If the recently concluded presidential debate is of any indication, the consequences of electing president Trump for a second term is a foregone conclusion—an irreparable damage to democracy. Trump was predictably belligerent and combative, interrupting Joe Biden time after time, despite the appeals of moderator Chris Wallace for restraint. He was more interested in mud-slinging Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden, than he was answering questions on national issues like healthcare, economy and the ravages of the coronavirus. He refused to pledge that he will accept the election result even if he lost. He spoke of unfounded vote rigging and fraud by mail-in-voting.
It is not mail-in-voting but Trump himself who is a threat to a free and fair election. The debate foreshadows consequences of his win—a repeat performance of his first term with more vengeance.
His domestic policy was an unmitigated disaster, scarred by his flip-flopping and meddling in administrative rules and regulations, democratic practices and conventions. He destroyed and dismantled democratic institutions riding roughshod with the congress, judiciary and the media. He subverted democracy by running the administration using his presidential executive orders and side-lining congress and abridging the constitution.
Under Trump, the White House has been mired in chaos. He treated the White House as a revolving door for constant arrivals and quick and disgraceful exits of his advisors and top administrators. He did away with his communications staff, Sean Spicer, Sarah Sanders and Anthony Scaramucci in quick succession. The list of the fallen, fired or resigned is long and never ending, exceeding 37 including heavyweights like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defence James Mattis, National Security advisors HR McMaster, John Bolton and Michael Flynn, Chief of Staff John Kelly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, strategist Steve Bannon, et al. Bob Woodward in his book "Rage" Quotes James Mattis as having described Trump as "dangerous" and "unfit".
The economy under Trump is in tatters because of his inept handling of the coronavirus crisis. Twenty million people have been thrown out of employment, homes and are without food on the table. Two hundred thousand manufacturing jobs have been wiped out, the stock market is in a state of constant turmoil, shocks and shudders. Tax cuts were only for the rich and wealthy, trade deficit is at an all-time high, budget deficit has reached three trillion dollars. Economic growth is not about data only but about people at the end of the day.
Trump's foreign policy (if any), inconsistent and lopsided as it was, based on his instincts and impulses rather than strategy or principles, was a fiasco. His brand of unilateralism, his mantra of "America first" denouncing multilateralism, shredded America's international relations. His extreme protectionist policy sent shockwaves towards America's trading partners. He alienated America's traditional allies in the west when he imposed tariffs on USD 7.5 billion worth of EU goods, showed contempt for NATO and made disparaging remarks about French President Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He pulled out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Yet, the climate crisis in America continues to worsen. Hurricanes and rising temperatures are more frequent than ever. The west coast is in flames. He abandoned the Iran Nuclear deal, clinched by five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany and EU. He withdrew disdainfully from the World Health Organization, UNESCO, UNFPA and UN Human Rights Council. He downsized the State Department.
There is increasing international concern over Trump's Iran and China obsession, which may turn into a major military confrontation, even a nuclear war, wittingly or unwittingly. His three meetings with Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un, failed and was motivated more by his political ambition—to add to his credentials as an achiever in peace-making, rather than by larger national interests.
Trump muzzled the press. He scoffed at the media as being the "enemy of the people", claiming that they and others were dishing out what he described as "fake news, hoax and witch hunts". He only valued "alternative facts". Many claim Trump is a compulsive liar. His own elder sister, Maryanne Trump, a retired federal judge, said that he lies. His niece Mary Trump in her book "Too much and never enough" said that he cheated on his college admission tests. Former secretary of state Colin Powell said that he lies all the time. He lied to people when he played down the severity of the threat of the coronavirus, describing it as just like any other flu which will disappear soon. He continued to hold campaign rallies without precautionary measures. The result is the needless loss of more than 200,000 American lives, the highest anywhere. He abdicated his leadership when it was most needed.
Despite his bizarre and dismal record, chances of Trump succeeding cannot be underestimated because of his mastery and skill over electioneering strategy and craftsmanship. His propaganda offensive is his base. Also, Trump's campaign slogan "Make America great again" appeals to extreme nationalists who have racial and anti-immigrant bias. Besides, the flawed policy of electing American presidents through the electoral college system, rather than the universally accepted popular votes, may be a determining factor in his favour—as happened in the 2016 election.
Joe Biden's campaign, in stark contrast to Trump's, is timid and faltering as he is strictly adhering to health rules by wearing masks and social distancing and addressing his audiences through virtual media. Besides, he is no match for Trump in disseminating disinformation.
Yet, Americans would be playing a risky game if they choose to elect President Trump for a second term with his proven track record of being incompetent and disruptive, unprincipled and intemperate. But Americans deserve better. They deserve reincarnation of the values of honesty and integrity, truth and justice, decency, dignity and honour in the high office of the hallowed majesty of American Presidency.
Abdul Hannan is a former diplomat.