7 Sep 2020

Trumpocalypse: David Frum

From Nine To Noon, 10:07 am on 7 September 2020

The Donald Trump presidency will likely end in November, according to life-long Republican David Frum

Frum is a former speechwriter and special assistant to President George W. Bush and the author of Trumpocracy, published in 2018,

US President Donald Trump speaks to the media before departing for Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Photo: AFP

His new book is Trumpocalypse: Restoring American Democracy.

The New York Times calls it "the smartest book written from the inside about the American conservative movement."

Frum says the Trump presidency has been the “most corrupt presidency in US history”.

“And it’s really hard to think what the runner-up would be.

“It is also a presidency that has trampled a series of crucial democratic norms, and crucial understandings of America’s place in the world – relationships with allies, commitment to free trade - and it has ended or is coming to an end amid this terrible pandemic and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.”

Trump is the most unpopular first-term president in US history, he told Nine to Noon.

“There has never been a day since he became president when in any reputable poll he ever cleared 50 percent approval.”

Nevertheless, the peculiarities of America’s electoral system could allow Trump to win a second term, he says.

“America has the least representative voting system of any advanced democracy and so it’s possible, in no other country on Earth if you were 52/45, with 52 on the other side, would you expect to win, but in the United States it is possible.”

Frum says black voter turnout is the key to the outcome of November’s election.

This low turnout allowed Trump to win in swing states such as Michigan in 2016.

“Black turnout declined across the States in 2016 and declined in the Mid-West more than any other part of the country and declined in Michigan more than any other state in the Mid-West, a 12 points of decline.”

If black voter turnout returns to 2012 levels, Trump won’t win, he says.

Another key demographic is women.

“When more careful work was done a year after the election, Donald Trump did win the vote of white women, but he did not win the vote of college-educated white women.

“And the story of American politics over the last four years has been this massive movement of some of the more conservative women in American life away from Donald Trump.”

This was borne out in the 2018 congressional elections, Frum says.

“District after district would swing to the Democrats, to moderate democrats and to female Democrats away from Republicans on an anti-Trump message.”

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Photo: supplied

Some bolted-on Republican districts went Democrat during the congressional elections for the first time in decades, he says.

American politics has become increasing polarised, a phenomenon Trump sees more as an opportunity than a problem, Frum says.

“Uniquely, unlike any national politician before, Donald Trump has seen chaos, strife and political violence not as a political problem but as a political resource for him - and he stokes it.”

Stoking the divisions that currently bedevil the US is quite deliberate, he says.

“His plan for re-election depends on stoking chaos and violence, and in a country with more guns than people if you stoke chaos you’re going to get chaos.”

Frum says it is close to impossible for Trump to win the majority of the popular vote in November.

“It’s almost certain that Joe Biden will win more votes than Donald Trump and probably many more votes than Hillary Clinton won.”

Trump lost the popular vote in the last election by 2.5 million votes that could stretch to 4 million votes this time, he says.

“And yet, it is technically possible for him to remain president, win the electoral college, despite losing by 4 million votes, he will then have lost twice a democratic contest.

“And I don’t think this country will easily stand for that, I worry about the political stability of the United States.”

There are lessons to be learned by Republicans from the Trump presidency, he says.

“They need to learn, you know what you tried to take something that you shouldn’t have taken and you got caught and you got punished.”

The possibility of minority rule is baked into the American system, Frum says.

“We have a system that always had the potential for minority rule and now that is how the country is being governed.

“The Republicans have understood that their program is not popular and rather than change their program to be more popular, they have said right we have to figure out ways to govern despite and against the majority of the country.”

He hopes a Democratic win in November will lead to political regeneration.

“We need two parties different in their policy, but both committed to the democratic process and right now we don’t have that, we have a party in the Republican Party that is willing to compromise the democratic process. They need to learn, we need to learn, that didn’t work.”

The Republican Party must return to its core centre right beliefs, he says.

“It’s not going to be an available option to shrink the electorate to stop people from voting, people are going to vote.

“So, think about things that are consistent with your political point of view, your centre right pro- business point of view that people are going to like and advocate those things.”

A competition of ideas is healthy, he says.

“Go and compete but don’t try and corrupt the game and please no more of these would be dictators.”