DONALD Trump’s fortunes are on the rise and an appalled world can seemingly do nothing about it.

If “foreigners” point out his racism, sexism, corruption and general unfitness for office, we risk turning a tawdry liar into a plucky anti-establishment hero.

If American progressives intervene, they confirm Trump’s crazy claim about the liberal state organising against him.

If US state legislatures declare Trump unfit for public office because of his insurrection call three years ago, they feed a giant persecution complex and boost poll ratings among Trump’s ever-growing MAGA (Make America Great Again) base. Even though Trump’s violence-inciting rant was delivered clearly, unapologetically and live on TV, the man who could be jailed before the November presidential vote is now being backed by sections of the American public – like evangelical Christians, women and Black voters – who roundly rejected him last time.

Even if that means rewriting history to fit Trump’s skewed narrative.

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Thus, a Washington Post poll two weeks ago found that only 62% of American adults believe Joe Biden’s 2020 win was legitimate – down from 70% two years ago.

But then 42% of American households have at least one gun in their possession. And 40% believe in creationism.

Their belief system is quite different to ours.

So, it’s tempting to write the Americans off as a nice enough set of people individually, with some of the world’s greatest writers, liberal thinkers and important constitutional documents – including a constitution partly written by men of Scots descent. But these days, the Land of the Free seems to be seized by an epidemic of democratic self-harm.

So, we shrug in the face of the Iowa result, think the American people have totally the plot and heave a great sigh of relief that it’s got nothing to do with us – overlooking the fact that British voters backed a marginally less dangerous charlatan in 2019.

But that would be very wrong.

For one thing, Donald Mark Two will likely be far more destabilising and dangerous than Donald Mark One.

With four years’ presidential experience under his belt, Trump Two will hit the ground running without the chance of “babysitting” by officials with a grasp of democratic norms. We can expect a quango and watchdog powergrab by the White House and a McCarthyite campaign against “sceptical” civil servants. As one Trump organiser put it: “What we’re trying to do is identify the pockets of independence and seize them.”


Trump will likely pardon his fellow January 6 conspirators and himself, while opening vindictive investigations into the Biden family and officials who verified the Democratic win. Trump will abandon Nato or at least the organisation’s mutual support and he’ll end aid for Ukraine. After all, he pronounced Russia’s initial invasion “genius”. Biden’s shift towards renewable energy will also be halted and reversed.

And all the while, Trump’s memory and mood is worsening. Trump brought up Obama’s name in recent speeches, claiming he beat him, though he actually defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 and lost to Joe Biden in 2020.

Still, Trump says he “never mixed them up” and blames Democratic “misinformation”.

A vain, right-wing president is one thing – a world leader in denial about his own cognitive decline is quite another.

So, Donald Mark Two will be a sair fecht – for the entire world.

So doubtless, most Scots are praying that Joe Biden rediscovers his mojo – fast. But that’s easier said than done – rival Bernie Sanders is pleading for some bold, redistributive policies that will motivate American workers. It hasn’t happened yet. And that is an important lesson for progressive, indy-supporting Scots in general and the SNP in particular.

When “the left” falters, or gets caught up in its own reality – not the quest for measurable, visible change – cynicism sets in and voters become ripe for capture by any populist. Even dourly rational (god love us) ol’ Scots.

Progressive politics has to score big and visibly or the whole project falls flat. Small advances in micromanaged problems are all very well, but if the left doesn’t embark on a more adventurous journey and reach dry land within one or two terms of office, it will be toast.

That means something game-changing – like a programme of district heating across Scotland to socialise heating a la Nordics.


The latest ABC/Ipsos poll found 72% of Republican-aligned adults would be satisfied with Trump as their nominee, while only 57% of Democrat-leaning adults would be happy with Biden as their Presidential nominee.

Just a third of women approve of Biden’s work in office today, compared to two-thirds in 2020. Biden began his presidency with 86% backing among Black Americans – it was down to 60% in 2023, even before the Hamas attacks on Israel and subsequent bombardment of Gaza which has massively alienated Muslim voters.

Gaza and arms sales to Israel apart, Biden has worked hard but lost ground.

What’s happening?

Well, some of it is blatant deal-making between Trump and the evangelical right.

According to one commentator, “influential members of the Southern Baptist church struck a deal with Trump in 2016”. In exchange for their support, he delivered a Supreme Court that overturned Roe v Wade, erasing nearly 50 years of legal precedent guaranteeing the right to abortion.

And that’s why a bombastic and borderline sacrilegious campaign video entitled “God Made Trump” – “a shepherd to mankind” who will “fight the Marxists” with “arms strong enough to wrestle the deep state” – has not been enough to scunner evangelical voters.

But it doesn’t explain the collapse among Black voters.

This explanation by pollster Terrance Woodbury, CEO of a Democratic-aligned polling firm, should ring warning bells for Yes campaigners and SNP strategists: “Part of the steep decline in young Black Americans’ approval of Biden stems from the fact that it started out so high – it’s a higher bar to drop from.

“When I sit in focus groups with young Black voters and ask what [Democrats have] done to make their lives better, they’re hard pressed to come up with an answer, despite this administration delivering on much of the Black agenda. That’s a communication challenge we have a year to overcome.

“Democrats need to make it clear that the 2024 election is a choice between two opposing visions, not a referendum on the Biden presidency.”

Much of this analysis also fits the SNP – polling stratospherically high in 2015, but now sporting few tangible new benefits for voters, except the laudable but oft cited Scottish Child Payment. As Douglas Chapman MP observed in the National earlier this week, even “goodies” like having an Industrial Development Minister after independence simply prompt the howling response – why not NOW?

The SNP campaign so far doesn’t constitute a vision. Nor does idle chat about wanting a referendum.

Put bluntly, where’s the beef?

Yes, arm-wrestling with Labour for recognition as the party to gub the Tories in Scotland might win some headlines. I’m sure it plays well with focus groups who find it hard to articulate what else they might want from Scottish politics. After all, “a vision” sounds happy clappy and almost childish in this grim world of international calamity, accelerating climate crisis and governance meltdown by the Trolley, the Lettuce and the author of Eat Out to Help The Virus.

And yet, without a fleshed-out vision, the SNP will struggle to look different from their vision-free Scottish rivals. What is so scary about daring to dream big … and plan fast?