We can’t know for sure who will win the US presidential election tomorrow. What we do we know is who needs to win more. Trump wants to win. The Democratic party fronted by Joe Biden needs to win if it is to bury its potentially criminal dirty tricks dating back to the 2016 campaign.
What happened in 2016 could in effect be the key to the outcome in 2020, which will not necessarily happen entirely at the ballot box.
As in 2016 when Trump the outsider unexpectedly defeated Hillary Clinton because she lost the Democratic firewall states in the Midwest, Trump again has the entire Washington establishment arrayed against him.
During his presidency, it emerged with glacial reluctance that the Democratic party, the FBI, the intelligence services and the media conspired to prevent Trump winning. Once he was installed in the White House, they tried to destroy him through impeachment.
Trump was the target of a co-ordinated administrative coup whose like had never been known in the United States. The government put its thumb on the scales in favour of one party’s candidate. Hillary’s victory was supposed to ensure that none of this would ever be known. Instead, it came to light, and the consequences of the failed coup are still unfinished business.
Some people lost their jobs, mostly at the FBI, but only one junior lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, has been charged, and he has negotiated a plea deal that minimises the extent of his wrongdoing. In contrast, some 40 people went to jail for their involvement in the Watergate break-in that brought Richard Nixon down.
If Biden wins the presidency, the odds are that most of the unfinished business will remain exactly that. Special prosecutor John Durham has conducted a criminal investigation since last year into the mechanics of the coup but will not report his findings until after the election.
With Democrats back in power, Durham will turn the results of his investigation over to Biden’s appointee as attorney general who will decide whether any action needs to be taken – or not. The Department of Justice has the power to decide which cases to pursue and which to ignore or to bury in endless investigations that can be strung out for years.
A large cast of 2016 senior players who were active at the FBI, the CIA and other intelligence agencies, some of whom lied to Congress under oath during various investigations, are relying on a Biden victory to save them from accountability that could include prison time.
Trump goes into this election as underdog despite a presidency that was a media and political roller-coaster studded with domestic and foreign policy successes until the Covid crisis upended American lives and set back the economy.
He caught the Washington establishment by surprise in 2016 despite the ‘insurance policy’ of false Russian collusion that was supposed to stop him winning and then prevent him having full freedom to govern should he actually reach the White House.
Americans have been primed to expect Biden to win with a poll lead of up to 14 per cent that will be hard to turn round despite the late-breaking scandal involving the Democratic nominee’s family and third quarter GDP returns that show a strong post-lockdown economic rebound.
A record turnout of the 250million electorate has been forecast but the election is not expected to be decided on election day. According to the US Elections Project run out of Florida University, 85million had already voted early either in person or by mail by October 30.
If the turnout only equals the 55 per cent of 2016, that means almost half of the voting electorate have already made their choice. The outcome depends on the counting of millions of postal votes and challenges to their validity by the hundreds of lawyers hired by both parties.
The court system across the country could be overwhelmed by the fight over which votes should be counted. In 2000, the Supreme Court finally handed victory to George W Bush in his battle with Al Gore but that fight involved only a few disputed counties in Florida.
In 2020, it can be guaranteed that if the result is tight, every vote in the firewall states will be fought over like the crown jewels.
What the 2016 election demonstrated is that US democracy is nowhere near as transparent as Americans like to think. Plots occur out of sight inside what is known as the Deep State or permanent government in Washington which Democrats dominate; what people never find out about hurts them without their knowing it. None of this is favourable to Trump.
Washington insiders naturally want Trump to lose so that they can resume power broking in the dark and business as usual, which means a return to the priorities and policies of Barack Obama. Trump is also opposed by corporate America which has bought into the social justice movement, Wall Street and the media. The Democrat forces ranged against him and in Biden’s favour are immense.
To them must be added the quasi-Democrat Republican poobahs in Washington – also known as Rinos or Republicans in name only – and the hard core of never-Trumpers who would rather have Joe on his last legs, if not Beelzebub himself, than Trump who has already accomplished all they want from him.
Trump can still win a second term if the polls are wrong because enough people lied about their voting intentions. If he loses, he can go home to New York knowing he mostly did what he promised to do and stuck his finger in the establishment’s eye for four years.
Democrats on the other hand cannot afford to lose and have spent four years proving what the forces at their disposal are capable of. They won’t want to be surprised again if they can help it.