U.S. Presidential Election: Candidates, Voters Should Not Be Swayed by Trump

Former U.S. President Donald Trump has treated with disdain the rule of law and elections, which are pillars of democracy, and has now been indicted in four cases. Yet he is becoming the leading player in the upcoming U.S. presidential election. This is a grave situation.

Trump is leading the race for the opposition Republican Party’s nomination for the presidential election next November. In the latest poll, he garnered the approval of 53% of Republican supporters, ahead of the other candidates by more than 30 percentage points.

Trump, who lost the 2020 presidential election, has not conceded that race, claiming there was fraud in the election. He was charged on Aug. 14 with violating state law for allegedly attempting to overturn the election results by pressuring Georgia’s secretary of state and others at the time of the race.

This is the fourth time that Trump has been indicted, following allegations of a hush-money payment to a woman with whom he had an affair, the retention of classified government documents after he left office, and the storming of the U.S. Capitol.

Nevertheless, his approval rating is still high, probably because Trump’s claims that the indictments are “political persecution” by U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration have deeply penetrated among Republican supporters.

The first debate among the key Republican candidates was held on Wednesday, but Trump skipped it and claimed that the public knows what a successful president he was. It may be that deep down he did not want to be grilled by the moderators with tough questions over his indictments.

It is troubling that many of the eight candidates who participated in the debate tried to avoid direct criticism of Trump. It appeared that they did not want to antagonize his strong support base.

Asked whether they would still back Trump as the party’s nominee even if he has been convicted, the majority of the candidates said they would. Some candidates who expressed objections were reportedly booed by the audience.

Debates among presidential candidates serve as an opportunity for each candidate to present their policies in such areas as diplomacy, national security, the economy and social security, and thus help the public deepen their understanding. The current situation, in which the candidates seem to be vying for the attention of Trump’s supporters, is extremely problematic.

Democratic Party member Biden, who is seeking reelection, will probably find it difficult to gain broad public support if he merely incites hostility toward Trump.

Amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s continued coercive activities, the United States has the heavy responsibility of maintaining the stability of the international order. It is essential to repair the deterioration in U.S. politics that was exposed in the previous presidential election and regain the trust of other countries as a leader of democracy.

Each candidate and the voters should be keenly aware of this point and engage in a meaningful debate for the presidential election.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 28, 2023)