by COVID. Liberalizing the domestic economy gains the support of corporations as well as those in his traditional base (not necessarily benefiting from the liberalization), while his emphasis on national security and “America First” attract those hurt by globalization. His protectionism on trade resulted in the lowest unemployment rate in the US over forty years, while the US stock market broke its historic high 28 times. Trump also provided simplified and favorable taxing to moms, elders, and companies hiring in the US. He also cancelled 200 executive orders from Obama on regulating the finance and energy industries while greatly encouraging Foreign Direct Investment. Plenty of economic benefits (sustainable or not) await the American people if they choose Trump again. People remember the prosperity before the “China Virus”. They want to experience that again and are certain that Trump will provide that.
There is also good news for Trump on the anti-virus front. According to the Wall Street Journal, recent executive orders guaranteed the free distribution of Covid vaccine throughout the US no later than November 1st. Each State was mandated by the Federal government to approve a certain virus distribution agency named Mckesson before the above date. This means when voting begins on November 3rd, the US would be the first country to distribute a Covid vaccine en masse. If this goes as planned, Trump’s reelection efforts would be tremendously boosted by the timely appearance of an ultimate solution to the virus, just before his showdown against Joe whose strategy seems to be “wait and see”.
In terms of general foreign policy, Trump’s “America First” stance on almost all issues has an unignorable ring to ordinary Americans. In order to make America great again and to counter the Chinese threat, Trump embarked on a mission to contract American engagement in the world. He withdrew from various UN organizations; he also demanded monetary contributions from countries under American protection. He believes that the “greatness” or the “actual strength” of the US is what keeps America as the leader of the world, not gifting or diplomatic weaseling in the United Nations. Ordinary citizens in the United States want political leaders to pay responsibility to Americans first, then assist foreign nations. When they see Trump, they see a president looking out for them. When they see Biden, they see a thief who hustled American jobs overseas.
Attitude towards China is also a major factor in this coming election. Although I think the most important topic in this election is the pandemic and the economy, followed by civil rights, healthcare, and climate policies, Chinese aggression, however, was continuously magnified by the Trump administration and has arguably become a more important topic than traditional ones such as gun control. But, no matter how intensely Trump popularized the Chinese threat, it will still not be a deciding factor in the election. Looking at George Bush’s defeat at the hands of Bill Clinton proves that foreign policy in the past decades are not decisive winning factors. Bush defeated Soviet Russia and terminated the Cold War. Moreover, he fought and won the First Gulf War, the only war America fought after WWII which did not result in disaster. Bush certainly had more foreign policy legacy over Trump, but he still lost to Clinton. Among the reasons he lost to the charismatic Democrat was an economic recession which rendered, among other mishaps, college graduates unable to find jobs. Now, although attitudes towards China will not decide the election, Biden’s similar but weaker stance on this issue clearly gave the mic against China to Trump, which allowed the latter to set the standards for policy on China and to criticize Biden as “China Joe”.
Another reason why Bush lost to Clinton was that he appeared rather dull on TV. Besides, he was detached from the ordinary people since he did not know what a barcode scanner in a grocery store does. The same cannot be said of Trump, but Biden seems to fit the description. Trump’s down-to-earth language and behavior are among the reasons for his 2016 victory, which will help him prevail over another Democrat from the Establishment. At least compared to the workaholic Trump who has almost infinite energy even at the age of 74, “Sleepy Joe” at 77 can neither keep up with Trump on social media nor on the debate stage. There are just so many areas where Trump can attack the Democratic nominee, ranging from his past career to his current lethargy, while Biden’s attacks would be deflected easily by the energetic incumbent who deals with press conferences every week. To be fair, Trump might lie during the debate, but that should be viewed as his advantage. With the three debates setting stages on September 29th, October 15th, and October 22nd, Biden will not survive based on his prior performance in the Democratic nominee debates. I think if Trump repeats his tweet which makes fun of Biden’s sudden burst of governing ideas after his lackluster career over 40 years, Biden will have nothing to say about that. With public speaking as important as it is in American Presidential election, it is the wildest hope that Biden does not lose any popularity due to the three debates.
