Rabat – Donald Trump and Joe Biden went head-to-head in a chaotic debate that uncovered Trump’s devious and potentially effective strategy.
Americans were mostly left exasperated after last night’s debate. The event felt like a shouting match at times as US President Donald Trump repeatedly interrupted his challenger. The event was filled with eye-opening remarks that sent Twitter abuzz, but behind it all there appeared to be a method to Trump’s madness.
Following the debate, Democratic commentators and potential voters took to social media to denounce the new batch of racist and divisive remarks made by the president, namely his refusal to guarantee a potential peaceful transfer of power, his unwillingness to disavow racist groups, and his attacks on Biden’s son.
But in between these remarks, which Trump knows will grab headlines, was a more subtle approach that could significantly impact the elections. The debate left potential voters disgusted with the state of politics and reopened old wounds of Democratic divisions.
Reopening old wounds
In between the shouting and insults, Trump managed to get Biden to oppose the majority of his Democratic base on several issues.
Trump managed to get Biden to come out strong against universal healthcare amid a health crisis. He pushed Biden to take the side of police officers when discussing race relations. And he highlighted the Democratic machinations that took place for Biden to win the primaries.
“If Pocahontas would have left two days early you would have lost every primary,” Trump said, referring to Senator Elizabeth Warren.
While Twitter raged about the racist term used to ridicule Warren’s pride in her Native American ancestry, Trump had effectively highlighted the divisions in the Democratic base. Trump implied that Biden would have lost the primaries if all other centrist candidates had not dropped out while Elizabeth Warren remained to split the leftist vote.
Trump decided to poke at Democratic divisions further by repeatedly raising the Green New Deal, an anti-climate change proposal popular among the left. Biden had to repeatedly state he did not support the plan, prodded by Trump and moderator Chris Wallace. Biden confused his plan with the Green New Deal at one point, which Wallace pointed out with a follow-up question.
Demotivated and disgusted
Across US media, commentators questioned what the point of the debate was: Which voter would switch sides, and what centrist could possibly be swayed at this point in the election? Yet Trump appears to understand that, like in 2016, debates are great opportunities to motivate his base, and demotivate his opponent’s supporters.
If Donald Trump’s strategy manages to depress Democratic turnout by only a few percentage points, he could again win the presidential election, just as he did in 2016.
Last night’s debate was not about convincing the increasingly small group of centrist voters, it was not to convince undecided voters. Biden appeared to appeal to this mythical group of voters that informed much of the political campaigning during his life. Trump appears to understand that elections are won through energy and momentum, or a lack thereof on the Democratic side.
While both candidates are unlikely to have attracted new voters the debate will have left many demotivated. Black Lives Matter protesters saw a Democratic candidate sticking up for the police. Climate change activists saw the outright refusal of Biden to support green programs. Impoverished Americans saw a Democratic candidate unwilling to promote systemic change.
Twitter provided a picture of the exasperation of US voters following the debate. Trump was once again revealed to be a racist and a threat to a peaceful transfer of power. But amid it all, Trump’s strategy will have many on the left exasperated and demotivated. As long as the left is asked to vote against Trump with little to vote for, Trump will see an opening for another upset.
While Biden had most of the facts on his side, Trump understands and channels the energy of his base to a much greater extent. “He just lost the left,” Trump said as Biden spoke on centrist healthcare and climate change proposals. If that is only slightly true, Biden could be in trouble on November 3.