OPINION: How the George Floyd movement plays into the US elections
As one of the earliest organisations in China to conduct continuous tracking studies on the 2020 US election, ANBOUND had previously published its findings to the world through various means from time to time. Back then, our overall findings showed that Trump administration’s policies are unnecessarily hindering his odds of being re-elected. Meanwhile, Joe Biden who has unified the different factions within the Democratic Party shows a more favourable outcome. However, the George Floyd incident has visibly impacted the prospects of U.S. elections and ANBOUND’s international relations researchers believe that the following points demand the attention of all concerned analysts:
First of all, the Trump administration has once again demonstrated a populist leader’s incompetency in responding to the killing of George Floyd. While these poor responses were already present during the administration’s attempts in handling the Covid-19 pandemic, the Trump administration had deflected the people's blame towards him by faulting China and the World Health Organisation.
With the George Floyd incident, however, the blame game no longer works. More importantly, due to his inability to govern the country successfully and the need to satisfy his primary group of voters, Trump has landed himself on the short end of the protesting crowd. For the past two weeks, Trump could have maintained a neutral stance while delivering a speech, like any experienced politician would concerning the incident. He could temporarily give in to the public opinions to prevent further mishaps, even garner himself some black voters from Biden’s group of supporters by doing so. Instead, Trump nearly made the situation worse by accusing the governors of being “jerks“, by setting up a heavy wrought-iron fence along with the White House, and cowardly hid away from the protesters while dispersing peaceful demonstrators through violent means.
All these caused the incident to intensify even more and become harder to resolve. Therefore, Trump is going to lose the black voters in the 2020 election, something that even the White House is acutely aware of. On June 8, a White House spokesperson expressed that the president was shocked by the incident and would introduce relevant measures to solve the problem of racial discrimination in the country, though it was a little too late. In a way, this speaks of the pressure the White House is facing.
Second, the Trump administration's response has further triggered a split within the Republican Party. Similarly on June 8, Colin Powell, perhaps one of the most famous Republicans in the past two decades, who was also once known as a typical "American Dream" success story, publicly expressed his support for Biden. As the first African-American in American history to serve as the Secretary of State, and also the first to hold key positions in several Republican governments, Powell's public support for Biden has no doubt showed things have shifted. He accused Trump of being a liar and a threat to American democracy. Aside from Powell, Trump’s two senior government officials. former Secretary of Defense James Mattis and former White House chief of staff John Kelly expressed similar views too. John Bolton, who failed to appear in the impeachment deposition, also publicly stated recently that regardless the White House allows it or not, he will publish his new book in June (which may contain direct evidence sufficient to convict Trump on the Russian Gate issue).
Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers who had strongly supported Trump in the past no longer comment as much in interviews with the media. On top of that, several Republican candidates have already lost the election due to their close ties with Trump. With the populist trend since the "Tea Party Movement", Trump has transformed the old Republican Party that advocated elitism in the past into the "Trump Party". Yet, the pro-establishment faction in the Republican Party remains defiant, and their resistance may further hinder Trump from achieving his re-election goals. From another perspective, however, this crisis may just be the "last straw" to crush the Republican Party. For the Republican Party, if the situation deteriorates further, it will have to face the dilemma of choosing to fight alongside Trump and sink, or completely give up the 2020 presidential election but preserve its influence over the next few years.
Third, Biden has benefitted from the George Floyd incident. The consensus on Biden is that he heavily stresses on stability, and can sometimes come off dull because of that. But his view isn’t far-fetched, seeing that during the impeachment case, the most striking figures of the Democratic Party were undoubtedly members of Congress like Nancy Pelosi or Adam Schiff. As a matter of fact, during the Covid-19 outbreak, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo became Democratic Party’s national spokesperson. For Biden, he capitalised on the incident, after realising the political power the protest demonstrations hold. While Trump was hiding away in the White House, Biden appeared amongst the protesters and made hay while the sun shone, by putting himself out there with the black voters. It was reported that Biden had also intended to attend Floyd's funeral in Houston. However, since Floyd’s family did not want Secret Service personnel showing up on the premise, Biden appeared on video instead.
According to the latest polls, Biden's national support rate has reached 55%, leading Trump by 14%. In comparison, Hillary Clinton's national poll in 2016 had never exceeded 50%. Additionally, 88% of black people did not support Trump, with 84% believing that the recent protests were "justified". Meanwhile, 65% disagreed with the Trump administration's response. All things considered, it wasn’t surprising to see Trump's support fall to 38%. As a whole, while people might find Biden’s campaign strategy somewhat conventional and boring, Biden has nonetheless proved that he is still a very much experienced politician. If Biden finally wins the election in 2020, then his series of operations in the "George Floyd incident" will become one of the key factors that contributed to his election.
Fourth, the impact of George Floyd’s incident on the 2020 U.S. election isn’t over. Presently, the protests are still continuing and they are getting larger, in fact, there is also fewer violent incidences taking place. What more, the protests have gone global. Similar protests, mostly peaceful ones, have sprouted in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Japan, France, Spain, Poland and even Kenya. In the United States, more people are beginning to realise the systemic problems behind the George Floyd incident, that is the reform in the US judicial system and the systematic racial discrimination in the U.S. law enforcement team. In other words, the incident is heading in the direction of "anti-war protests" from the 1960s. The entire movement has yet to peak, and it may even continue until this year's general elections take place. And this time around, this particular social movement will have a lasting impact on the entire American political arena and society.
To sum up the impact of the George Floyd incident on US election, ANBOUND believes Trump’s odds in the election is becoming more unfavourable. The President himself seems to be betting his hopes on what he calls a "silent majority." While ANBOUND's observation shows that such groups do exist, their population within the American society is questioned, as with their extent of overlapping with Trump's primary group of voters.
For Trump, the answer to that doesn’t seem favourable either. ANBOUND has always believed that the centrists, or that lack a clear political stance will directly affect the outcome of the 2020 US Both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party have their group of dedicated supporters, it is the political stance of the centrists that will be swayed following the social movements and it will determine how the political game pans out. Now, the only thing that Trump can fall back on is "economic factor". And again, a normal economic rebound is not something the Democratic Party will simply allow Trump to claim credit for.
Founder of Anbound Think Tank in 1993, Chan Kung is now ANBOUND Chief Researcher. Chan Kung is one of China’s renowned experts in information analysis. Mr. Yu Pan serves as the associate research fellow and the research assistant of Mr. Chen Gong, Founder, Chairman, and the Chief Researcher of ANBOUND.