Trump’s Authoritarianism and Divisive Tactics Are a Gift to Biden

This article first appeared at on 7th July 2020

My last piece explored five narratives that could determine the US election. We must now add a sixth, that might well supercede them. The death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minnesota has changed everything.

Police brutality and racism are not new topics in US politics. Nor are protests and riots.  

There were several incidents during the 2016 election, during which the Black Lives Matter campaign played a prominent role.

However protest has not been seen on this scale since the sixties. Police gassing peaceful protesters and attacking journalists is not in keeping with a functioning democracy. Saturday’s nationwide (and global) protests felt like a definitive moment.

How will this affect the election? The immediate impact appears terrible for Donald Trump. Rather than seeking to unify the country, he stands accused of fanning the flames with provocative tweets and politicising the crisis. The images of peaceful protesters being gassed in order to clear a path for a photo-op with a bible outside a church may prove definitive.

Whilst ongoing looting or violence against the police may ultimately help Trump, for now polls suggest voters are taking a more rounded view. That they are likelier to understand that the issues around racially biased policing and justice go much deeper than this singular case. That overwhelmingly peaceful protests are defined by a desire for change – as opposed to the Trumpian narrative that they are driven by ‘radical leftists’ such as the ill-defined ‘Antifa’.

Moreover, they are deeply unimpressed by Trump’s leadership and management of the twin crises sweeping America. According to ABC/Ipsos, 66% disapprove of how he is handling the Floyd protests and 60% of coronavirus.

His overall approval ratings are falling, even below 40% in some polls, and strong disapprovals rising to record levels. Marist (rated A+ by Fivethirtyeight) have his net rating at -13 while Monmouth (A+) are -11%.

Biden’s lead widening across the board

Morning Consult (B/C) found that 45% are more likely to vote for Joe Biden since the crisis began, compared to 31% for Trump. The Democrat was also trusted more by 17, 12 and 10% margins to handle racial equality, police reform and Covid-19 respectively. 

So far as the race for the White House is concerned, Biden’s lead according to the RealClearPolitics average is 7%. Critically, given that both polls include a large number of undecideds, Biden is already at 50 and 52% in the latest surveys with those aforementioned A+ rated pollsters. Before the protests escalated, ABC/Wapo (also A+) had him +10.

Even the betting markets – which have been much more Trump-friendly – are turning against the incumbent. Biden is now favourite at just below even money. 

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