STATESIDE: America’s 2024 political campaign began this week

PRESIDENT Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump head the class of competitors for the next American elections. As the GOP struggles to find an alternative to Trump, Biden faces questions of health and age.

PRESIDENT Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump head the class of competitors for the next American elections. As the GOP struggles to find an alternative to Trump, Biden faces questions of health and age.

With Charlie Harper

THE last general election is over. The results were consistent with 2022, 2021, 2020 and 2018, inasmuch as they represented a gradual but discernible movement away from the MAGA echoes of the Republican-aligned Tea Party movement of the 1990s. These election results also seem to indicate that voters are tiring of the chaos that always seems to surround Donald Trump, even if they very fondly remember the nation’s prosperity while he was president.

But there’s something that looks even more significant. That is the sweeping public repudiation of this conservative Supreme Court’s decision to overturn its 1973 decision on Roe v Wade in order to permit states to regulate abortion. Women don’t like this lessening of their reproductive rights, as many have described the right to terminate a pregnancy. Millions of men don’t agree with the nation’s high court either.

For 50 years, politicians and preachers have stoked the fires of resistance to Roe v. Wade. Now conservatives may wonder if they shouldn’t have been a bit more cautious in what they wished for.

That’s the context for an election contest next year that hardly anyone seems to want. Democrats have become increasingly sceptical about the prospects of success for their incumbent president Joe Biden. Flinching as they scan Biden’s sagging public approval ratings, the Dems worry publicly about the demise of democracy should Trump again prevail in 2024 – even as their private concerns centre on their possible loss of power in Washington.

But Biden has, overall, done a good job as president. On the international scene, it is undeniably true that the US withdrawal of its armed forces from Afghanistan was as embarrassingly impulsive and disorganised as it appeared to be. Biden must own that. And if he were honest, he’d admit that his administration has not performed well along the southern US border.

Biden’s administration was simply unprepared to confront the pent-up demand for jobs and a better life in America that has driven immigrants for more than a century. It is beginning to look like GOP governor in Texas may be better able to stem the tide of border crossings than is the man constitutionally charged with doing so. That is the president himself.

Those are two blots on Biden’s record, and the border crisis continues to provide ammunition for Republican polemicists nearly every day.

But in most other areas, Biden has been competent if not excellent. Voters could reasonably have expected this from an avowed internationalist and long-time member and chair of the Senate foreign relations committee. (Biden served as the committee chair three different times prior to becoming vice-president under Barack Obama).

Indeed, it is easily arguable that veteran cold warrior Biden is exactly what the US and the entire western world needs at the helm in Washington as NATO faces the menace of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The additional threat persistently posed by China to the independence of democratic and economically successful Taiwan underlines emphatically the need to resist Putin’s aggression, lest it tempt Beijing to try to add Taiwan to its already sprawling empire.

As some House Republicans, governors and even presidential candidates publicly frown at further shipments of wartime assistance to Ukraine, the American foreign policy establishment in both parties has lined up squarely behind Biden. And as if to counter the growing isolationist threat in the Republican party, many pundits are recalling the failed Western policy of appeasing Adolph Hitler 90 years ago as he began to subjugate neighbouring countries.

Biden will never appease Putin. In contrast, of all Trump’s misdeeds and mistakes, few are so widely mocked and vilified as his fawning fealty to the villainous Putin.

In the Ukraine war, it seems as though Kyiv is trying to regroup after a summer offensive regained much less territory than hoped, while Putin may simply be reloading for renewed assaults either next spring or even after he sees whether or not Trump returns to the White House. In any case, this brutal war appears to have entered a hiatus. The human suffering continues.

In another troublesome area of the world, while the final story of the current Israel-Hamas war has yet to be written, it’s hard to argue that Biden has bungled the American response. While steadfastly maintaining America’s traditional support for Israel, he and his top foreign policy lieutenants have visited the region many times in the past five weeks, and there is some evidence that their efforts to rein in some of Israel’s more vengeful instincts are having an impact.

The US, and virtually the whole world, continues to support the “two-state solution” of Israel and a viable Palestinian state coexisting peacefully. Such an outcome seems almost unimaginable so long as perpetually pugnacious Benjamin Netanyahu remains the most powerful person in Israeli politics, and while nihilistically militant Muslim extremists control the politics of Gaza and southern Lebanon.

Is Biden the man to foster a breakthrough in the Middle East? If he doesn’t succeed, it won’t be for lack of effort.

Domestically, as is always the case, voters’ perceptions of how the nation’s economy affects them personally will heavily influence or even determine the outcome of next November’s election. While most serious commentators will acknowledge that the American president has much less direct influence on prices and inflation than is generally assumed, Biden is taking the blame for broad, palpable price increases over the past several years.

Wall Street advanced this week on reports that the American central bank is planning to stop raising interest rates. While this may not signal the imminent end of economic troubles for Americans, it is a good sign.

And Biden should have a significant advantage as the incumbent. Management of what in Washington is called the political economy can enable a sitting president to manipulate certain aspects of the economy to encourage optimism in voters as they approach the next election. We should see in the spring and summer ahead how well Biden & Company perform in this area.

Then there is the nagging, unavoidable issue of Biden’s age (80) and “old man” demeanor. Despite the hectoring and challenges to his candidacy from within his own party and the widespread perception that he may be too old for his duties, if Biden gets a bit of luck and stays upright, he’ll prove to be a formidable candidate.

Trump, meanwhile, remains Trump. He has undeniably built a brand; he talks about it all the time. And while there are credible challenges to his self-constructed image as a highly successful billionaire, the former president stays loyal to, and enjoys reciprocal loyalty from, his base of support among the millions of Americans with grievances against their government and their economic and social situation.

As the string of Republican debates continues without the front-running Trump, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott joined former vice-president Mike Pence in exiting the primary race this week. After an auspicious start in fundraising, Scott never really took off as a presidential candidate. His uplifting rags-to-riches story, eternal optimism and solid conservative credentials didn’t lead voters to sufficiently support him.

Meantime, almost every day brings another report of Republican and conservative moguls searching for a viable alternative to Trump’s inexorably successful candidacy. Practically speaking, we now have three challengers. All three are former or current governors.

Florida’s Ron DeSantis should not be dismissed as easily as many are now doing. Even as his policies and chilly demeanor alienate many observers, this man has delivered on promises and maintained consistency in most of his beliefs and positions. Voters know where DeSantis stands. If Trump does falter under the weight of his own outrageous behaviour or legal setbacks, Florida’s chief executive may still be the beneficiary.

Former blue state New Jersey attorney general and governor Chris Christie once successfully prosecuted Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner’s father, and offers the only clearly critical voice challenging Trump. In a different political context, this would have more impact. In today’s Republican Party, Christie’s voice remains largely unheeded.

Finally, there’s former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley. She has shone in the debates, demonstrated Reagan-like wit and toughness, and brings solid international and domestic credentials to this race. But for her to prosper, the GOP would have to move on from Trump. Few see that as likely.


truetruebahamian 8 months ago

Well analyzed. Thank goodness that you can see a clear view without worrying about personal retribution, as am I.

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