The biggest thing in 2020? President Trump, of course

Will the 45th President of the United States be elected for a second term, or will he be ousted by impeachment? One is far more likely than the other

Donald Trump
President Trump will have a busy year in 2020

One way or another, President Trump is likely to be the single most important individual when it comes to global politics and markets. On the cusp of 2020 both supporters and detractors have got plenty to cheer for.

For the detractors there’s the recently initiated impeachment process, which seeks to remove the President from office legally, in a process which has been tried three times before, but which has never actually succeeded in the entire history of the United States.

For the supporters, equally, there’s President Trump’s likely acquittal by an overwhelmingly supportive Senate, and the inevitable subsequent claims of vindication.

Markets so far have shown very little interest in the minutiae of the impeachment process, calculating that the Senate majority renders the process academic from a technical and legal standpoint. The President will get off, so there’s no point adjusting portfolios at this stage.

What it does to the President’s overall levels of support in the US as the process proceeds will be more interesting. The polls currently show US public opinion roughly split down the middle as to the desirability of impeachment. The trial itself is unlikely really to present any new information. So it will all be in the presentation. And President Trump has, whether they like it or not, an extremely successful track record of beating the Democrats in this area.

Yes, there is widespread moral outrage at his behaviour. Prominent public figures like Jeff Daniels, who is currently starring on Broadway as that liberal paragon Atticus Finch, have proclaimed that it will be “the end of democracy” if President Trump is re-elected, apparently without irony.

But it’s also true that President Trump can leverage this outrage, can demonstrate that he is independent, his own man, and that he will not be swayed by anyone, not least by the opinions of coastal liberals.

So will he get re-elected? Well, he just might. His line of argument that the Democrats have been trying to impeach him since day one of his Presidency has some force – it does look like a vindictive attempt to unwind the result of the 2016 election.

That there are no Republicans at all supporting the impeachment process, and that a couple of Democrats are equivocating and one has even changed sides to become a Republican, speaks to how partisan this process really is. Although Nixon was never actually impeached, there was widespread acknowledgement that had he been, there would have been bipartisan support for the process.

Not so with President Trump. “Bring on the trial!” he trumpets. And his pugnacious approach might very well be vindicated. Look to the UK to see what happens when middle-class elites try to undo the outcome of a legitimate election, he says. And he has a point.

What’s more, the US economy is doing very well. A recent editorial by the noted economist Irwin Seltzer argued that this may not be the factor it once was, what with the increasing tribalism of US politics, and the bubble-type politics that social media has created.

But think about it this way: how much of a chance would President Trump have of re-election if the economy was in a bad way? The answer would be, not much. So it could be the crucial difference. The President constantly trumpets the low unemployment numbers for blacks and Hispanics – groups he’s supposed to despise – and correctly points out that under his watch markets are hitting new highs.

And he wants more, of course. It’s debatable how effective his attempts to browbeat the fed into a looser monetary policy have been, but just the fact that it’s debatable shows that he’s having a real impact.

And whatever else his detractors say, he really is no fool. Don’t be too surprised if the nuts and bolts of a major trade deal with China suddenly fall into place right in the run-up to the election. Such a move would show him as assured on the world stage, while the Democrats flounder around with an impeachment process that stands no hope of succeeding.

What’s more, it’s not clear yet who will stand against Mr Trump. But it could well be someone from the far left of the Democratic party, which would please the righteous mobs on Twitter, but which may well cede the key central ground back to the Republican party. That’s what happened in the UK. Don’t bet against it happening in America too.

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