One of the most important factors in deciding candidate credibility is to compare their percentage of fulfilled promises, especially the ones they said during their respective careers and former presidential elections. Trump is, in fact, the President who fulfilled the greatest share of campaign promises in American history. A list of fulfilled policies include: to withdraw from the TPP, Iran Nuclear Deal, Paris Agreement, the UNESCO, the UN Human Rights Council; to withdraw Obamacare; to build a wall along the Mexican border; to renegotiate NAFTA; to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and move the US embassy there; to lower corporate income tax from 35% to 15% (tax rate was ultimately lowered to 21% due to democratic opposition); to cancel over 1000 Obama executive orders on corporate regulation; to investigate Chinese trade practices, intellectual property laws, and trade balance; and to build infrastructure in the US (Congress did not agree upon the funds for this project). Besides the tax cut and infrastructural construction, Donald Trump accomplished most of his policies. It was estimated that he fulfilled more than 80% of his campaign promises, highest among all prior Presidents, giving him more credibility among voters who are fed up with professional politicians who only talk. One of the attacks Trump can make on Biden is that Biden has done so little in his forty-year career, and the few things he did were removed by Trump, who suggests that Biden would accomplish very little as the President.
Another reason for Trump beating Biden is that Trump is the guardian of “Law and Order”. Unending unrest in American cities has drained the patience of law-abiding citizens. Due to political correctness, those who sympathize towards stability cannot voice their opinions out loud. They look to someone who can provide a stable environment, and Trump supports just that.
Down to the more basic fabrics of American political structure, the fundamentals of American electoral politics benefit Trump to a notable extent. Since the Republicans have a strong foothold in most of the agricultural states, they receive the benefits of population vs. electoral college accordingly. In California, there are 55 electoral college votes representing 40 million people, averaging one electoral college vote for every 720,000 people. In Montana, however, there are only 800,000 people represented by three votes, averaging 270,000 people per electoral college vote. This means that Trump needs to convince a lot less Montanans (400,000) to receive the three electoral college votes than in California, where he has to receive 20 million people’s support to get 55 votes. This means on average, 133,000 Montanans amount to one vote, while 360,000 Californians amount to one vote. The cost of propaganda and advertisement per electoral college vote in states such as Montana is considerably less than the cost in California, rendering Trump an advantage since the states which support him are mostly thinly populated and cost less for advertising. Admittedly, Trump would have a hard time garnering votes in densely populated states for the above reasons. However, the grouping effect should also be considered, in which convincing 100 close-knit people in Florida, for example, is easier than convincing 100 farmers in Iowa spread out across the countryside. Additionally, since only around 60% of adults vote for President, candidates only have to garner 30% of the population’s support for the whole state’s electoral college votes. This sounds quite scary, but it’s true.
Some advantages of Trump are handed to him by Biden. The appointment of Kamala Harris as Biden’s Vice President is a critical mistake for the Democrats. To quote a famous Chinese political commentator on YouTube, “the Democrats have been racing down the track of political correctness in recent years. The American people had already voted for someone who never cares about political correctness in 2016; apparently, the higher-ups of the Democratic Party did not get the people’s message.” Kamala’s nomination gains no additional votes for Biden because first, minority voters are already voting for Biden over Trump, and second, Kamala Harris is not a true social democrat like Bernie Sanders, so she cannot attract votes from the progressives any more than Biden. Of course, Harris will not tap into any conservative voters at all. She might even alienate them further based on her policies in California. She helped to enact the famous Proposition 47 in 2014, which decriminalizes all robberies and thefts under $950, and since has produced a large increase in retail theft and car burglaries. It can be argued that California’s law and order was destroyed by her. Basically, the people whom Kamala Harris can attract are already voting for Biden, and those she cannot attract will stay away from Biden.
Additionally, some commentators suggest that if Joe Biden is elected and dies in office, then Harris will be the first Indian-Afro-American woman to become the president. Even if Joe Biden survives the four years of strain, he will just quit the Presidency and pull Kamala into the position to avoid true progressives in the primaries gaining too much authority in the Democratic Party in 2024. I do not think the American people are ready to accept Harris with her racial background as the President of the United States, not after she has expressed unwavering support in every left-leaning policy of the Democrats ranging from defunding the police to compensations for slavery.
Finally, if you want to show support on the streets for either candidate, you have to know their slogans. Even in details such as campaign rallying cries, Trump holds an advantage. The slogan of the Trump campaign is “Make America Great Again” and “Keep America Great”, whereas Biden’s slogan is “Build Back Better”. Now, MAGA and KAG clearly have a better ring than the three Bs, and if you read Biden’s slogan out loud, your tongue wouldn’t keep up with the awkwardness