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Opinion | Trump-Biden Rematch Exposes Broken US Politics

Written By: Minhaz Merchant


Last Updated: November 13, 2023, 14:12 IST

New Delhi, India

The outcome of the Biden-Trump electoral battle has serious geopolitical implications. (Reuters)

The outcome of the Biden-Trump electoral battle has serious geopolitical implications. (Reuters)

A new opinion poll conducted by The New York Times-Siena College projects that if the presidential election pitting Donald Trump against US President Joe Biden was held today, Trump would win a comfortable majority

The unthinkable might happen: despite several criminal cases filed against him, former United States President Donald Trump may be president once again following the US presidential election scheduled to be held on November 5, 2024, in a deeply polarised country.

A new opinion poll conducted by The New York Times-Siena College projects that if the presidential election pitting Trump against US President Joe Biden was held today, Trump would win a comfortable majority.

Crucially, in five out of six battleground swing states — Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia and Nevada — Trump leads Biden by a significant margin. Biden has a narrow two percentage point lead only in Wisconsin.

The poll spells trouble for Biden who turns 81 on November 20, 2023. Voters worry that Biden, if elected, will be 86 years old at the end of his second term as president in January 2029.

Trump at 77 is no spring chicken but Republican voters aren’t worried about his cognitive abilities. Biden in contrast often slurs his words, forgets to shake hands with other dignitaries (he did so famously with Brazilian President Lula da Silva) and is unsteady on his feet.

It is a sign of the broken state of American politics that no Democrat or Republican is strong enough to challenge either Biden or Trump as their parties’ presidential candidate.

Republican challengers like Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley have faded. Tech millionaire Vivek Ramaswamy’s campaign has sputtered. Among Democrats, no one dares challenge Biden simply because there is no one else in the party with a global profile.

The only credible alternative Democratic candidate would be Vice-President Kamala Harris but she is unpopular with the party rank-and-file.

The Democrats’ hard Left, led by the “squad”, has divided the party further. Biden is seen as a safe pair of hands — so long as his health holds out.

The US Constitution allows candidates to run for president even from jail. In a hearing last week at the New York Supreme Court in a civil fraud case that could dismantle Trump’s business empire, Justice Arthur Engoron told Trump tersely: “Just answer the questions, no speeches. This is not a political rally.”

Trump is the first former US president in over a century to stand trial in court. And yet, that doesn’t bother the Republican faithful. Outside the courtroom, Trump told reporters that the cases against him amounted to “election interference”. He added grimly: “It’s a very sad situation. It usually takes place in third-world countries and banana republics.”

Trump was closer to the truth than he imagined. The US is increasingly looking like a third-world country. Its political system is deeply polarised, its civic infrastructure is crumbling, gun violence has soared, the family unit is broken, and racial divisions are widening.

Geopolitical implications

The outcome of the Biden-Trump electoral battle has serious geopolitical implications. A Trump victory would spell bad news for Europe. Trump may not carry out his campaign threat to pull the US out of NATO. But he will cut back on US military aid to Ukraine.

Russia will welcome a Trump victory. Trump has often said that the US mishandled its relationship with Moscow by allowing NATO to creep ever closer to Russia’s border. Trump favours a more balanced approach to Moscow. He will likely bring the Russia-Ukraine war to a swift, negotiated end.

China would be impacted by a Trump victory in two apparently contradictory ways. On the one hand, Beijing blames Trump as the US president who started a trade war against China which Biden has deepened. On the other hand, Beijing also sees Trump as being more politically flexible than Biden.

Trump says he is against wars. In his first term, he pointed out, the US did not invade any other country. It only targeted the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq. But it is the Middle East which will cause Trump the most worry. Like all US presidents, America’s support for Israel is bipartisan and cast in stone.

Trump, however, has close personal relations with Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad bin Salman. That could help build momentum towards a two-state solution for Palestine and Israel as per the 1993 Oslo Accords. The Accords are backed by moderate Arab states. But both Israel and Hamas have ignored them.

The Israel factor

Dealing with Israel will be difficult for both Trump and Biden. The Hamas attack on October 7, 2023, not only left over 1,400 Israelis dead. It exposed Israel’s intelligence agency Shin Bet as incompetent and the Israeli army’s initial response as sluggish.

For a country that prides itself on its intelligence gathering and disciplined military, the initial humbling by Hamas will leave permanent scars on Israel society’s consciousness.

To counter mounting Western criticism on civilian deaths in Gaza due to incessant Israeli bombing, Tel Aviv put out a list of civilians killed by Western military action since World War II.

According to The New York Times, “Israel’s goal is to help justify a campaign against Hamas that is claiming thousands of Palestinian lives. In those earlier conflicts, innocent civilians paid the price for the defeat of enemies. In Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as many as 2,00,000 civilians perished after the US dropped atomic bombs to force Japan’s surrender. In Iraq, hundreds of civilians were killed in Fallujah as US forces fought Iraqi insurgents, and thousands died in Mosul in Iraqi and US battles against IS.”

India’s choice

Would India prefer a second-term Biden or a second-term Trump? Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been careful to make India’s relationship with Washington immune to partisan US politics.

With Trump, Modi plays the transactional leader leveraging India’s economic potential. With Biden, he focuses on the geopolitical importance of the India-US strategic partnership.

China’s growing threat as a technological, economic and military power to rival the US makes India an indispensable ally for the West. In private, European and American leaders grumble about India’s neutrality over Ukraine, robust support for a Palestinian state, and independent leadership of the Global South. In public, they echo Western business leaders who queue up to do business in India.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin were upbeat after their 2+2 strategic dialogue with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi on November 10.

Biden or Trump, India remains a guru and friend to all.

The writer is an editor, author and publisher. Views expressed in the above piece are personal and solely that of the author. They do not necessarily reflect News18’s views.

first published:November 13, 2023, 14:12 IST
last updated:November 13, 2023, 14:12 IST