When gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson wrote Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream 40 years ago, he might very well have been talking about America today.
A shocking new poll has Donald Trump beating Joe Biden for the U.S. presidency in 2024, 45 per cent to 32. Now three years is an eternity in politics, but what kind of savage journey might this portend?
Both Biden and Trump have told supporters they intend to mount a campaign. Whether either man is serious is anyone’s guess.
It’s hard to see Biden hanging on for a second term — indeed, it will be some kind of miracle if he makes it to the end of his first. He refuses press conferences, muddles his speeches and fell asleep on global TV at the Glasgow climate-change conference.
Nevertheless, he has to say he’s in for the long haul. Anything less loosens his grip on power.
Trump, meanwhile, may simply be teasing the media in an effort to stay in the news. This is a man whose colossal ego demands constant stroking.
Still, hardly a year into Biden’s presidency, how did it come to this? For the Biden/Trump poll is hardly an outlier.
A recent Quinnipiac survey found Biden’s popularity rating at 36 per cent, a near-record low this early in the term.
Though at least he’s ahead of his vice-president. A USA Today poll shows Kamala Harris at 28 per cent approval, lower than Dick Cheney, who was once considered the least-popular vice-president in American history.
Part of the problem, no doubt, is the lingering COVID outbreak, which Biden unwisely promised to tame. More than 770,000 Americans have died of the disease to date, and the daily death toll is around 1,000. That would hammer any president’s popularity rating.
Worse still, polls show that most Americans are even more worried about inflation than COVID. And here, too, some of the president’s early announcements have come back to haunt him.
On his first day in office, he halted the extension of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have brought fuel from Alberta’s oilsands to the U.S. Along with other efforts to crimp oil production, Biden has converted the U.S. from being a net exporter of gasoline to a net importer.
Soaring gas prices, due in part to supply shortages, are now a major contributor to America’s inflation surge.
Then there was the scrambled exit from Afghanistan, the near collapse of border controls at the boundary with Mexico, soaring crime rates in major cities and bare supermarket shelves caused by a supply-chain crisis.
The latter is none of Biden’s doing, but traditional wisdom has it that if it happens on your watch, you own it.
So could Trump really make a comeback? It’s worth recalling that he won seven million more votes in 2020 than he did in 2016 when he beat Hillary Clinton.
Clearly, he still has a following, and clearly also, his party lacks a strong alternative.
And with Harris’s popularity rating in the basement, the Democrats are vulnerable.
Best outcome for the Dems? If a left-leaning Supreme Court justice, like 83-year-old Stephen Breyer, retires next year, Harris gets kicked upstairs to the bench and replaced by a more electable vice-president. If that happens, the Democrats could win in 2024.
But if not, a savage journey, and perhaps an even more savage ending, lies ahead.