As President Donald Trump is seemingly spiraling to impeachment, this study believes Trump could still get re-elected in 2020.
A study, authored by Professor of Political Science Dr. Douglas Kriner and Associate Professor of Law Dr. Francis Shen, argues that Trump could still win again in 2020 despite his approval ratings going flaccid in the wake of the Trump administration’s controversial foreign and domestic decisions as well as the highly-publicized FBI investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
As the Trump administration could be standing on thin ice amid the new revelations of Trump campaign’s links to the Russian government, the study published on the SSRN argues that the 45th U.S. President could still have an ace up his sleeve to clinch the 2020 presidential election.
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Analyzing Hillary Clinton’s mistakes and Trump’s electoral gains along their path to presidency in 2016, Dr. Kriner and Dr. Shen argue that it were Trump’s approach to U.S. waging war overseas and his sensitive approach to the human costs of war that helped him win the election last year.
Last week, a Rasmussen Reports survey revealed that Trump’s approval rating was nearing its all-time low and was standing at only 44%, while 54% respondents disapproved the Commander-in-Chief’s work as U.S. President.
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As the Trump administration is seemingly grasping for any string of hope to walk away from the controversy surrounding Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election, the study argues that Trump’s electoral fate in 2020 may rest on his “approach to the human costs of war.”
The study, which has found that Trump managed to rally the support of Americans thanks to his decisive stance on the U.S. defense policies, argues that the 45th could still claw his way back to being the most popular U.S. politician in 2020 by remaining highly sensitive to U.S. combat casualties.
While such a scenario may seem highly implausible for most Americans now, the study names President Donald Trump as the only politician who did not overlook the inequality of military sacrifice last year.
Nearly 7,000 U.S. service members were killed in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq between October 2011 and July 2016. While most Americans were mostly very supportive of the previous administrations’ decisions to send U.S. soldiers to die in the Middle East, their support for American military operations eventually plummeted as the casualty rate rose.
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The study has found a strong connection between communities that suffered the highest casualty rates and their support for President Donald Trump in 2016. Given Trump’s “simultaneously more muscular and more restrained” defense policies, Americans saw voting for the Republican candidate, who had had no political experience prior to his election last year, as their “opportunity to express that anger at both political parties,” the study argues.
While many post-election analysis named Clinton’s poor messaging, the email scandal and her inability to emotionally connect with American electorate as the catalysts to her surprise election loss in 2016, those analysis seem to overlook the possibility that inequalities in wartime sacrifice might have tipped the election.
The study insists that the majority of America got “tired” of politicians “ignoring this disproportionate burden” that is fighting and dying for the nation’s security overseas. Dr. Kriner and Dr. Shen also argue that Americans should have seen Trump’s victory coming, as it was not the first that communities hit the hardest by combat casualties have punished the ruling party at the polls. There is a historic precedent to it, as in the Civil War, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq, the ruling party had always been punished by those communities.
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Despite 43rd President George W. Bush securing re-election in 2004, he kept losing electorate support in states and communities that had seen the highest numbers of coffins of dead American soldiers returning home. Less than two years later, the Bush administration got punished for the ever-increasing casualty rate in Iraq by electorate voters in 2006’s midterm election, where Democrats secured a majority in both chambers of Congress for the first time since the 1994 Republican Revolution.
As panic gripped America over the deadly war in the Middle East, by 2008, electorate voters made up their mind about their next president and got Democrat Barack Obama to power. Many analysts name Obama and his opponent Republican John McCain’s completely opposite views on the Iraq War as one of key factors that helped Obama win the support of 52.9% Americans.
Obama had been a vocal critic of war in the Middle East and vowed to put an end to the deadly conflict, while his opponent McCain had been vehemently pushing the U.S. to stay involved in the Middle East conflicts until victory.
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But in 2016, Trump adopted a previously unseen approach to whipping up electoral votes, and channeled America’s boiling anger toward many issues, including U.S. defense policies. Trump emotionally connected to the part of America that could not stand the mere thought of war in the Middle East anymore and wanted no part of it.
The study found “a significant and meaningful relationship between a community’s rate of military sacrifice and its support for Trump.” In their study, Dr. Kriner and Dr. Shen insist that if three states Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin – all of which played a crucial role in getting President Donald Trump elected in 2016 – had suffered “even a modestly lower casualty rate,” they could have voted for Clinton and not even consider voting for the Republican candidate. The three states had been pro-Democrat since the ‘90s.
Trump’s Hawkish Approach
President Donald Trump’s volcanic speeches about U.S. military and America’s involvement in military conflicts overseas appealed to states and communities that had been angry at previous administrations for those exhaustive fifteen years of deadly wars that have left nearly 7,000 American service members dead.
At the very center of Trump’s message “Make America Great Again” were his nationalist views on the U.S. military. During his presidential campaign, the then-presidential hopeful took a swipe at his predecessor Obama for its passive approach to eliminating ISIS from the Middle East and even vowed to “bomb the hell out of ISIS.”
But the Republican candidate did not stop there and went on to promise to boost U.S. military spending and even repeatedly boasted plans to increase manpower and weapons in the U.S. military.
Trump’s War Sensitive Approach
While such a hawkish stance on the U.S. defense policies should have made him lose the 2016 election – as the study seems to point out – Trump’s defense-related speeches were more complicated than that.
Trump stepped forward to openly criticize the Republican President who sent U.S. troops to the Iraq War, and said during a nationally televised debate that the Bush administration may have lied to Americans about the weapons of mass destructions simply to justify its decision to wage war in the Middle East.
Trump appealed to electoral voters in states and communities that had carried the heaviest share of the war burden in casualties by telling them he would keep the U.S. out of wars overseas. As Syria became one of the debate topics for Clinton and Trump, American voters seemed to like the Republican candidate’s idea of keeping the U.S. out of the costly foreign war and allowing Russia to take care of the conflict.
Trump was one of few American politicians who spoke publically about the true cost of the Iraq War for the U.S. “We spent $2 trillion in Iraq, $2 trillion. We lost thousands of lives, thousands in Iraq. We have wounded soldiers, who I love, I love – they’re great – all over the place, thousands and thousands of wounded soldiers,” said Trump when announcing his presidential bid in June 2015.
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The findings of the study serve as not only a post-election analysis of how President Donald Trump secured election last year, but also as a signal to Democrats that Trump’s electoral fate in 2020 may depend on the Republican President’s approach to the U.S. military and the human costs of war overseas.
Although courts continue to strike down some of Trump’s most controversial executive orders, there is something that drew bi-partisan support for this administration. Dropping the “mother of all bombs” in Afghanistan drew both criticism and praises from Americans, but America needs to see more actions by this administration to make up their mind whether or not they could re-elect the Republican candidate in 2020.
Those chances seem vague at this point, judging by Trump’s not-so-high approval rating, but it is Trump’s approach to the human costs of war that could drew support of Americans again.