President Donald J. Trump attends a tax reform for energy workers event at Andeavor Refinery in Mandan, North Dakota, Sept. 2017. (Official White House photo by D. Myles Cullen)

Trump Starts Offensive for 2020 Reelection


FEBRUARY 27, 2020

As the world turns and focuses on the seemingly unending spread of the novel coronavirus, Donald Trump has aggressively restarted his offensive for the 2020 United States presidential campaign.

What the world doesn't realize is this 2020 US election could be a powder keg that could potentially change the landscape of not only US politics but also globally, including Indonesia and could have potential ramifications more significant than Brexit.


For Indonesia, another Trump win will keep Indonesia on its toes as regards to the US-China trade war.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has a growing trade with the Chinese, however, Indonesia still needs US defense assistance to keep the Chinese at bay in the continuing territorial dispute in North Natuna Sea, or as China prefers to call it, the South China Sea.

Just last month, after Jokowi's call to Xi Jinping, the Chinese retreated its fleet from Natuna after a one-month standoff.

Another thing to note is that the Indonesian Army's special forces unit, Kopassus, recently completed a training regimen in North Carolina for the first time since 2005.

Not only that, Trump Jr. last year visited Indonesia to tout prospective large scale tourist sites to be developed in partnership with tycoon Harry Tanoe Soedibjo.

Trump's rise to the presidency in 2016 was similar to Jokowi's ascend in 2012 since both of them had to constantly battle criticism cast from all sides, something that Trump has not been able to shake off even until now.

US pundits have claimed Trump as the most divisive president in US history, a morally bankrupt figure in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that has stripped all dignity off the position.

However, the fact remains that, whether you like it or not, Trump wins. He has beaten all the odds stacked against him, overcoming his alleged personal, financial, moral and ethical blemishes to become the 45th president of the US.

And perhaps most auspiciously for his reelection prospect, since then Trump has managed to keep the Democrats off-kilter and directionless.

The Democrats' harrowing realization that Trump will once again secure his seat in Washington is becoming clearer by the day.

He has kept the Democrats completely unbalanced, despite Nancy Pelosi's – the Democrats' designated Trumpian Kryptonite – consistent attempts to undermine him.

The Democrats still have three current limitations in their efforts to unseat the real estate mogul from Manhattan.

First, the party does not have a viable charismatic candidate to oppose Trump. Bernie Sanders is deemed too old. Joe Biden's nepotism scandal with his son in the Ukraine will be exploited repeatedly just like Hillary Clinton's email scandal in 2016. Elizabeth Warren is marred by her "Pocahontas" label after she foolishly claimed Native American heritage and is widely seen as a grumpy old lady not fit for office. Joe Buttigieg as the young fresh voice must battle his own sexual orientation to convince US voters. The latest polls show that he surprisingly is struggling to secure support even from the LGBT community. An alarming trend indeed. Mike Bloomberg meanwhile had one of the worst debate maulings from recent times which doesn't bode well for the future.

Second, the Democrats have been relegated to play defense to counter Trump's bravado.

Just this week the democratic media machine has been launching some tired old claims: The Atlantic declared that Trump will cheat in 2020. CNN brazenly reported that Russia will help Trump in 2020 to secure the reelection.

These methods reek of desperation, lack of confidence and the realization that democratic candidates on their own may not have the chutzpah to secure victory.

A parallel case could clearly be seen in Jokowi's inaugural presidential campaign when he inexplicably almost lost the election to, on paper, the clearly weaker opponent in Prabowo since the former Solo mayor had to dedicate most of his time countering a series of black campaign against him. 

Third, the naïve issues the Democrats are raising prior to the election will not win the minds and hearts of US voters.

Topics such as global warming, climate change and debt-free college programs are important, but will never capture the emotion of voters to propel any of the Democrat candidates to victory.

Trump meanwhile has managed to create such a strong emotional bond with his voter base despite the frail foundation those emotions stand on.

This is what won Trump the 2016 election, a concept still not realized nor understood by the Democrats.

The Washington Post once reported that Trump has told a total of 15,413 lies or misleading claims during his presidency. But this won't matter since honesty is obviously not the president's strong suit yet he still won in 2016.

A prime example of Trump's hold on the electorate is this: despite African-Americans' and Latinos' disdain toward him, since his election these two demographics are enjoying their highest rate of employment in American history at 94.5 percent and 96.1 percent respectively. A hungry man will never deny nourishment even from a liar.

Now Trump has launched a reelection machine so massive and fierce it has already dwarfed his inaugural campaign and most likely will intimidate his opponents.

In 2016, Trump spent a grand total of $63 million for his campaign. For the 2020 election, as of this February, he has already spent $531 million.

Trump along with six major committees, including the official campaign, the Republican National Committee and the super PAC, together have raised $736 million: more than any other presidential candidate in history up to this point in the campaign.

For comparison, Barack Obama raised only $390 million at this point in his reelection campaign.

In 2016, Trump had just 19 political consultants. He now has 200 and the number is only expected to grow.

In 2016, Trump, in essence, was battling his own Republican party to secure the nomination and throughout the election. He had to depend on his celebrity status to garner attention and support.

In 2020, he will have the support of the Republican pillars while still enjoying the windfalls from his notoriety.

Trump now has an internal polling process to gauge and evaluate current issues and polling on Facebook – something he said he did not do four years ago.

In addition, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg has allowed liberal use of negative and black campaign on the social platform despite Congress' and Senate's efforts to ban them – yielding yet another advantage for the incumbent.

Trump is also still as sharp as ever in diagnosing potential landmines in his campaign. Just last week at the Academy Awards, left-leaning Hollywood celebrities used the award ceremony as a stage to lob political grenades at the president.

What was Trump's response? A methodical and sharp rebuttal by attacking the Best Picture Winner in Parasite to undermine the credibility of the whole event.

Some might say a president should not stoop so low to resort to such tactic, but seeing the reaction, one is almost convinced there is a method to his madness, and one that evokes strong emotion, even devotion, in his supporters

Logic is quickly forgotten, emotion could be everlasting. Trump's has assembled a large, well-oiled and potentially destructive reelection machine not unlike a German Panzer in World War II. It is now up to the Democrats to craft their own version of the American Sherman Tanks which, while not as strong and large, were so quick and agile that they managed to outmaneuver and then obliterate the Panzer.

Will we witness a repeat of history in the US reelection this year? Let's wait and see. For me, I'll get my popcorn ready to watch the upcoming drama in Washington. It's guaranteed to be almost Oscar-worthy.

Rizvi Shihab is an oil and gas professional, and a member of Majelis Hikmah Alawiyah (Mahya), a Jakarta-based Islamic organization focusing on spreading the message of peace and harmony.