My worse fear has been realised: the 2020 presidential race is upon us.
Like many readers, I’m not ready to re-board the political and emotional rollercoaster of 2016. But I cannot deny reality anymore: 2020 is in full-swing.
Donald Trump has altered the tone and standards of debate in US politics. Many of his supporters applaud the changes as “honest”, “direct”, and “telling it like it is”.
I don’t see it this way. His crass form of communication and low-brow insults are already being embraced by his competition – a few weeks ago, the Minnesota senator and Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar responded to Trump’s tweet about climate change by asking how his “hair would fare in a blizzard”.
If we continue at this pace, the Commission on Presidential Debates might as well supply water balloons and silly string. We can determine our voting preference by who survives the literal pile-on for 90 minutes straight.
But it’s not just the mud-slinging that Trump has legitimised. He has a nasty habit of making promises he can’t keep, and promoting questionable policy in the process.
Take his pledge to tackle America’s “trade deficit”, which has actually grown under this President by over $100bn. It would be near-impossible to “fix” what is in reality a non-issue without cutting off Americans’ access to cheaper goods from abroad.
Or take Trump’s favourite false god: his border wall. This promise was never financially or industrially realistic. But he pushed it during the election, and continues to push for it now – so hard, in fact, that he may try to circumvent Congress to get the funding.
Worryingly, the democratic frontrunners seem to have adopted Trump’s method of championing radical policy proposals that are either impossible to implement or dangerous to try.
There’s Californian senator Kamala Harris, who has tweeted out her support for state-wide rent controls – a housing policy that virtually no economist will endorse, because history has consistently shown that it lowers the standards of rental accommodation and keeps new renters out of the market.
Other leading hopefuls – including Bernie Sanders from Vermont and New York’s Kirstin Gillibrand – have embraced Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal. This “deal” would require obscene tax hikes and borrowing, while undermining industry, reducing easy access to air travel, and cutting off imports from the rest of the world.
Meanwhile, Sanders continues to lead the charge for universal healthcare through a single-payer system – like the type seen here in the UK, which hit an 11-year low in satisfaction polling this week.
While the US healthcare system is in desperate need of a shake-up and millions remain uninsured, Sanders has not been forthcoming about the quality of care under his preferred system, let alone the cost of it.
The Democratic party has allowed itself to be pulled to the left. It will be up to its primary voters to decide on a direction for the presidential race: pragmatic or radical.
But the ghosts of 2016 have not been laid to rest. Brazen, half-concocted, financially irresponsible policies are not being held to account like they once were – and we can anticipate a queue of politicians lining up to put them forward.