At the beginning of the new year, the political picture in the United States looks bleak and worrying.
The presidential elections in November are the most important event in the 2024 international calendar.
This time, the matter is not limited to choosing between two candidates. Now it is about the future of liberal democracy and the role of the United States as a leader of free nations.
Republicans, also called the “Grand Old Party,” seem determined to capitulate Donald Trump got a second chance as president, nearly four years after he tried by all means to overturn the legal election result.
The coup attempt failed, but Trump's power over the Republican Party remains. What was once a responsible conservative party has become divided into factions waging bitter battles.
The strongest faction is the right-wing populist movement that worships Trump. In this sect, people firmly believe in the big lie that Trump actually won the election in 2020. That there is an internal enemy far worse and more dangerous than any foreign power.
The Republican Party was founded by opponents of slavery and Abraham Lincoln became their first president. Today Donald Trump talks about how “illegal immigrants are poisoning the blood of the nation.”
– I've never read “Mein Kampf,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Iowa before Christmas, responding to critics who believe his rhetoric about the nation's blood is suspiciously similar to the rhetoric used by Adolf Hitler.
Trump doesn't care about scary historical parallels. Obviously, many of his followers don't either. Blood letter works. The audience applauds him.
In a similar vein, Trump has begun referring to political opponents as vermin. These are the words that authoritarian leaders often use. Trump's language has become increasingly authoritarian.
Republican Richard Nixon was re-elected president by appealing to the “silent majority.” Instead, Trump is inciting a vocal and angry minority, which he hopes will grow into a majority by the November election.
– I am your warrior. I am your justice. “To all who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your revenge,” he said in a speech in Maryland earlier this year.
But no one has suffered greater injustice than him, according to Trump. He does not just claim that he was denied victory in the elections. He also claims to be the victim of the worst witch hunt ever.
Therefore, Trump's election campaign revolves primarily around taking revenge on everyone who stood against him. This is a far cry from Republican Ronald Reagan's positive, optimistic, forward-looking message in the 1984 election campaign about “America's Tomorrow.”
Trump described the November elections as the final battle. At the opposite end of the ring stands the elderly and unpopular president, Joe Biden (81 years old). More and more Democratic voters are questioning whether Trump has enough power to defeat Trump again.
The United States has gone through a period of high inflation and high interest rates. The fact that the US economy has performed well during difficult economic times compared to other Western countries has not convinced voters that they should give Biden renewed confidence.
Also a big problem is that many voters believe that Biden, the oldest US president, is too old for the job. Fewer pages are the same as about four-year-old Trump.
The problem for Trump is that he will have to spend much of the new year in the courts. He is accused of a total of 91 cases in four criminal cases before different courts. Being elected president is the best protection against the risk of being sentenced to prison. Meanwhile, Trump is using the criminal prosecution as evidence of a witch hunt.
A number of polls show that there is little enthusiasm among a majority of Americans for a rematch between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.
Behind the two older men stand two younger women ready to take over. What if the US presidential elections were held between Nikki Haley (51 years old) and Kamala Harris (59 years old), instead of Trump and Biden?
Harris v. Haley is a hypothetical scenario, though not entirely plausible.
If Biden chooses to withdraw, contrary to speculation, Vice President Kamala Harris is the closest to assuming the position of the Democrats' nominee.
If Trump is found guilty next year in one or more of the criminal cases that await him, Republicans may need to think again. Nikki Haley is experiencing a boom in the election campaign and is competing for second place after Trump.
Opinion polls have been recorded indicating that it would be very even if it were between Haley and Harris. The choice will be between a Republican candidate who is traditionally conservative and hawkish on foreign policy, and a liberal Democratic candidate who will continue many of the current administration's policies.
Haley sought to attract broader support from Trump, as an alternative to attract independent voters and conservative Democrats. But she walked away from a rally this week when asked about the background to the American Civil War without mentioning slavery in the South. The next day I apologized.
Harris has been moved to a somewhat anonymous supporting role in the White House. She is no more popular than Biden among broad segments of the population, but with some important exceptions. Harris has more support than Biden among young people, women and minorities. These are the groups of voters that Democrats must mobilize to win the presidential election. This gives Harris an important role in the election campaign.
The fact that the forecast is alarming is largely due to what has happened recently. American democracy was tested when Trump refused to accept electoral defeat and instead incited his supporters to fight.
The legitimacy of elections and the peaceful transfer of power are the cornerstones of democracies. Trump is systematically undermining trust in the electoral system. He will never admit defeat.
So, it's not just Election Night that will be exciting in 2024. There is every reason to fear what might happen in the following days.
“Organizer. Social media geek. General communicator. Bacon scholar. Proud pop culture trailblazer.”