The race to win - GulfToday

The race to win

Michael Jansen

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Ginsburg 1

Fighting pancreatic cancer Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 87, had clung to life for months in order to foil Donald Trump’s plan to appoint a conservative judge to succeed her.

The death of iconic, liberal US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has heightened tensions in an already tense presidential and Congressional election campaign. Fighting pancreatic cancer Ginsburg, 87, had clung to life for months in order to foil Donald Trump’s plan to appoint a conservative judge to succeed her. His aim is to pack the court and undo progressive legislation adopted in recent decades. On her deathbed, Ginsburg said, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” Trump instantly denied this wish.

Since the Republicans have 53 senators out of 100 and only 51 votes are needed to confirm Trump’s nominee, they can make the appointment if such a slender majority of Republican senators vote in favour. Since Supreme Court justices are appointed for life, this could give the Republicans control of the highest judicial body in the land for decades.

Until Ginsburg’s death the court was divided between five conservatives and four liberals but Chief Justice John Roberts sought to create balance between the two sides on key issues. With a two judge majority, the conservatives will be able first and foremost to break a possible tie in the presidential vote by proclaiming Trump the winner. This is how Supreme Court enabled disastrous Republican George W. Bush (of the 2003 US war on Iraq) to defeat Democrat Al Gore in 2000.

The Court could also grant enhanced rights to gun owners, interfere with minority voters’ rights, block abortion rights, and deny immigrants fundamental rights and protections. Women and minorities could suffer.

In constant campaign mode, Trump promptly told a rally that he would appoint a woman. This would be a second for Republicans who have generally proposed conservative males.  In 1993 during the rare days of bipartisanship, both parties voted in favour of Ginsburg when she was nominated by President Bill Clinton. An avid consumer of opinion polls, Trump has learned that 53 per cent of women say more women should be in office as compared with 37 per cent of men.

Trump’s immediate partisan objective is to reclaim the votes of largely White women who have been angered and alienated by his words and antics during his first term in office. Many voted for him in the belief that the presidency would provide him with maturity, gravity and good judgement but have been brutally disappointed.

In 2016, 53 per cent of White women voters cast ballots for Trump rather than Democrat Hillary Clinton, the first woman nominated for the presidency by a major US political party. During that election 55 per cent of White women voted for Republican candidates, 43 per cent for Democrats.

As could be expected in 2016 and 2018, Black and Hispanic women — who were both ignored and insulted by Trump — voted overwhelmingly in favour of Democratic candidates. Their votes, however, could not turn the tide against Trump as Whites remain the majority in the population.

In 2018, White college-educated women swung away from Trump, with 59 per cent voting for Democratic candidates in comparison with 49 per cent in 2016.  

This seems to have set a trend. Polls suggest that White women without university degrees are moving toward Trump’s rival Democrat Joe Biden. Senior White women and men, who chose Trump in 2016, have shifted as well.

There are several reasons for this change in the electoral landscape as far as White women are concerned. In 2018, 39 per cent of women had a favourable view of Trump’s job performance as compared with 50 per cent of men. Irritated by Trump’s brash, bullying behaviour which has attracted many men, many women have focused on his performance on key issues.

The emergence of the “Me-Too” movement against sexual harassment of women may have made women reconsider Trump, a man who has married three times, cheated on all his wives, and treated women with contempt rather than respect.

Women have not been convinced by Trump’s attempt to promote himself as the “law and order” candidate to frighten Whites into voting for him following Black Lives Matter protests.

David Graham writing in the Atlantic on June 30 quoted Ashley Jardina, a political scientist who studies racial attitudes among Whites, suspects that people who are stuck at home due to the pandemic are “consuming more news and changing their views on race.”

“There has long been a constituency of white Americans who are fairly educated, many of them college educated, disproportionately women, who have been largely unaware of the extent to which people of colour in the US Experience real discrimination,” she said. “The news has their attention.”

The views of hard-core Trump loyalists, especially non-college-educated White men — are unlikely to be changed by the news. This explains why Trump’s approval rating remains in the 30s.

Trump’s assault on Obama-era health care, his failure to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, and prevent economic melt-down have taken a toll on his electability with White women and seniors who voted for him in 2016. Seniors determined his victories in key states like Florida, Michigan, and Wisconsin and enabled him to win in the Electoral College although Hillary Clinton garnered nearly three million more votes than he won.

However, Trump and the Republicans hope for a boost ahead of the Nov.3 election if he promptly fills Ginsburg’s chair on the Supreme Court with a conservative woman who will hew to the agenda of the conservative majority. Such an appointment would appeal to White evangelical Christians and Catholics who may have been swayed, at least temporarily, to cast ballots for moderate Democrat Biden, a Catholic churchgoer who is seen — in contrast with Trump — as a devoted family man, an experienced politician and legislator, and someone to end the turmoil and uncertainty of four long years of Trump in the White House and as a constant irritating presence in the news.


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