A presidential election is like a barometer, which has been defined as an ingenious device that reveals the kind of weather we are experiencing. In case your dismay about the dilapidation of the nation is not yet commensurate with the valid reasons for dismay, consider this about the 2020 election:
The world’s oldest constitutional democracy, the United States, is floundering at the elementary task of managing the mechanics of voting — printing, distributing and counting ballots — in a presidential election the date of which has been known, or at least knowable, for 175 years, since Congress in 1845 first designated Election Day as the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
The world’s oldest political party, the Democratic Party, is having difficulty sounding sincere and unconflicted in affirming the world’s oldest political desire, which is for security from violence, particularly that of mobs.
The other party that has framed the nation’s two-party competition since 1856 has been reduced to hoping that this presidential election will be the third in six elections that the Republican nominee wins while losing, as President Donald Trump certainly will, the popular vote. And the best election outcome that Republicans can reasonably be expected will show that about 4 in 10 voters have watched almost 46 months of this president’s allotted 48, and want 48 more.
If they get their wish, the nation will get, for the first time, a fourth consecutive two-term presidency. Only twice before have there been three consecutive two-term presidencies, the third, fourth and fifth (Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe), and the 42nd, 43rd and 44th (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama). The reasons that a second Trump term is unlikely include:
Democrats want the election to be a referendum on Trump, and the Republican convention cooperated: “RESOLVED, That the 2020 Republican National Convention will adjourn without adopting a new platform....” Republicans said: Trump is all that we are.
Trump has made himself toxic in what he calls our “beautiful suburbs.” Forty-nine percent of the votes cast in 2016 came from suburbia.
Any campaign’s two principal assets are money and the candidate’s time. Trump’s campaign will have to allocate a lot of both to five states, with 89 electoral votes, that he carried relatively comfortably in 2016: Iowa (by 9.4 points), Ohio (8.1 points), Arizona (3.6 points), Texas (9.0 points), Georgia (5.1 points).
By mid-October, some endangered Republican Senate candidates will begin a delicate pirouette: They will try to devise an anodyne vocabulary with which to urge voters to elect them so that the Senate will remain in Republican control and can temper the Democratic Party’s leftward lurch. The candidates’ challenge will be to urge this without making Trump enthusiasts, whose support these candidates need, even more enraged than such enthusiasts are when they get up on the wrong side of the bed, which they do daily.
Michael Bloomberg has found $100 million in his sofa cushions and will spend it on Biden’s behalf in Florida. Progressives, who think American politics is polluted by “billionaires” and “big money,” are silent about Bloomberg’s naughtiness, perhaps because their grief about it has rendered them speechless.
Trump, whose reading of constitutional law has convinced him that Article II, properly construed, means “I have the right to do whatever I want as president,” has now taken to speaking reverently about “law and order.”
“Nothing,” wrote George Orwell, “is gained by teaching a parrot a new word.”
Trump told Americans they would get tired of all the winning he had in store for them. They are indeed tired. Promises made, promises kept.
George Will is a columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Catch the latest in Opinion
Get opinion pieces, letters and editorials sent directly to your inbox weekly!