Journalist Erik Green talks to Democratic Mayor of Monessen Matt Shorraw and Greg Swenson from Republican Overseas about the upcoming Presidential Election. Discussion ranges from analysing the impact Covid-19 will have on the campaign to the significance of the economy and recent racial tensions in shaping the race to the White House.
Whilst planning for this podcast I kept considering the refrain that is being repeated endlessly across the world. It is claimed that Covid-19 will change everything and that November’s US Election will be the first political event to confirm this. Yet speaking to Greg Swenson and Matt Shorraw it was clear that many of the movements and processes that existed in the pre-pandemic months of January and February are just as significant. Rather they have now been accelerated and exacerbated by Covid.
Acceleration rather than change?
The issues of polarisation and politicisation were most evident when discussing the pandemic. Swenson was miles apart from Shorraw who described the situation as a ‘mess’, whilst the former argued that testing and the picking up of mild cases was behind the current surge. Concerning racial tensions, there was a clear disagreement that followed party lines over what the protests meant and even what occurred.
And yet there was a common argument when it came to the economy. Shorraw agreeing albeit tentatively with Swenson, that should growth rebound in the next few months then Trump’s chances of re-election will dramatically increase. I asked Shorraw if Joe Biden’s recent speech promising to ‘buy American’ reflected a recognition from the Democrats that, through a combination of current geopolitics and Trump’s Presidency, America was moving in a more protectionist direction. The response was illustrative of how he described many of Biden’s policies:
‘I think he has to walk on this tightrope because he could alienate some of his more moderate voters. But he also needs to gain the support of farther left voters as well’.
This questioning of traditional party positions was shared by Greg Swenson who admitted he had been proven wrong by the President over the benefits that could be gained from tariffs.
When the discussion turned to Trump it frequently focussed on character and his behaviour as President – something that Matt Shorraw believed Democrats will use in trying to turn this election into a referendum on Trump. Even Greg Swenson admitted how ‘I sometimes cringe when he is unfiltered’ and ‘there’s no doubt his messaging is challenging’ but then I have to remember ‘that’s one of the reasons people voted for him’.
Speaking to both Swenson and Shorraw I got the impression that despite years of being in the political spotlight, the case for Joe Biden’s Presidency has not yet been sufficiently defined; instead still relying on the line that he is not Trump. Shorraw stressed the importance in Biden making a clear argument when it came to police reform to avoid being accused of defunding the police:
‘that is a concern. If you get too policy heavy, then people pick and choose statements and pieces of that policy that might look bad out of context’.
Listening to Greg Swenson describe how Trump has changed the American economy from being focussed on ‘assets and bonds’ to helping workers I recognise the strength of the economic case for re-election that could be made by Republicans. The problem however, is that progress against Covid-19 is integral to restarting the economy and thus crucial to any hopes for re-election.
What will boost the economy is confidence amongst the public: confidence to spend, confidence to get back out into society. That feeling of confidence though is something many voters are questioning when it comes to their President and his handling of the pandemic.
Trump’s Presidency was never going to be described as a period of stability. But rather someone who forced through change. This was something both Shorraw and Swenson recognised. Greg Swenson of Republican Overseas described Trump as ‘disruptive’ adding ‘with disruption, you get unpleasantness’.
For the President that disrupted America, the most disruptive event of the twenty-first century now threatens to derail his hopes for re-election.