On November 8, the US elected all congressmen, 1/3 of senators, 36 governors and hundreds of officials at the state and local level. However, one of the main roles in the entire campaign was played by past and present presidents.
Joe Biden, along with Barack Obama, encouraged people to vote for the Democratic Party, while Donald Trump waged battles within the Republican Party.
Trump Is Not Thinking about Retiring
A few words of explanation for those who do not follow American politics very closely. Usually after serving two terms in the White House, and even more so after losing their bid for re-election, former American presidents politically retire; they open a library named after them, write autobiographies, set up foundations, promote worthy causes, and once in a while join in campaigning for their party’s candidates, as Barack Obama is doing now.
Donald Trump is an exception – despite losing in November 2020, he did not even think about retirement. For two years he lied that the election was “stolen” from him, at the same time being convincing in this. On January 6, 2021, a crowd of his supporters of the year tried to force their way into the Capitol to violently disrupt the process of approving the election results. Moreover, polls show that today up to 60-70 percent of Republican Party voters believe Trump’s lie.
The former president’s party colleagues tried to distance themselves from him after the unprecedented attack on Capitol Hill. Nevertheless, when it became clear that he had no intention of stepping down and that the most radical voters on the right were following him, the vast majority of Republicans shut up like a clam. Now they have been punished for it. How did this happen?
Trump has already become heavily involved in primary election, i.e. intra-party election that select candidates for congressmen, senators, etc. He promoted his people, who openly repeated his lie about rigged elections and promised to do everything to make the next election ‘fair’. In other words, they expressed readiness to manipulate the results in such a way that Trump would win. Some openly said that if they had held the relevant state offices in 2020, Trump would be president today.
Another clarification is necessary; elections in the US are organized precisely by the states. Each state has slightly different rules, e.g. regarding the timing of voting, the permissibility of mail-in votes, different rules for verifying identity, and validating results. Therefore, taking key offices in several important states by people willing to do anything for Trump posed a real threat that there would be – this time real – falsifications after the next election.
Trump’s Candidates Are Weak
Candidates supported by Trump won nominations in gubernatorial elections in important states (Arizona, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Michigan, Wisconsin) and senatorial elections, among others. By “important” states, I mean those in which the votes are usually distributed almost equally between the two parties, and therefore, it is in these states that the real battle for victory takes place.
In short, if Trump’s candidates had been successful in the general election, he would have gained enormous influence in the party and he could have used that influence precisely to undermine the results of the 2024 presidential election if he had lost it. Consequently, it was dangerous all the more so because the circumstances pointed to great success for the Republican Party. Why?
Firstly, midterm elections are the first opportunity to express dissatisfaction with the president. Americans are usually eager to use this opportunity. Presidential parties traditionally lose many congressmen and senators at that time. In 2018, Republicans lost 41 seats in the 435-seat House of Representatives after two years of Trump’s presidency. In 2010, after two years of Obama’s presidency, the Democrats lost 63 seats. The same fate happened to many presidents.
Secondly, in the polls, most of the respondents said that this election’s most important issue for them was the state of the economy, and they rated this one poorly. The highest inflation in four decades and rising crime in major cities also did not bode well for Biden.
Thirdly, although the current president’s ratings are not particularly different from those of Trump, Bill Clinton or George Bush Sr. at a similar stage of their presidency, the results are not good – roughly 40-41 percent of those surveyed have a positive view of his presidency.
And yet, despite favorable circumstances, the Republicans did not succeed as they expected. Why? Many blame Donald Trump and they are quite right.
The candidates named by the former president were not only radical, but simply weak. In Pennsylvania, he supported Dr. Mehmet Oz, a TV celebrity doctor who most of his life has not even lived in the state. Previously, this Senate seat was held by an outgoing Republican. Moreover, the Democratic candidate suffered a severe stroke at the very beginning of the campaign and was unable to meet with voters normally for several months. And yet the Republicans lost.
In Georgia, Trump backed a former soccer player who doesn’t know a thing about politics and was the main star of moral scandals, which during the campaign came to light. There will be a second round of elections in the state but many analysts claim that if the candidate had been better, the Republicans would have already enjoyed victory.
There are numerous examples showing that candidated of the radical right associated with Trump scored worse than more moderate candidates who preferred to stay further away from the former president.
Is Trump Loser ?
Therefore, more and more party members are beginning to say out loud what most have known for a long time: contrary to Trump’s claims, not only is he not a born winner, but he leads the party from defeat to defeat. Yes, he won the presidency but he got several million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton and it was only due to the peculiarities of the American electoral system that he became the winner.
Then it only got worse – in 2018 the Republicans lost their majority in the House of Representatives, in 2020 they lost the presidency and their majority in the Senate, and now they have again failed to meet great expectations. In elections to state legislatures, they failed to retake any state senate or house of representatives and they lost several.
The radicalism of Trump and his people has mobilized Democrats and discouraged some independent voters from the Republican Party. At the same time, the former president has not been able to sufficiently mobilize his base to offset these losses.
“Trump is a loser,” even his former supporters are increasingly saying it. We do not know whether the former president will lose his influence in the party. It has come to pass several times in the past, but he has always pacified his opponents. But one thing is certain – even if he wins within the party, he has lost among voters.
Americans have had enough of politics boiling down to lies, name-calling, scaremongering, undermining the rules of democracy, and self-pity. Kaczyński is going down exactly the same path as Trump.
Let’s hope Polish voters follow the American footsteps.
The article was originally published in Polish at: https://liberte.pl/trump-nie-chce-zejsc-ze-sceny/
Translated by Natalia Banaś