As we close out the year, Americans are faced with the prospect of a 2024 Presidential race that promises to be a rematch of the ugly 2020 contest. While most Americans enjoy a good rematch, (think Ali/Frazier), the potential battle for the highest office in the land has many souring on politics that have become too ugly and too divisive. The end result may be that many voters will choose to sit this one out, setting up the possibility that a minority of the population will be the ultimate deciders in whatever future our country will see.
The Age Factor
Despite many Democrats expressing respect for President Biden, a large number say they won’t support a second term due to his age. While most won’t say it directly, the implication is that he is experiencing a cognitive decline because of his advanced age. They worry that this could quickly accelerate, leaving him unable to effectively carry out the duties of the Office of President.
Those on the right are only too willing to exploit this perception. They pounce on any verbal gaffe or physical misstep, citing them as proof of Biden’s cognitive decline. They intimate that pauses in his speaking patterns are proof of his mental deterioration despite it being widely known that Biden is a lifelong stutterer, and these hesitations are a consequence of that condition.
Yet, when it comes to Donald Trump, they are willing to overlook his verbal gaffes. They regularly accept his lies as facts as he releases phantom medical diagnoses as he declares he has “aced” a cognitive test that is actually meant to detect signs of dementia. (It makes you wonder why his doctors decided he needed such an assessment in the first place).
The age factor will certainly be an important issue in the 2024 election. The problem is, that it is not being assessed equally.
The Economic Disconnect
Wages are up; inflation and unemployment are down. Yet many Americans don’t believe President Biden has effectively handled the economy. Of his recent poll numbers, Biden scores the lowest on this issue despite months of positive indications about the state of the economy.
So, what’s behind the disconnect between the facts and the sour mood many Americans have about the economy?
The pandemic caused a great deal of economic upheaval as businesses were forced to scale back and even shut down due to COVID restrictions. Yet, for many, there was a silver lining amidst the economic upheaval. Pandemic relief funds and a moratorium on evictions saw many Americans with positive bank balances for the first time in their lives.
When the nation re-opened, Americans went on a spending spree with their newfound wealth. This rapid increase in demand led to inevitable supply chain issues resulting in surging prices and higher inflation.
Of course, many blamed President Biden for these problems. They saw soaring gas prices as a result of Biden’s economic policies and not a dramatic increase in demand as manufacturers tried to meet these overwhelming requests. They viewed supply chain issues as the Biden administration’s inability to effectively handle the economy.
Many economists even predicted that the US was headed toward an inevitable recession because of the economic problems the pandemic created.
But the recession didn’t happen. Prices eased. Soaring gas prices came down. Inflation and unemployment numbers plummeted. The American economy was back on its feet.
So, why do many Americans believe Biden has done a poor job of handling the economy?
The disconnect may lie in the fact many benefitted from the pandemic assistance and not having to pay rent or mortgages for several months. They enjoyed their post-pandemic spending spree despite the higher prices and limited availability. Now that these advantages were no longer an option, they sought a scapegoat. And of course, many blamed President Biden.
Like he did in 2020, Donald Trump is predicting that America is headed for a major recession should Biden win in 2024. He is claiming that Biden’s economic success is only due to programs enacted during his administration. This ignores that the economy cratered, largely because of the pandemic, during his time in office. He also fails to admit that his own positive numbers regarding the economy were largely the result of policies enacted by his predecessor, President Obama.
President Biden was able to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, which is a huge benefit to many struggling Americans. Contrast that to Trump’s so-called Tax Relief package which was mainly a boon to wealthy Americans.
Trump spent his entire time in office touting the need to address the country’s ailing infrastructure. Yet, he was never able to whip up enough support to get anything done about it. President Biden made this a priority and was able to get an Infrastructure Bill passed very quickly.
His reelection campaign has tried, and failed, to make “Bidenomics” a central issue. Yet many Americans still doubt his ability to effectively handle the economy.
Why this is remains a mystery.
Voting Restrictions and Abortion
Republicans are trying to shape the upcoming election as a referendum on abortion. This is despite the fact that a majority of Americans support a woman’s right to choose. It is a nod to the Christian Nationalist wing of the party that has, with the selection of Mike Johnson as Speaker of the House, taken hold of the Republican agenda in the House of Representatives. They have reduced the complex, emotional decision to terminate a pregnancy to a trite bumper sticker: “Abortion is Murder”.
