“It’s déjà-vu all over again,” as Yogi Berra, the legendary American baseball coach, famously observed. The US presidential election in 2024 seems almost certain to be a re-run of the 2020 contest, with roles swapped between the two protagonists, Joe Biden now the incumbent and Donald Trump the challenger.
Last time out, it became a cliché among commentators to lament that, with 170 million people in America aged between 35 (the minimum age for presidential candidates) and 80, how did the contest for the most powerful office in the world narrow down to a choice between Trump and Biden? Now it seems likely that Hobson’s choice will be repeated.
Joe Biden has announced his candidature, linked as before with that of Kamala Harris – a platform calculated to make many American voters lose the will to live. Donald Trump has also announced his candidature for the Republican nomination, but here at least the pattern will be broken: if Trump wins the nomination, we can safely assume his running mate will not be Mike Pence.
If Biden is accepted by the Democrats as their standard bearer – and there seems little likelihood of his being successfully challenged – then the world faces a thoroughly alarming prospect. Many commentators have seized upon the statistic that, if elected, Biden would be 86 years old during his final months in office. But that is not what is frightening: many 86-year-olds retain their full mental faculties and function impressively in whatever milieu they occupy.
The concerning thing is that Joe Biden is not of that company: he is a man whose cognitive decline even in his late 70s was rapid and noticeable. Lately he has deteriorated, his gaffes proliferating (“I salute China – er – Canada”), unable to distinguish between the All Blacks and the Black and Tans. Yet, assuming he wins the election, America and the world face six more years of this accelerating mental decline in the occupant of the Oval Office, at a time of extreme danger, war in Europe, the global economy looking ever more precarious and an urgent need for strong, intelligent and decisive leadership of the West.
What is the Democratic Party leadership thinking of? Nothing, apparently, beyond the fact that Biden has beaten Trump once and so might beat him again. That selfish partisan calculation may be one that Democrats will come to rue. Biden ran his last presidential campaign from a basement; but more visibility is required of an incumbent president. What if Biden secures the nomination, only to perpetrate some appalling mistake or suffer a health scare during the campaign, with Trump all the while pouring highly quotable scorn and derision on the White House dotard?
Worse still, what if such a crisis were to occur during a second term? What if he had to make way for President Harris, more than 20 years younger than her senile superior, but endowed with the thinking power of a geranium? It is bad enough that the Democratic establishment is prepared to inflict Biden on the world, but there is no excuse for their presenting a double ticket of such appalling ineptitude. That pair would be mocked if they were contesting the mayorship of Peoria: aspiring to remain at the head of Western geopolitical interests is an affront to sane people everywhere.
Yet Biden has nailed his colours to the Harris mast, featuring the vice-president 13 times in his campaign launch video. Polls show a large majority of Americans do not want Biden to stand again, yet the Democratic Party clings to him as their best bet to win in 2024. What does that say about the present state of that party? Nationally, it is devastating America. It is startling to realise that the political party that wants to defund the police, that has presided over the descent into dystopian anarchy of cities such as San Francisco and Portland, that has degraded America’s history and most respected institutions, is in possession of the White House.
That is a scenario tailor-made for Donald Trump, with his pledge to make America great and glorious again. Most psephologists discount Trump’s chances and exaggerate Biden’s; there is much preoccupation with the president’s supposed 5 million-vote advantage in the popular suffrage. But is that what will preoccupy Americans next year when they cast their votes? Abortion and a slick electoral machine will carry the day for the Democrats, is the received wisdom.
But independent voters, on whom the outcome largely depends, might have a pro-Democrat view on issues like abortion, only to have it neutralised by the extravagances of the transgender movement, leading them to focus instead on their wallets. The current snapshot of the economy shows it growing by only 1.1 per cent in the first quarter of this year, instead of the projected 2 per cent. The Federal Reserve’s crusade against inflation – nine interest rate rises over the past year – has left much of US business punch drunk, to the extent that Goldman Sachs believes there is a 35 per cent chance of a downturn over the next year, a time frame that runs dangerously close to the election.
Beyond that, Joe Biden’s mind-boggling “reconstruction” packages, heavily salted with pork-barrel handouts to leftist interest groups, have brought government financial discourse into the vocabulary of trillions, displacing billions. How much longer can the US’s manic borrowing continue before the system implodes and, with it, the global economy? It was James Carville and Bill Clinton, in 1992, who articulated the central issue at any American election: “It’s the economy, stupid.”
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That is the last thing Biden wants to hear on the campaign trail. The Democrats are steering a course for a culture wars election campaign: middle America may have other priorities. What achievements can Biden boast? He will be haunted by images of America’s humiliation in Afghanistan, on his watch. Some voters may ask themselves, for all the demonisation of Donald Trump in the mainstream and social media, what dreadful things actually happened during his presidency?
Nothing of Afghan proportions, is the evident answer. Can we be certain that Trump will be the GOP candidate? It seems increasingly inevitable. Ron DeSantis faded early: he is arguably too Florida-embedded and the general feeling is a presidential candidature now would be premature. Trump’s declared rivals are Nikki Haley, who carries too much RINO (Republican in name only) baggage for hardline Republicans; former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson; former Montana secretary of state Corey Stapleton; and, most intellectually interesting, Vivek Ramaswamy who has fresh ideas for the regeneration of America and its spirit of entrepreneurship.
But none of these worthies looks like a credible challenger to Trump’s hegemony within American conservatism. He is holding the GOP hostage by the implicit threat that if he is not the Republican nominee, his support base will sit out the election, giving Biden a landslide victory. Democrats hope a court case involving a porn star will discredit Trump. But it is an old story, long priced into Trump’s stock, and heavily counterbalanced by public horror at the indictment of a former president in what is the most shamelessly contrived weaponisation of the law to serve a political vendetta.
Joe Biden, so far, only has two rivals for the Democratic nomination: Robert F Kennedy and Marianne Williamson, both authors and hardly likely to topple an incumbent president. The United States can send probes to the edge of the universe, but when it comes to selecting a ruler for this great power, it exhibits a lack of credibility that is alarming to the rest of the world. Why can the land of opportunity not produce great leaders any more?
The answer lies in the debasement of politics across the whole of the West, the now near-universal divorce of the political class from the populations it governs and, in America, the insane costs of participation in elections. At the 2020 presidential election, $14.4bn was spent, more than twice the expenditure, itself a record, in 2016. Can democracy survive being swamped by plutocracy? That relates directly to the elephant in the room: the contested validity of the 2020 election.
Many intelligent people in America, including independent voters, unimpressed by extravagant conspiracy theories regarding electronic voting machines, feel a gnawing concern about the outcome of the last election. They recognise that the absurd expenditure of $14.4bn reflected the determination of the liberal billionaire class – in Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Wall Street, etc – to dislodge Donald Trump. They witnessed the heavily loaded bias on social media platforms, silencing conservatives, programming algorithms to reduce access to pro-conservative sites by configuring search engines accordingly, and the naked partisanship of the mainstream media.
In plain terms, they suspect the presidency was effectively purchased for Biden by America’s plutocracy; and so do many observers overseas. In that sense, even putting aside the complaints of Donald Trump, there is well-founded concern that the Left’s occupation of all the commanding heights in United States opinion formation is eroding the credibility of the democratic process in the very country that the rest of the world looks to as the paradigm of that system. That, arguably, will be the most important issue at next year’s presidential election in America.
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