Democrats once united behind Biden but now worry he’s clearing a path for Trump

Democrats once united behind Biden but now worry he’s clearing a path for Trump

In recent months, a growing sense of unease has emerged among Democrats who once stood united behind President Joe Biden. The concern is palpable: many fear that Biden’s current trajectory might inadvertently pave the way for a Donald Trump resurgence. This anxiety is not unfounded, given the political landscape and the dynamics within both parties.

Donald Trump, despite facing numerous legal challenges, remains a formidable force within the Republican Party. Polls consistently show him leading his nearest competitors by significant margins. The notion that Trump is unelectable in a general election is increasingly being dismissed as wishful thinking. In fact, recent polls indicate that Trump is either tied with or ahead of Biden, a reality that strips other Republican challengers of their raison d’être.

For months, there has been a sense of complacency among those who oppose Trump. Many hoped that figures like Ron DeSantis or Nikki Haley might emerge as viable alternatives. Others speculated that Trump’s legal troubles would alienate Republican suburbanites. However, this period of hopeful speculation is coming to an end. The actions required to divert from this path are becoming increasingly difficult, if not impossible.

As Trump inches closer to securing the Republican nomination, the political power dynamics are shifting in his favor. Until now, Republicans and conservatives have had the freedom to express anti-Trump sentiments and support alternative candidates. Donors who found Trump distasteful could spread their contributions among his competitors. Establishment Republicans hoped that Trump’s legal troubles would remove him from the equation without them having to take a stand.

However, this will change once Trump wins key primaries. Votes are the currency of power in the American political system, and money follows. By these measures, Trump is about to become far more powerful. The window for considering alternatives is closing, and the next phase will see people falling into line behind him.

This shift has already begun. As Trump’s nomination becomes inevitable, donors are starting to switch their support from other candidates to Trump. Even the recent endorsement of Nikki Haley by the Koch political network is unlikely to change this trajectory. For many, it makes sense to align with Trump early while he is still grateful for defectors. Even anti-Trump donors must consider whether their cause is best served by shunning a man who stands a reasonable chance of becoming the next president.

The rest of the Republican Party will quickly follow suit. Karl Rove’s recent plea for primary voters to choose anyone but Trump is likely the last such exhortation from someone with a future in the party. In a normal campaign, intraparty dissent begins to disappear once a clear winner emerges from the primaries. Most leading candidates have already pledged to support Trump if he is the nominee, even before he has won a single primary vote. After key primaries, most of Trump’s competitors will likely rush to align with him, vying for his favor.

Republicans who have tried to navigate the Trump era by appealing to non-Trump voters while professing loyalty to Trump will end that balancing act. Criticizing Trump will become impossible once he secures the nomination. The party will shift into full general-election mode, subordinating everything to the presidential campaign. The Wall Street Journal editorial page, which has been critical of Trump, may find it challenging to maintain its stance once the choice is between Trump and Biden.

Trump’s dominance will extend beyond his party. He will again become the central focus of national attention. The media, which already follows his every word and action, will amplify his presence once he secures the nomination. Trump intends to use his legal battles to boost his candidacy and discredit the American justice system, and media outlets will likely play a role in this narrative.

As Trump enters the general-election campaign with momentum, backed by growing political and financial resources, and an increasingly unified party, the same cannot be said for Biden. The president is struggling with double-digit defections among Black Americans and younger voters. Third-party and independent campaigns by figures like Jill Stein and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. are further complicating Biden’s prospects. The potential third-party run by Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) could be devastating for the Democratic coalition.

Biden does not enjoy the usual advantages of incumbency. Trump, effectively an incumbent in the eyes of many Republicans, negates Biden’s ability to claim that electing his opponent is a leap into the unknown. Many Republicans do not view Trump’s presidency as abnormal or unsuccessful. In his first term, respected officials blocked some of Trump’s most dangerous impulses and kept them hidden from the public. This has left many Republican voters with little reason to oppose Trump.

Trump, on the other hand, enjoys the advantage of non-incumbency, namely the lack of responsibility. Biden must carry the world’s problems like any incumbent, but he cannot claim that Trump is too inexperienced to handle these crises. On Trump’s watch, there was no full-scale invasion of Ukraine, no major attack on Israel, no runaway inflation, and no disastrous retreat from Afghanistan. It is challenging to argue Trump’s unfitness to those who do not already believe it.

Trump also benefits from structural advantages in the coming general election. He has the support of Fox News and the Speaker of the House. The national mood, less than a year before the election, is one of bipartisan disgust with the political system. Trump offers a simple answer to this dysfunction: himself. He is running against the system, while Biden embodies it. This gives Trump a significant advantage.

Trump’s expanding legal battles will also play a role in his campaign. He intends to use the trials to display his power and rally his supporters. His devoted followers love him precisely because he crosses lines and ignores boundaries. This empowers him further. Even before the trials begin, Trump is defying judges’ orders, testing the limits of the judicial system.

As votes start pouring in, the power balance within the courtroom and the country will shift further in Trump’s favor. The trials will likely demonstrate the judicial system’s inability to contain someone like Trump. Indicting Trump for trying to overthrow the government may prove as effective as indicting Caesar for crossing the Rubicon. Trump’s clout transcends the laws and institutions of government, based on the unwavering loyalty of his followers.

The question remains: Can Trump win the election? The answer, barring something radical and unforeseen, is yes. This reality is causing mounting panic within the Democratic Party. If Trump wins, he will become the most powerful person ever to hold the office, wielding the awesome powers of the American executive with few constraints.

The institutions of justice, which Trump will have defied by his election, will be revealed as impotent. A court system that could not control Trump as a private individual will not control him better as president. Congress, which has already shown its inability to check a rogue president, will be unlikely to stop him. The federal bureaucracy, traditionally a check on presidential power, will be filled with loyalists vetted to ensure their allegiance to Trump.

Trump’s desire for a glittering legacy, measured in terms of his own glory, will drive his actions. His followers do not demand achievements from him; they only want him to triumph over the forces they hate in American society. This will be Trump’s primary mission as president.

The most urgent question is whether Trump’s presidency will turn into a dictatorship. The odds are, again, pretty good. Trump’s fury, built up over years of legal battles and perceived persecution, will drive him to exact revenge. He has already named some of those he intends to target, including senior officials from his first term and Democratic opponents.

Trump’s administration will be filled with officials who will anticipate his desires and seek favor through acts they think will please him. This will create a regime of political persecution, with many avenues to target enemies, real and perceived. The federal government has enormous power to surveil and investigate people, and these powers will be used to persecute opponents.

Who will stop these improper investigations and prosecutions? Congress, controlled by Republicans, will be busy conducting its own inquiries. The press, divided as it is today, will face significant pressure. Media owners will discover that a hostile president can make their lives unpleasant in many ways.

In a Trump presidency, the courage to stand up for those accused will be rare. Americans, suspicious of government, may not recognize these accusations as persecution. They will know only that various government agencies are investigating. The great body of Americans may not rise up in outrage, and Trump will continue to consolidate his power.

Source: The Washington Post

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