For many people, Donald Trump’s victory in Iowa this week will seem incomprehensible. Not only did he win – he did so by a margin that no other Republican has achieved since the state became the first to choose its candidates. This is quite a feat from a man facing almost 100 criminal charges, who was also twice impeached – the second time for encouraging his supporters to riot on Capitol Hill on 6 January 2021.
It now seems inevitable that Americans will be offered the same unappealing choice of leader in November as they had in 2020, but with an even older Joe Biden doing battle with an even more rumbustious Donald Trump. On current polling it looks as if Trump could win.
Trump’s power comes from his ability to provoke: he drives his enemies to loudly denounce him, and therefore promote him. It is hard to look past Trump’s outlandish character and conduct, which has often disgraced his country and his office. But his critics fail to make a persuasive case that his presidency was such a disaster for America. Until Covid, which struck in his final year, the American economy had thrived under his leadership. In his first year in office, Trump passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017 and median household income hit a record high.
Poverty rates for black and Hispanic Americans reached record lows, as did unemployment. Trump may not have built much of his vaunted wall to keep out illegal migrants from Mexico, but he made a better effort to control the US’s borders than either his predecessor or successor did. While his language has frequently been reprehensible, he was one of the first leaders to tap into the new mood against mass migration.