Women who try to terminate a pregnancy, even for legitimate health reasons, are being treated as criminals. A thirty-three year old Black woman from Ohio is being charged with abuse of a corpse after she suffered a miscarriage. The post-Roe world is forcing women to take drastic measures to protect their health because they are being denied access to an abortion, even if the fetus isn’t viable or the life of the mother is at risk.
These same religious hypocrites are claiming a “God-given right” to bear arms as they clutch a Bible in one hand and an assault rifle in the other. Yet they claim they want to preserve the sanctity of life while these same weapons are being used to murder children.
The potential candidates have staked their claim on the issue of abortion…sort of. Joe Biden is a devout Catholic, and his church is firmly opposed to any type of abortion, even in cases of rape, incest or where the life of the mother is at risk. Despite his religious beliefs, Biden has sworn to bow to the will of the people. With a majority of the country supporting a woman’s right to choose, he has defended this, even in the face of having Catholic priests denying him communion.
And then there is Donald Trump who has repeatedly flip-flopped on the, depending on his contrary mood swings. Prior to his entrance into the political arena, he was pro-choice. It had even been alleged that he paid for a woman to terminate her pregnancy and attributed it to his doorman, but if rumors are true, and this certainly goes against his refusal to pay for anything, it was actually his unborn child that he paid to have aborted.
Fast forward to today and Trump is boasting to have personally overturned Roe by virtue of appointing three justices to the Supreme Court. It’s highly unlikely that Trump elevated this trio of Conservatives as a way to overturn the landmark decision. Instead, it’s more likely that Trump, being one who always views things on a transactional basis, put them on the bench with the belief that they would consistently rule in his favor out of loyalty.
Fortunately, this has proven to be a false hope. Other than Clarence Thomas, who was not a Trump appointee, the court has ruled against him, especially in cases involving overturning the 2020 election. That hasn’t stopped Trump from appealing to the Supreme Court in an effort to delay the multiple court cases he has on his crowded calendar.
Democrats are hoping the issue of abortion will counter Republicans’ screams about border security. At this point, they are demanding that any issue, even those supporting Israel and Ukraine, be tied to enhanced anti-immigration measures. This is alienating the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which has already expressed hesitation over supporting Biden due to his age.
The Silent Majority
When Richard Nixon was being attacked, even by members of his own party, he claimed to have the support of a “Silent Majority” who continued to support him. Fast forward to today and you have the opposite situation occurring. Donald Trump appears to have widespread support among Republicans. Yet, this could all be an illusion. Many can be putting up a front, feigning support, while they privately will make another choice when it comes to actually casting their vote.
They have witnessed what happens to those who back another candidate and are falsely claiming they will vote for Trump when they enter the voting booth. That could result in another candidate emerging as the favored nominee when the choice is made during their national convention.
The problem with this is that Trump will almost definitely mount a third-party challenge. He is acutely aware that any chance of his avoiding the consequences of his actions is to retake the Oval Office and issue himself a presidential pardon. While this won’t protect him from the cases in Georgia and New York, he can use his position to delay these cases.
On the other hand, Joe Biden may need a Silent Majority to step forward if he is to win re-election. His approval ratings are currently underwater as Muslims are saying they won’t support him due to his handling of the situation in Israel, and young voters vowing to withhold their support over Biden’s handling of the environment, abortion and student loan forgiveness.
People of Color are upset over Biden’s inability to protect their right to vote and systemic racism in law enforcement. They are also those who have yet to reap the benefits of Biden’s economic agenda as unemployment numbers continue to lag behind the rest of the nation.
If any, or all of these groups fails to support President Biden, or if they choose not to vote at all, it will seal Biden’s defeat.
The Clock is Ticking
As we begin 2024, the clock is ticking on so many fronts. There are the primaries, which seem to be an exercise in futility, since both parties seem set on their choices, whether anyone like it or not.
There are at least four criminal proceedings where Donald Trump is racing the clock in hopes he can delay any or all of the four trials he is currently facing. Trump is trying to get the Supreme Court to slow-walk their decision on his federal trial regarding the events surrounding January 6th. He is hoping to retake the White House and then declare a halt to the proceedings.
Recent survey indicates that up to a quarter of his supporters will not vote to re-elect him if Trump is convicted in any of these cases. This gives him further motivation to delay the proceedings until after election day. Trump’s attorneys are attempting to make the same argument before the Supreme Court, that he has absolute immunity, that failed in his effort to have charges dismissed.
