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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: The failure of U.S. politics

by John Brummett | May 10, 2023 at 3:40 a.m.

A new poll finds substantial support for sending Donald Trump both to the White House and the criminal-defense table and that Joe Biden has lost the only advantage he ever had, which was that he wasn't Trump.

Confronted with a choice for president between a man they perceive as a crook and one they perceive as declining in mental competence--neither of whom they want--voters in this poll lean to the crook.

But it's not quite accurate to say--yet--that the poll indicates that voters would prefer Trump as president if he were convicted of the crimes alleged against him and for which the voters favor prosecution. So, we can't say for certain that American voters would choose to cordon off a section of the Oval Office for a jail cell if that would spare them four more years of President Biden, until age 86.

Conceivably Trump would lose a few poll points upon conviction of a real charge instead of the 34 misdemeanors a Democratic prosecutor in Manhattan has fueled Trump's candidacy by filing ridiculously.

This survey for ABC and The Washington Post reveals the failure of American politics. There can be no other conclusion.

One party seems primed to offer for president a man trusted by only 41 percent of the people, mainly because the rest think he's old and mentally failing and a president of little accomplishment. The other party seems primed to nominate a man trusted by only 33 percent of the people because the rest think he is an ethical and decency wasteland.

Those willing to respond to a poll asking them to make that dreadful choice--and presumably representative of the electorate as a sample--seem by a plurality to be holding their noses as they choose the utter ethical and decency wasteland.

Those polled say that, if the election were held today between Biden of 41 percent trust and Trump of 33 percent trust, they'd go with Trump by 44-38.

Trump is getting support because voters think by 54 percent to 36 percent that he handled the economy better than Biden; by 54-32 that he is mentally sharper than Biden, and by 64-33 that he is in better physical health.

So, while Biden got elected in 2020 solely because he wasn't Trump, it appears Trump stands a chance of getting elected in 2024 solely because he isn't Biden.

And the Democrats can't seem to produce a better candidate than Biden while the Republicans can't seem to produce a better one than Trump.

If that's not the utter failure of American politics, then I don't know what would be.

The poll finds that 77 percent of "Democratic-leaning independents" wish the Democrats could give them something better than Biden. "Democrat-leaning independents" could also be called "decisive swing voters." The poll also shows Trump leading Biden among suburban voters, a precise reversal of a key factor in Biden's win in 2020.

The announced Republican alternative to Trump who seems the most adult--and I give that nod with possible provincial bias to our own Asa Hutchinson--polls at 1 percent in this survey. The poll didn't even bother polling Democratic alternatives to Biden, probably because the pollster couldn't think of any.

Biden bested a weak Democratic field in 2020 only after South Carolina's Jim Clyburn gave him a timely endorsement, galvanizing Black vote. Clyburn now stands accused of working with Republicans during redistricting to weaken Black voting strength statewide in South Carolina to shore up his own district in service to his own re-election.

Biden also got a Democratic boost in 2020 from timely endorsements from two withdrawing challengers who'd just routed him in New Hampshire--Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar. But draft-Klobuchar and draft-Buttigieg movements seem to lack a winning ring.

Kamala Harris? Even with the untrusted, competency-questioned Biden to run against, Republicans are running against her on the basis that the prospect that she might become president makes Biden's age an even greater concern.

Bernie Sanders? He's actually older than Biden. But he could run as older than Biden but not declining because he's always been this way.

John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at [email protected] Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

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