The passing of RBG reshapes the race ahead of next week's debate

(23 September 2020) Last week's passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has introduced a new dynamic into the US election campaign.  The loss of the left-leaning RBG could mark a significant rightward shift in the Supreme Court if Trump and the GOP carry through on their promise to appoint her successor.  As of now, Trump and the GOP-controlled Senate have the 50 votes necessary to confirm a new justice over the coming weeks, regardless of who wins the election on November 3.  The administration's term concludes on January 20, 2021 so even if Trump should lose the November election, the confirmation of a conservative justice such as Amy Coney Barrett or Barbara Lagoa could still take place sometime in November or December.

This development is likely a political boost for Trump.  The prospect of another conservative member of SCOTUS will likely increase the enthusiasm and turnout of his voting base.  Whatever his many shortcomings and failures, Trump has delivered on his campaign promise of appointing two and now, possibly three conservative judges.  In the US system of government, the judicial branch has a greater and more direct political importance than in, say, the British Parliamentary system.  Also, the focus on the campaign can now shift away from his administration's bungled handling of the Covid crisis and onto the more politically beneficial confirmation of a conservative justice. 

As I suggested three weeks ago, I thought that Trump's standing could improve in September due to the Mars retrograde cycle and the transit of Mercury to his natal Jupiter.  Interestingly, I highlighted the day of Mercury's conjunction to Trump's Jupiter on September 17 as the time of a possible favorable development.  As it happened, Justice Ginsburg passed away the following day, on September 18.  To be sure, Trump's polls numbers and betting odds haven't moved much in September, but there is some sense that the battleground states are very much in contention as we approach the first presidential debate next Tuesday, September 29. 



And the debates could be very important.  For Joe Biden, they are an opportunity to decisively put to rest the widely-held view that he may no longer be mentally sharp enough to be president.  The 77-year old Biden has at times seemed confused and incoherent on the campaign trail so a strong debate showing against Trump could help to solidify his support.  Trump therefore needs to make Biden look like he is incapable of leading the country in order to build more momentum towards his failing campaign.  

The planets for the first debate suggest a mixed picture for both candidates.  In Trump's chart, the transiting Mars-Saturn square will be closely aligned with his Venus-Saturn conjunction.  This is a difficult pattern that suggests frustration, tension and generally negative social interactions. Jupiter isn't helping him much here, although I do note that it forms an exact 120 degree aspect with his relocated Midheaven (10th house cusp) for Cleveland where the debate will be held.  That could indicate some favorable outcomes at least.  Transiting Venus will be conjunct his Mars in his 1st house.  This can be good for public perceptions (1st house) although the Mars influence on Venus is usually a sign of disagreements and conflict.  Well, it is a debate, after all. 

Mercury in Libra will transit Trump's 3rd house which should enhance his ability to communicate.  Of course, the slow-moving Rahu-Sun conjunction and Ketu-Moon conjunction is a huge wild card although its effects are not specific to the night of the debate.  This heavy nodal influence often marks situations of disruption and instability and may make Trump's behavior even more unpredictable than usual.  We may charitably say that he could succeed in keeping Biden off balance in the debate, but he also may not do himself any favors in the process.



Biden's chart is also afflicted by that Mars-Saturn square as it sets up against his Jupiter in the 9th house.  This could symbolize an inability to communicate his philosophy and campaign platform.   The Venus in Leo transit looks generally positive for him in the 10th house, although that may simply be a reflection of the greater social exposure he will enjoy as a result of the debate.  More worrying is the Moon-Neptune conjunction that is conjunct his 4th house cusp (IC) opposite his 10th house cusp (MC).  Moon-Neptune aspects can indicate situations of confusion or loss of self, especially when they are located around one of the chart angles as is the case here. 

Mercury in Libra will transit his 12th house opposite his Moon.  This suggests that Biden may have some difficulty getting the specifics of his message across to the debate audience. Moon-Mercury oppositions can indicate creative thinking but it is less well-suited for logical and orderly presentations. 

Overall, both charts have significant problems on September 29. Trump's may be a bit better, however, in terms of communication (Mercury in 3rd house, vs in the 12th in Biden's chart) and the Venus in the Ascendant with his Mars could actually boost his personal appeal, albeit through conflict.  I would not expect a clear win by either candidate, although I think that Trump could do better than Biden. 


Weekly Market Forecast

Stocks have retreated in recent days as the reality of the Covid second wave has begun to sink in.  US stocks fell sharply again today just as Mercury and Mars aligned with Saturn and Ketu (the South Lunar Node).  Since three of these four planets were natural malefics (i.e planets that tend to produce negative outcomes), it was no surprise that the market moved lower.  The downdraft was in keeping with expectations as I have previously noted both here and in my newsletter the likelihood of some significant declines in late August and throughout September, with a special focus on late September and this rare four-planet alignment.

Further declines are possible this week as Mercury and Mars remain in fairly close alignment with Saturn and Ketu.  Mercury will begin to separate tomorrow (Thursday) so that could indicate some lessening of the negative sentiment, however.  But Mars will stay in a tense square with Saturn well into next week so I would not expect much upside over the next few days.  It seems more likely that markets will trend lower going into next week. 


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