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Next Year's Presidential Election

 The 2024 Presidential Election       Gerry OShea

Senator Mitt Romney in announcing his retirement from the Senate last month suggested that the two current likely major-party nominees for the presidency should step down: “I think it would be great if both President Biden and former President Trump were to stand aside and let their respective parties choose someone from the next generation.”

More problematical for Mr. Biden than the ruminations of the Utah senator are the results of a recent CNN poll where 67% of Democrats said that they hoped he would not be renominated, reflecting widespread concerns in his own party that the president who will be 82 on Inauguration Day is too old for the job. Imagining him dozing off when a sharp mind is needed will constitute the mocking parlance promoted by opponents.

Democrats point to the impressive list of legislation that has emerged from President Biden’s first term. The American Rescue Plan protected workers’ pensions, as well as providing money for affordable housing and for struggling small business owners.

He signed a $1 trillion infrastructure bill which in addition to bringing high-speed internet to rural communities provided badly needed funds for repairing roads, bridges and railroads throughout the country. Furthermore, he introduced the Inflation Reduction Act, making health insurance plans more affordable, and lowering drug costs by requiring Medicare to negotiate the prices of ten expensive prescription medicines in common use.

These and other examples of progressive leadership have marked the Biden administration as the most forward-looking and responsive to people’s needs since President Johnson in the 1960’s.

Despite these real accomplishments, almost half of Americans believe the economy is poor and getting worse. In a post-midterm poll in battleground states conducted by the highly regarded Way to Win, a staggering 78% of voters said they couldn’t name one positive piece of legislation that Biden and his party had passed.

While unemployment is at a record low with over 13 million new jobs created after he took over in the White House, inflation has ravaged the earning power of Americans since the Covid pandemic. This is evident in the huge increases in the prices of staple foods in the supermarket; in addition, interest rate hikes have upped the cost of big-ticket items – homes, cars, college, housing – to the point where they are no longer affordable for many families.

Blaming President Biden for substantial increases in the cost of living may seem unfair but his administration is the one in power and soaring costs of everyday goods certainly darken people’s feelings about political leaders, especially the ones at the top.

Emotions, gut feelings and prejudices against various groups are major influences on voting patterns in every election. However, policy issues also matter especially when the two parties clearly operate from different principles. There are two areas where these considerations apply and will likely influence the election results, especially in swing states, in November 2024.

The failure of Congress to enact sensible gun control because of the gun lobby’s power over the Republican Party is showing in polls as a growing worry, especially for families apprehensive about sending their children to school. Children’s deaths from gun violence, already at an all-time high, increased by 12% last year while the number of wounded also grew by 11%.

 Most Democrats want laws that limit gun ownership to people over 21 years after they go through a police check and some minimal training in the use and storage of weapons. They would also ban possession of machine guns like AR-15’s by anyone outside of the defense forces. More and more young people see how ridiculous and really dangerous the present system is and it will impact the voting decisions of substantial numbers of parents and grandparents next year.

Access to abortion has become a major point of contention since the Roe ruling was overturned. Young women especially see this as a major encroachment on their lives, and surveys taken after various local elections, including the mid-terms, confirm that this issue brings many young voters to the polls on the side of Democratic candidates.

The president’s advisors see clearly the problems he faces in his bid for re-election, especially his age and the effects of high inflation. They like to say that he shouldn’t be compared to some perfect opponent representing a party with a well-developed program for government.

Mitt Romney describes the worsening chaos in the Republican Party as disastrous for the future of democracy in the United States and he condemns the leadership, headed by Donald Trump and his coterie of yes-men, as a bunch of fakers.

Mr. Trump is so far ahead of all the contenders for the Republican nomination that the battle seems to be between Haley and DeSantis for a distant second place. The Republican leadership in the House of Representatives is in disarray. Speaker McCarthy was kicked out when he lost the support of eight colleagues – 4% - in his conference, and his second-in-command, Steve Scalise, also bit the dust after a dozen or so House Republicans rejected him. Jim Jordan from the far-right of the party whose behavior during the attack on the Capitol was reprehensible also failed to secure a mandate for leadership.

Keep in mind that Republicans won a majority in the House of Representatives and so they are supposed to be playing a big part in running the country. In reality, they are in constant disarray, have failed to pass any meaningful legislation, and their efforts to agree on a Speaker has been appropriately compared to a malfunctioning trapeze act.

It is difficult to contemplate that most of the Republican leaders serving in the House of Representatives do not accept the legitimacy of the result of the last presidential election. They continue to support Donald Trump’s asinine contention that he was cheated out of victory in the race for the White House in November 2020.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers appeared in dozens of state courts asserting he was wronged.  The Authorities examined their allegations of serious election malfeasance and found them to be baseless. Judges in most cases dismissed the allegations without even a hearing because of the lack of any evidence of corruption.

Amazingly, tens of millions of Americans, at least one-third of the electorate, go along with Trump’s preposterous assertions of grievance.  The level of popular credulity on this crucial matter leaves a serious question mark over the continuation of the democratic system in the United States. What inconvenient fact will they deny next? Or what unconstitutional stunt will they espouse to grab power down the road?

Trump has been sued in New York and indicted in Georgia, Florida, Manhattan and Washington after a wave of legal scrutiny related to his behavior in business and politics. The first case, a civil action brought by Letitia James, the New York Attorney General, went to trial in October. Some of the others, all criminal lawsuits, carrying years in jail if he is convicted, will begin while the presidential campaign is in progress.

Many citizens are bewildered by the Trump political saga, by the precarious state of democracy in the country, but national polls suggest that he may well be re-elected to the most powerful political job in the world.

Gerry OShea blogs at wemustetalking


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