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Trump wins the debate. Is this the end of the American Century?

by Michael Pascoe | Jun 29, 2024 | Comment & Analysis, Latest Posts

In the competition to decide the less unelectable President, Joe Biden blew Friday’s presidential debate, leaving the Democratic Party despairing. November 5 now looms as the date to mark the end of the American Century, Michael Pascoe writes.

“In Beijing, it is said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine united the West, but Israel’s conflict with Hamas is dividing it again. It is predicted that if Donald Trump is re-elected, his allies will learn, once again, that this is a friendless world and that ‘America First’ means what it says.”

So opined an Economist column last month.

On the eve of Friday’s presidential “debate”, The New York Times/Siena College poll had Trump ahead of Biden by six percentage points among registered voters, and the Economist’s prediction model scored Trump enjoying a 75 per cent chance of winning in November while Biden had a 25 per cent chance.

And then there was the Biden v Trump nationally televised shit show, watched at least in part by about half of the people who will vote on November 5.

Former NSW Premier and Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr summed it up as well as any.

Trump was Trump – at least he’s consistent in that regard. Being the lying kindergarten bully, feeding the aggrieved their prejudices back at them, has him as the most likely next president.

The debate was supposed to be Biden’s big chance to show he is not, at 81, too old for the job, that he is sharp enough, that he isn’t losing it. He failed to do so. Worse, he looked like he is too old and is not sharp enough.

It is a condemnation of the American political system that it has come to this. The Republican Party has been taken over by a febrile fascist-leaning machine; the Democrats appear incapable of fielding a credible Presidential candidate.

Will Biden still run?

At this late stage, can the Democrats change candidate? It would require Biden to say now that he will not run, which means he would have to be sharp enough and humble enough to acknowledge that he is going to lose.

Thereafter, the process would be as messy as politics can be. Vice President Kamala Harris polls a fraction worse than Biden, or at least did before the debate.

There are two or three Democrat Governors who could put their hands up, most obviously California’s Gavin Newsom and Illinois’ J.B. Pritzker.

A New York Times profile of Pritzker last year said some Democrats saw him as the “in case of emergency break glass” presidential candidate, “one of the few prominent politicians who could stand up a White House run at a moment’s notice.”

Pritzker has the advantages of a successful progressive record as Governor and being rich – he is a billionaire heir to the Hyatt Hotels fortune. Money counts a very great deal in American politics and he has been generous with his support of Democrats and Democrat causes nationally.

He has the disadvantage of being Jewish in a country that has its share of antisemitism, yet America has managed to elect a Black and two Catholics.

The odds are that failing a sudden physical health issue, Biden will insist on continuing, and if he did step aside, the internal Democrat jostling would produce a candidate who would have a lot of ground to catch up against the Trump Party’s locked-in base and war chest. (Promising rich people smaller government and lower taxes tend to take care of that.)

No good choices

Which boils down to convicted felon, fraudster and serial liar Donald Trump being sworn in again as head of a machine promising to be much more ruthless and damaging this time.

And so endeth the American Century, somewhat short of an actual century.

A more wilfully Trumpian United States first loses any global political leadership qualification with relative economic decline to follow.

China, the rising power, can afford to be patient as a second Trump presidency loses friends and fails to influence people.

The cooler heads last time around said the US was fortunate that the ultimate outworking of the process started by the Tea Party conservative movement delivered Trump to the White House and not someone smarter. Trump was too all over the place to do much lasting damage—a bit like the dog that caught the car and didn’t know what to do with it.

This time, he promises to return with a determined, radically conservative entourage on a mission to change America and American institutions—changes that will outlast the Trump presidency.

The motley crew assembled in Australia’s Washington Embassy to launch Scott Morrison’s book has been hailed as a diplomatic triumph for how Australia might handle the Toddler President.

Just think about how precarious the grip on that relationship would be if it relied on Scott Morrison.

Michael is a journalist, commentator, speaker and contributing editor for The New Daily.

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