The past week in US politics has been mired in controversy, largely as a result of Republican candidate, President Donald Trump’s ill-advised anticipation to get the ball rolling on behalf of his party. Although this will undoubtedly become a saga of strange events that runs until the elections in November of this year and will almost certainly provoke subsequent consequences that shadow the upcoming term in presidential office, there are two separate incidences that have garnered substantial attention on the European side of the Atlantic. In line with the majority of domestic opinion, Trump’s aggressive response to the Black Lives Matter protests which erupted in the wake of George Floyd’s death attracted waves of overseas criticism that was further emphasised by his recent, seemingly sabotaged rally in Tulsa, that proceeded in spite of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The latest approval ratings illustrate a significant decline in Trump’s popularity among the general American populace, and this is by no means a coincidence; he has been forced to confront two crises within a matter of months and frankly, has handled neither with the slightest degree of grace or sympathy. The prevailing query is, how will this impact the upcoming presidential election? For now, it would be naive to make any predictions given the tumultuous journey undertaken by both the Republican and Democratic parties in the 2016 campaigns. Despite the growing popularity of Democratic Party candidate, Joe Biden, he has not secured victory in any sense, except perhaps in a moral regard. Although if the past four years have taught the world anything, it’s that morality is no longer a trait required to obtain and upkeep a position of political power in the United States.
In an attempt to kickstart its election campaign in the midst of a global health crisis, the Trump administration organised a political rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for Saturday 20th June. It must be noted that not only does Tulsa have a particularly high number of active coronavirus cases, but it was the location of the Tulsa race massacre, in which an estimated 150 African Americans were lynched and a further 800 were injured during racially motivated riots in 1921. This is highly significant due to the backdrop of Trump’s rally consisting of the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, and the fact that the rally was originally scheduled to be held a day earlier on Juneteenth, a holiday widely celebrated by the African American community as the emancipation day of those enslaved in southern states. It is especially unusual for President Trump to back down and concede to the demands of others, however, it can safely be assumed that he realised he was making one too many mistakes and therefore potentially losing votes in regard to his continued dismissal and lack of humanity in the face of African American struggles.
Election season has officially fallen upon the United States and it cannot be understated that any course of action undertaken by each candidate from now up until November has a direct correlation to their hunger for a seat in the presidential office. In an unexpected turn of events, however, Trump’s Tulsa rally was largely deemed to conclude in failure. Due to tickets for the event being available essentially freely online, many of them were reserved by teenagers who utilised social media in order to encourage others to disrupt the event, resulting in Trump delivering his speech to an audience consisting of less than half the potential capacity for the venue. Joe Biden has remained relatively quiet during these events, except to criticise Trump’s violent approach to protestors, and perhaps silence will serve him well in the coming months — it is no difficult feat to be interpreted as the more mature candidate when compared to a man who regularly goes on misinformed and fully capitalised rants on Twitter.
This week, it has also emerged that President Trump is attempting to plant seeds of doubt among the American population regarding the legitimacy of the upcoming election; in a characteristically autocratic move, he is planning to denounce the results of the November vote months before it is even set to take place, in the event that the election does not favour the Republican Party. Trump has declared that voting by mail inevitably leads to election fraud, although in typical fashion for the 45th President, he has produced no evidence to substantiate this claim, and common sense would dictate that voting by mail is safer than using an electronic and potentially vulnerable machine to cast your ballot. Both President Trump and his Vice President, Mike Pence, have cast votes via mail during the Trump administration, so it is difficult to interpret his public condemnation of voting by mail as little more than a crude method of disenfranchising voters, particularly those who work low-paid jobs and simply cannot afford to physically queue for hours on end to cast their vote. There is nothing overtly fraudulent about a mail-in ballot, except that its existence poses a threat to the continuation of Trump’s presidency.
In the wake of an embarrassingly low turnout for his rally combined with even the Republican-biased Fox News reporting that Biden’s popularity has overtaken Trump by twelve percent, it appears as though the President has resorted to the misinformed scaremongering tactics that heavily contributed to his victory in 2016. The question remains, will thus far baseless claims of corruption and fraud within the voting system prove effective enough to sway undecided voters and swing states in his favour? Only time as well as the Biden campaign’s full involvement and his inevitable public confrontation with Trump may tell.