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STATESIDE: US political landscape evolves into a kind of three-ring circus

By Charlie Harper

RING ONE: DONALD Trump and GOP

A kind of three-ring circus is evolving in Washington, New York and in other centres around the US. Two of the rings are located overseas. The other one is at the center of political life in America, and it does not bode well for Donald Trump and the Republican Party he has come to dominate.

The GOP-led Arizona Supreme Court earlier this week astonishingly ruled to basically reinstate a 160-year-old state statute that has the practical effect of outlawing abortion in Arizona. This swing state, long dominated by the relatively moderate former senator John McCain and other centrist Republicans, just got more deeply purple and the Democrats might just sweep all major offices on the state ballot in November as a result.

Both Donald Trump and his acolyte and US senate candidate Kari Lake have tried to edge back from the relative absurdity of the state high court’s decision. But it looks like some lasting damage has been done to the GOP brand in a state Trump needs to win in November and now probably won’t.

Abortion access restrictions may well still be a winning issue for some Republicans in local and House of Representatives elections this fall. But most Americans see the Senate as the higher-level legislative body where the big picture of US national interest should predominate. That’s how the drafters of the US Constitution saw things, too.

As things look this morning, the Democrats seem poised to snatch narrow victory this fall from the jaws of what six months ago looked like a hopeless quest to retain control of the upper chamber.

Let’s look at the math. The Dems (and two crusty independent New England senators who declare as independents but almost always vote with their Democratic colleagues) hold a slim 51-49 edge in the Senate now.

West Virginia’s Democratic senator Joe Manchin, acknowledging the inevitable, won’t run again, and a Republican will replace him. It’s doubtful that US President Joe Biden will even appear in the Mountain State, so hopeless are his party’s prospects there. So that leaves a 50-50 split in the Senate in January.

Hardly any observer sees Democratic possibilities of flipping a currently Republican Senate seat in November. So the Dems’ game plan is simply to defend their incumbents.

It says here that’s exactly what will happen. There are some key states where the GOP will try hard to unseat Democratic incumbents or, in the case of deep blue Maryland, to ride former Republican governor Larry Hogan’s personal popularity to a flip.

While that prospect caught attention when he announced his surprise candidacy two months ago, Hogan’s prospects have dimmed, even in the face of a hotly contested Democratic primary election coming up in less than a month.

Hogan is hurt by his evident disdain for Donald Trump and by his state’s overwhelmingly blue voters’ reluctance to give control of the Senate to Republicans. Few pundits even discuss Maryland now. Time will tell, but Trump’s vindictive supporters have taken control of the state party, and it will take an unexpected turn of events for them to wholeheartedly back Hogan’s candidacy.

In Arizona, Senate candidate Lake probably just saw her chances evaporate in the wake of the state high court’s abortion ruling.

Incumbent Democrats in Montana (Jon Tester), Ohio (Sherrod Brown), Pennsylvania (Bob Casey), Nevada (Jacky Rosen) and Wisconsin (Tammy Baldwin) will attract a lot of media attention in the months to come. Breathless analysts will pontificate about how close their races will be, and how momentous would be their failure to win reelection.

And while the Dems’ margin in the Senate is admittedly razor’s edge thin, the value of incumbency is profound. These five, along with Arizona’s former astronaut and current Democratic senator Mark Kelly, have not stumbled in office.

We will see how vigorously the Republicans actually try to unseat these popular politicians this fall. America’s two major political parties enjoy their long-standing duopoly, and are well known for their reluctance to seriously contest races their gut tells them they’re unlikely to win.

Furthermore you can bet that every spare Republican dollar this year will be spent in support of Trump’s campaign for president or to help pay his legal bills and obligations. We have plenty of evidence that he cares only about himself. The GOP’s Senate hopefuls will feel the sting of that painful lesson later this year.

RING TWO: TRUMP’S UKRAINE PLAN LEAKED

The second ring in America’s current political circus surrounds Ukraine. The prestigious Kennan Institute, bearing the name of the architect of the Western post-World War II policy of containment of the menacing Soviet Union, described the current state of play in Ukraine as follows:

“As the full-scale invasion of Ukraine continues into its third year, Ukraine is grappling with multiple identities on a global level, marking its path towards Europe, anti-colonial resistance, and deeper underlying decolonial processes while fighting Russia’s war on its territory.”

That’s all certainly true. It is also true that Ukraine’s president Zelensky has expanded the draft age for Ukrainian men to meet current manpower deficits. It’s also true that following the disappointing results of a much-anticipated Ukrainian military offensive last fall, the Russians are gradually regaining some of the territory they lost in 2023.

While Biden is doing whatever he can to keep the pipeline of American military assistance to Ukraine flowing, Republican infighting has so far crippled legislative efforts to resupply Ukraine more aggressively. The military outlook, while not exactly bleak, is also certainly not rosy.

Enter Trump. His “secret” plan to end the Russia-Ukraine war has just been leaked to the press. It’s fairly simple, and corresponds pretty closely to a forecast made in this space several months ago.

Basically, the deal would be as follows: A ceasefire would end the current conflict that has debilitated both sides. Some formula could be found that would tacitly acknowledge Russian hegemony over both Crimea and large parts of the Donbass (Don River basin) area in eastern Ukraine that the Russians seized at the beginning of the war and that are ethnically at least half Russian, as is Crimea.

While this has not formally been identified as part of Trump’s plan, the plus for Ukraine would be a fast track to full membership in the European Union and probably also into NATO. This would provide as strong a set of political, military and economic guarantees of protection against future potential Russian aggression as are available to most of the rest of Europe, West as well as East.

Trump’s idea is hardly novel. Neither Putin nor Zelensky would publicly endorse it now. Biden, French president Macron and other Western leaders won’t support it yet either. But in many minds, only one thing would materially change the basic outlines of the deal outlined above. That would be Putin’s disappearance from the Kremlin, via military coup, illness or assassination. None seems presently likely.

RING THREE: NO CHANGE IN GAZA CONFLICT DESPITE BIDEN’S TALK WITH NETANYAHU

The third ring in the circus is around Gaza. Here, Biden’s staunch pro-Israel bias is being shaken by the intransigent obduracy of Israel’s president Benjamin Netanyahu. Here’s how the White House described a recent phone call between the two leaders: “President Biden spoke by telephone with Prime Minister Netanyahu. The two leaders discussed the situation in Gaza. President Biden emphasised that the strikes on humanitarian workers and the overall humanitarian situation are unacceptable. He made clear the need for Israel to announce and implement a series of specific, concrete, and measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers. He made clear that US policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by our assessment of Israel’s immediate action on these steps. He underscored that an immediate ceasefire is essential to stabilise and improve the humanitarian situation and protect innocent civilians, and he urged the Prime Minister to empower his negotiators to conclude a deal without delay to bring all hostages home. The two leaders also discussed public Iranian threats against Israel and the Israeli people. President Biden made clear that the United States strongly supports Israel in the face of those threats.” In the week that has passed since this conversation, very little appears to have changed. Some of Israel’s most public friends and advocates in American public life have urged Netanyahu to listen to Biden and change his course. Maybe he will. We will see.

Comments

ExposedU2C 3 months ago

LMAO. Most of The Tribune's staff suffer from the most severe kind of TDS.

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