The second term election campaign of a US president is usually less chaotic than that which put him in the White House for the first time, and often ends favourably for the incumbent. The authority implied by experience in the role is difficult for opponents to overcome after a hard-fought campaign. In November, though, there is a very real opportunity for the challenger to defeat Donald Trump unless something drastic alters the public mood at the last minute.
Trump is facing a challenge from Joe Biden, the Democrat former Vice President to Barack Obama. Politically, Biden seems balanced politically, unlike the President. He has also spent nearly half a century in the Senate, so he is an experienced politician, again unlike Trump. The polls give him a 10 point lead over the latter, up from five per cent in April before he won his party’s nomination officially.
The US President blamed his opponent’s superiority on the impeachment measures against him by the Democrat-majority Congress. That isn’t quite true. Trump relied on economic successes after opening the doors to international trade wars intended to pump money into the American economy. Although he had taken billions of dollars from the Arab world during the first year of his presidency, he is now facing stiff competition from Europe, China and even Russia. His strategy backfired with the Covid-19 outbreak and his failure to take the pandemic seriously and implement effective measures. Whatever achievements he had under his belt lost their value. Furthermore, his dog-whistle pronouncements appealing to his extreme-right supporters helped to expose hatred and racism in a way not seen for decades in the US.
The hatred of others usually begins when the “others” are foreigners, but it soon comes home. Trump tends to view his political opponents as enemies of the state rather than fellow politicians. He forgets that they represent almost half of the US population; in describing them disparagingly as “communists” and “socialists” he questions their loyalty to the United States. Such rhetoric is unworthy of someone in his position and bodes ill for a smooth transition of power should that need arise after November’s election.
There is no doubt that the American people are anxious about their future with Trump in the White House, and are now even more concerned about America’s institutional racism. Americans are not homogenous in terms of their ethnic origins, so racism poses a real threat to the state on all levels. US citizens are well aware that only they are capable of putting an end to the threat caused by the racist sub-text of the slogan “Make America Great Again”, ostensibly to boost America’s international superiority and credibility as a world power.
What passes for diplomacy under Trump and the sycophants around him made them confident about the result of the election coming up, not least because they counted on doing Israel’s bidding. The Zionist state has been politically unstable for more than a year, with three inclusive General Elections despite Trump doing his good friend Benjamin Netanyahu a number of favours, including the move of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and cutting all humanitarian aid from America to the Palestinians. Netanyahu is now in a power-sharing agreement with his opponent Benny Gantz, and on the verge of annexing a huge swathe of land in the occupied West Bank, against international laws and conventions.
It is Netanyahu’s turn to repay a favour to Trump with the annexation. The intention was to boost support among US voters for the “most pro-Israel US administration ever”. However, popular protests in the US — against institutional racism — and Israel — against annexation —may derail their plans. The electorate in both countries have a choice: the state or the personalities in charge.
It is not a passing phase or insignificant that demonstrators have returned to Rabin Square in Tel Aviv to protest against the right-wing government and its policy towards Israel’s occupation of the territory earmarked for an independent State of Palestine. Nor is it insignificant that the Black Lives Matter protests which have convulsed US cities for more than two weeks have spread to Europe and Australia, with vast crowds taking to the streets in solidarity with the American people against racism and police brutality. Palestinian flags and slogans have been prominent in many of the demonstrations.
It is clear that many people in traditionally Israel-supporting countries are not happy with their governments just paying lip-service when “opposing” Trump’s foreign policies. Moreover, the protests in Israel compensate for the failure of the political establishment to end corrupt Netanyahu’s rule through the ballot box. Many Israeli voters backed Gantz to topple the head of the settler government, and he has now done a deal with Netanyahu. It is fair to say, therefore, that this chaotic situation will make a political difference, perhaps for Palestine and its people, who have raised the banner of defiance against Trump and Netanyahu over the past three years, when everyone else was bending to America’s will.
The serious situation at home makes it hard for Trump to back Netanyahu openly over Israel’s annexation plans, even though the Black Lives Matter protests are not aimed at Israel-Palestine directly. A consequent delay or postponement of the annexation process could, however, be considered a victory, as the political equation could be changed by the US election in November; perhaps sooner if Netanyahu is convicted on the charges of fraud and corruption that he is facing.
The missing link in all of this is an effective anti-annexation strategy from the Palestinian Authority. At the very least, the Palestinian leadership should be encouraging popular demonstrations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip against the annexation of their land.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Ayyam on 9 June 2020
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.