by Noah Tang
It’s official: the primary election has begun. Over the space of five months, voters across the country will make known their will as to whom the major parties should nominate. On the Democratic side, President Biden is virtually guaranteed to win his party’s nomination. On the Republican side, former President Trump and former UN Ambassador and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley are locked in an intense struggle.
Dr. Glen Duerr serves as Chair of History and Government and Professor of International Studies at Cedarville University. He believes that Trump will probably be renominated but adds that that is not a foregone conclusion.
“To preface all of my comments, it is late-January, the election is in early-November, and much can still change,” Duerr said. “As of right now, former President Trump has the greatest likelihood of attaining the Republican nomination, but former SC Governor, Nikki Haley, did fairly well in New Hampshire and has vowed to continue.”
Dr. Mark Caleb Smith serves as the Dean of the School of Arts and Humanities and Professor of Political Science at Cedarville. He believes that Haley still has a chance.
“She would need to improve her standing in South Carolina and then hope she does well enough on Super Tuesday, which is March 5,” Smith said. “If she can survive until then and maybe win some states, she might be able to make a run at the nomination.”
Smith explained that Haley has more traction among college-educated and moderate voters, but Trump is dominant among Republicans in general, especially working-class and conservative voters.
While Trump may seem to be heading toward the Republican nomination, he may not be the strongest candidate in the general election. His legal problems, which encompass 91 counts between four cases, may be a liability.
“In a general election, independents, moderates, and even some Republicans may choose not to support Trump if he is convicted,” Smith said. “In short, the cases have helped in the short term, but will most likely harm him in the long term.”
Duerr predicts that Trump will once again face Biden in the general election.
“Both presidents had polling numbers in the upper-30s and lower-40s, which, historically, suggests losing the next presidential election,” Duerr said.
In contrast, Nikki Haley may have better hopes of beating Biden, should Republicans choose to nominate her.
“Haley would likely be the stronger general election candidate because of her ability to appeal to a wider range of people,” Smith said. “Most polling indicates she would defeat President Biden more easily than Trump. … If Haley wins the nomination, Democrats would have to come up with different ways to combat her.”
In recent years, the integrity of American elections has come under increased question. This matter is serious, since election security is vital to a democratic society. The will of the people cannot be properly implemented without free and fair elections.
Duerr maintains that U.S. elections are generally trustworthy and reliable.
“The problem is that there is a real lack of trust among the electorate because of the length of the early voting window and the length of time some states take to count the votes,” Duerr said; “all of this leads to a perception that voter fraud is taking place.”
Smith agrees that the results of American elections can be trusted.
“There has not been credible evidence put forward that we can’t trust our elections,” Smith said. “Every election has small amounts of fraud, but there is no evidence the 2020 election had anything more than minimal fraud. Yes, we can trust our elections. They are not perfect, but the opportunities for real fraud are slim, and most of those who claim otherwise are doing it to make money and increase their influence.”
Another concern that many Americans share is Trump’s anti-democratic tendencies. He has tried to overturn the 2020 election and arguably instigated an insurrection on January 6, 2021 toward that end. He has also called for suspending parts of the Constitution, promised revenge upon his political opponents, and said he would act as a dictator if elected.
Some constitutional scholars, both conservative and liberal, argue that Trump’s involvement in the events of January 6 disqualify him from becoming President again under the Fourteenth Amendment. Others disagree. This matter is fraught with many questions and difficulties.
“Ultimately, if the Supreme Court were called to rule on the issue, I think any decision hinges upon a definition of insurrection or rebellion,” Duerr said. “January 6th, while dastardly, does not meet the definition in my view.”
Smith adds that given the complexity of the matter, the Supreme Court is unlikely to disqualify Trump. The issues involved are uncertain and extremely controversial.
“The Supreme Court is hesitant about inserting itself into political disputes unless there is a clear reason to do so,” Smith said. “There are conflicting interpretations about how to interpret the amendment. … Personally, I think it probably should disqualify him from the ballot, but it is also such a close call, I am not sure I would vote that way given the gravity of the decision.”
Noah Tang is an M.Div student and a writer for Cedars. He likes drinking coffee, riding his bike, and making terrible dad jokes.