By Maribel Hastings and David Torres
It is common for presidents to be re-elected to a second term if the economy is on their side. In recent history only Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992, Democrat Jimmy Carter in 1980, and Republican Gerald Ford in 1976 have become one-term presidents. Economic factors played an important role, although foreign relations —in the case of Carter— and pardoning President Richard Nixon after the Watergate scandal —in that of Ford— also intervened against them.
Additional consideration is owed, of course, to the malleability of the U.S. electorate, which more than choosing based on ideology, often votes based on the cult of personality, from who has the best smile to the most austere gesture, the catchiest slogan, or even the most anti-immigrant rhetoric and who meets the expectations of supremacy felt by a good part of the voting public, as in the presidential elections of 2016. Selling one’s candidacy to a consumptive public has turned out to be a virtue of U.S. advertisers.
Effectively, the coming year will decide whether Donald J. Trump is re-elected to his controversial presidency and, right now, he has two important factors in his favor: the economy, for now, is in good shape; and Trump is the incumbent, another element that favors those seeking re-election. Added to this is the infallible factor of fomenting a war-mongering attitude to attract the most patriotic sector of the country, looking for an ad hoc foreign enemy to unleash an always simmering desire to go to war, which produces votes in addition to bullets.
That is, what is impressive about Trump is that, despite his low approval ratings, none of his scandals or controversies have hurt him much as to put his re-election in danger. It’s as if the pact of silence regarding his scandals and anti-American attitudes has been converted, by those who protect him and justify it all, into a wall of protection larger than the one he pretends to construct on the southern border.
All of that then forces us to ask ourselves who is worse: Trump, or those who support him despite his constant lies, scandals, and actions that skirt legality or are plainly illegal, arguing that as long as the economy is good, who cares what the president says or does? Or the other percentage that does not support Trump nor his excesses, but which in 2016 was not bothered by staying at home and not voting? Or all those who have become desensitized to the degree to which nothing much matters?
It is precisely this scenario where the future of the United States is being debated at this precise moment: it is not a question of principles or individual choices, but of historic consequences appropriate to the century in which we find ourselves and which serve as a model for future societies, whether they tend toward a more equitable evolution in all respects or an imbalanced involution that tries to perpetuate divisions.
This dichotomy keeps all the prognostications for what the United States wants to be up in the air, hidden in a mixture of blindness and apathy that Trump has placed exactly where it is, despite his Olympic level of hypocrisy when it comes to subjects that conservatives insist are their own.
For example, those conservatives who boasted about having their taxes up to date and were the first to condemn those who shunned this fiscal responsibility, falsely accusing undocumented immigrants who do pay all kinds of taxes, now pay tribute to Trump, a tax evader who has refused to release his previous records, contorting themselves to incredible levels of rhetorical juggling as if they were accomplices in some petty, school-age scheme.
The conservatives who also boast of defending soldiers and who have, as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, an individual who claimed to suffer from bone spurs in order to avoid serving in the Vietnam War, and went so far as to insult a war hero, Republican senator John McCain; a situation that turns the entire discussion on its head and denigrates those who, with total valor and honesty, offered their lives on the battlefield in order to sustain the idea and the reality of a United States for all, not for one: E pluribus unum.
The same conservatives who defended law and order to the bitter end, then gave themselves up to Trump, who has utilized the presidency to undermine all of the agencies of public order in this nation, including the FBI, and intelligence agencies such as the CIA and NSA, which had inspired every model of defense and protection of country that has come to pass in contemporary human history.
Those same conservatives who are so ready to preach morality with the Bible in hand, defend Trump who appears to have violated many of the commandments that they defend so much. The same religious people who are not moved to any sort of action regarding the immoralities that have been committed against families and migrant children at the border; conservatives who say nothing about the deaths of six Central American minors in custody of U.S. immigration officials, and are not even scandalized by the revelation that the death of a young Salvadoran girl in Nebraska remained hidden for eight months, after she was detained at the border in March and died in September 2018.
And it is the same conservatives who are clamoring for the border wall and point to undocumented immigrants as the root of all evil in this country, and cheer Trump on when he affirms that he will remove them from the country because “America-First”; but later stay silent when the press reveals that Trump has employed undocumented immigrants in several of his companies, including hotels, golf courses, and vineyards. And that he not only uses them, but exploits them.
At the end of the day, we just have to wait and see whether, in 2020, the good economy carries more weight at the polls than all of Trump’s hypocrisies put together.