By Regina Chung
The author is a retired businesswoman.
A rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump is becoming increasingly likely. Trump’s expected sweeping victory in the Iowa caucuses, which kicked off the Republican presidential nominating contest on January 15, made a rematch even more likely.
Not many voters want a rematch between Biden and Trump. Nevertheless, Democrats and Republicans have been sketching out a matchup between the two. This is a result of the two parties’ evolution over the past decade and the unusual gridlock between them.
When Trump first ran for office in 2015, he focused on white working-class voters and emphasized race and immigration issues. His populist policies were gradually absorbed by the Republican Party in the form of a culture war. Trump framed his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, as “the most loathsome elite who despises working people.” He won using this strategy. This strategy played an important role in expanding Republican support among working people and absorbing white votes in the Midwest, and in the 2020 election, it was particularly powerful in garnering support from Hispanic workers.
Since the election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, the Democratic Party has been a progressive party, with the implementation of legislation such as Social Security and unemployment benefits. Biden ran on a centrist line in the 2020 presidential campaign, promising progressive but pragmatic policies. After winning the nomination, he formed six “unity task forces” to integrate his campaign policies with the progressive wing of the party. The resulting unified platform has become the basis for Democratic Party policy and influences personnel and final policy decisions under Biden.
Trump has remained the most popular presidential candidate in the Republican Party over the past three years, despite his negative reputation stemming from the January 6 U.S. Capitol Attack. He has been accused of or charged with 91 different offenses, which will likely continue to bounce back and forth between his campaign trail and the courts this year. However, since Trump’s rise to prominence in April of last year, the Republican Party has reframed the Capitol riots and aligned around him.
Trump’s first campaign activity after announcing his presidential bid in November 2022 was keeping tabs on Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis, and he saw the support of federal lawmakers elected in the midterms as evidence of his successful comeback. In particular, he focused on winning the support of lawmakers in South Carolina and Florida. Trump believes that the word “support” is not strong enough and demands that the word “endorsement” be used to describe his endorsements. His means of gaining the support of lawmakers is to create fear when favors are not forthcoming.
Trump’s goal is to win the nomination in March, before the judicial risk is in full swing. His campaign team is said to be more structured and well-organized than in the past. The team’s first targets were the delegates to the Republican National Committee meeting in Southern California in January 2023, which resulted in the state’s Republican Party changing its rules so that the candidate who wins a majority of the total vote gets all 169 delegates. This was a major victory for the Trump team.
Over the past three years, 1,300 Capitol Hill rioters have been indicted, and 750 of them have been sentenced to prison. But Trump is still continuing to claim the election results were fraudulent and demanding immunity. He warns of potential upheaval if he loses due to criminal charges. The rest of the world fears that Trump’s election will lead to chaos and the collapse of democracy, but his supporters and the Republican Party don’t care.
Populism is based on a zero-sum mentality, and historically, populists have fomented racial prejudice. Trump, who excels at exploiting voter fears, tells his supporters, “They’re out to destroy you. We could be ‘them.'”
Experts believe Trump’s comeback hinges on his ability to delay his trial and avoid a conviction before the November election.