Donald Trump may have established a dangerous precedent for modern democracy. He may have demonstrated that the more damage a leader does to a nation the more chance they have of being re-elected.
Trump lost the 2021 election to Joe Biden and the Democrats in the United States, but plans to run again in 2024 and could realistically win the next election simply because he inflicted so much damage on the nation while in office that no leader or party could fix it in just one term.
Americans expect Biden to fix many of Trump’s problems, and if he doesn’t, they may turn again to Trump.
Strategy or coincidence?
Was this Trump’s strategy from the beginning of his presidency? Did he and his advisors plan this as soon as he moved into the White House? It’s hard to imagine they did. It’s hard to imagine Trump had any plan apart from exploiting hatred and bigotry to maintain his power and protect the interests of his businesses and his allies.
It’s difficult to imagine Trump planned this failure because his reign was marked entirely by neglect; the neglect which created the myriad problems which Biden and his team must solve.
Joe Biden cannot repair all of the damage Trump created. There is simply not enough time in one presidential term, especially since the underlying cause was the deliberate division Trump weaponised in his campaign and his presidency. Trump utilised existing social polarisation fomented through social media and the Murdoch press to protect his power, and entrenched this polarisation in American society. That division might be a hallmark of US society forever.
Another primary feature of Trump’s reign was publicity. He utilised the Murdoch press, or Murdoch utilised him, to advance an agenda and to win support from the ignorant gullible and impressionable masses. When Biden nears the end of his term and hasn’t fixed all of the problems Trump created, Murdoch need only repeat the same tactics to mobilise a disgruntled sector of the population to turn against Biden and vote for Trump.
Ironically, many Trump supporters suffered under Trump. They ‘voted against their best interests’ as political experts like to call it. For example, many Trump supporters are lower middle – lower class workers, who forgot, or ignored, the fact that Trump and his allies are employers and leaders of corporations who stripped workers of their rights between 2017 and 2021.
During the 2024 election campaign, Murdoch will no doubt harness this anger and direct it towards Biden in order to convince workers that they should once again vote for Trump.
Biden and his team will improve some aspects of life in the United States, because it’s impossible to get any worse, but it’s also impossible to fix all of the problems Trump created.
A dangerous precedent
Trump’s reign was closely watched throughout the world. The United States is a world superpower after all. What did world leaders, political parties and potential world leaders learn?
Did they learn that damaging a country, while protecting the interests of the leader, the party and their donors, renders the opposition’s task so difficult that the opposition is bound to fail? Once the opposition has failed, Trump’s imitators can take back power.
World leaders may never have considered this as a deliberate tactic, but Trump has shown them that it could be successful.
Australia has suffered a similar fate. Recently deposed prime minister, Scott Morrison, was also known as Trump Lite and is widely regarded as the worst prime minister in the history of Australia – he was even widely despised by members of his own party.
Morrison did enormous damage to Australia. His four-year reign saw enormous damage inflicted upon areas such as the natural environment, education, Indigenous rights, women’s rights, disability services, health, aged-care services and many more.
Newly elected prime minister, Anthony Albanese of the Labor Party, has an enormous task to repair the damage Morrison and his colleagues created while in office. Many Australians, like their US counterparts, breathed a collective sigh of relief when the new party won office, but they also expect real change.
Australians expect to see improved policies and actions to fight climate change, and to lower the rising cost of living, return integrity to politics and to fix the enormous problems in education, aged-care, disability services, Indigenous communities and many other areas. The danger for Albanese and his party is that they may not have enough time to solve enough problems to win the trust of the Australian public. Remember, also, that voting is compulsory in Australia so many people must be kept happy in order for a politician or party to stay in office.
The dangerous precedent Trump set, and which people like Morrison copied, could create nations so damaged that no opposition party can sufficiently repair the damage before the next election.