If Trump is successful in getting his trials delayed until after Election Day, there is the possibility that he could be convicted between November and January 20th. There are no restrictions in the Constitution that prohibit a convicted felon from serving as president, get he would likely pardon himself on the Federal charges.
That leaves Georgia. Trump’s lawyers have been unsuccessful in getting the case moved to Federal Court, meaning Trump could pardon himself. A Georgia conviction could have Trump facing real jail time. Trump would undoubtedly want his sentence held in abeyance until his term ends. But he has already suggested that he would wield dictatorial power, meaning he would remain in office for life.
On the other side, despite being the incumbent, Joe Biden is facing low approval ratings. If it was only based upon one issue it might be easier to address. But Democrats seem hell-bent on opposing his re-election because they have an axe to grind on a single topic. Younger voters complain he hasn’t done enough to protect the environment, while they ignore that Donald Trump is once again threatening to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. Muslims are saying they will abandon Biden for his lack of action in supporting a ceasefire in Gaza while they turn a deaf ear to Trump’s promise to re-institute a Muslim ban. Jews are saying they won’t support Biden because he hasn’t done enough to address the rise in antisemitic attacks despite the fact these are coming from the Right. Progressives are attacking his age while offering no younger alternative.
And those are just within his own party.
MAGA Republicans in the House have launched their own attacks with a sham impeachment investigation that has yielded zero results. The main impact is that they can claim that, despite Trump being impeached twice, Biden is also facing similar punishment.
Election season is upon us. Trump can claim a “resounding victory” in the Iowa Caucus but, as Mark Twain once said, “There are lies, there are damned lies and there are statistics.” While he outdistanced his opponents by 30%, it was only 110,000 out of a possible 3 million registered voters, so to declare it a mandate would certainly be a stretch.
Even so, Trump was only able to garner 51% of the vote, meaning almost half of those who opted to brave the frigid temperatures thought another candidate would be better suited to take on President Biden in the Fall. This obvious weakness has other candidates pouncing in hopes of their becoming the Republican nominee.
At a recent Town Hall, Nikki Haley depicted the potential rematch as “two 80-year-olds running for president while the country is in disarray”. She failed to mention that much of the disarray is the result of her own party’s doing. Instead, she tried to paint both Trump and Biden as equally responsible while offering herself as a younger alternative that would allow the nation to move on from the current political divisions.
Yet, even if Haley wins in New Hampshire and other states, she may not win the nomination. Trump-friendly delegates have vowed to support his ascension even if he loses the primaries. In other words, they want to ignore the will of the voters in favor of loyalty to the MAGA cult.
Haley, along with Ron DeSantis, who are the only other candidates still in the race, is largely ignoring Trump’s biggest liability. Both refuse to bring up his criminal prosecution and his responsibility for the January 6th insurrection. Instead, they attack each other while vaguely referencing Trump’s multiple comments about being a dictator and a path of vengeance he threatens to unleash should he win re-election.
Catching Fire and Mental Health
Being an incumbent usually has the advantage of constantly being on the national stage. So far, the Biden administration has failed to capitalize on this. There is no catchphrase, such as “Morning in America” or “Hope and Change” that has resonated with the voters. “Bidenomics” has fallen flat due to many Americans failing to reap the benefits of a booming economy. And, as of yet, there is no unifying message to propel Biden into the spotlight.
Meanwhile, Trump has had years to hone his MAGA messaging. His multiple legal woes are being decried as “Witch Hunts”, politically persecution and election interference, even as his supporters in Congress are conducting sham impeachment inquiries and demanding prosecutors turn over evidence related to Trump’s indictments, which is a clear case of obstruction of justice.
Trump supporters are quick to jump on any Biden misstep or verbal gaffe, yet conveniently ignore Trump’s own mental decline. They gloss over his declaration to become a dictator. They turn a blind eye to his confusing Presidents Biden and Obama. They disregard his comments on a supposed test of his mental acuity when the evaluation is actually meant to detect signs of dementia.
It’s all part of the MAGA narrative. And if we aren’t careful, it may be successful.
All signs point to a likely rematch of the 2020 election. Trump supporters are out to prove that the election was a fluke, which would also reinforce their claims that the election was rigged. Biden supporters are out to preserve Democracy in the face of authoritarian threats.
The election has dire consequences for the future of America, and the world at large. Vote Blue!
This article was originally published at https://leantotheleft.net, for which the author, CJ Waldron, is a regular contributor. Waldron, a Conway resident, is an adjunct English professor at Horry-Georgtown Technical College.