Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden in 2024: Why the World Should Be Scared: This year elections are scheduled in Nigeria, Thailand, Turkey, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, among other foreign nations. Most of the world will barely notice as these crucial polls occur.
In contrast, there are few people who didn’t closely watch last November’s off-year contest in America and aren’t vitally concerned about the 2024 presidential race, which will kick off later this year. Already former president Donald Trump said he is running. President Joe Biden may announce in the near future.
America’s electoral battles are a global spectacle. Anyone from the US who travels the world can count on being asked to explain the inanity of their nation’s political process. Foreign peoples—average folks as well as political elites—follow US candidates’ antics and foibles. Election night parties are held around the world, and not just in American embassies.
It might be good fun if America was not the world’s most powerful country, ostentatiously self-absorbed and arrogant. And if Washington was not convinced of its moral righteousness and historic mission, filled with practical descendants of France’s royal Bourbans, neither learning nor forgetting anything. Two plus centuries after America’s founding, look what the US ruling establishment has become: no wonder most of the world is simultaneously fascinated and petrified.
American Politics Are a Mess
Senescence dominates the White House. President Joe Biden’s mental acuity evidently comes and goes, leaving billions of people around the globe uncertain who is making critical policy decisions, especially regarding foreign and military policy. The problem is not that the president necessarily suffers from dementia or a similar condition, but that his ability to handle potentially catastrophic crises is almost certainly often impaired. A large majority of Americans, including Democrats, are concerned with his condition and don’t want him to run for reelection. Friends and foes abroad can only watch, wondering who would be in charge if the US slides into war with a great power and nuclear-armed adversary, most notably Russia or China.
Vice President Kamala Harris’ debilities are more subtle but simultaneously more glaring, an anomaly hard to explain until hearing her address the American people. With an approval rating below Biden’s, she is his best defense against any attempt by Democratic Party paladins force his removal. Harris might be the one Democrat who Trump could beat.
Democrats rule the gerontocracy known as the US Senate by one vote. The world’s greatest deliberative body is anything but. Filled with wannabe secretaries of state and presidents, the Senate would have America in multiple wars if it had its own way. Some otherwise mild-mannered elders, such as Mississippi’s Roger Wicker, are aging even faster mentally than physically. Before the start of the Ukraine war Wicker infamously advocated that US attack Russia, including perhaps with nuclear weapons.
The proper response, of course, would have been for his colleagues to make an urgent call to institutionalize him in a “secure” facility. Yet also suggesting nuclear war, in this case against North Korea since the conflict would be “over there” rather than here, was Lindsey Graham, another thoughtless, inveterate hawk. His willingness to sacrifice Korean lives won him no friends on the peninsula.
Based on “the map,” covering which states have Senate elections, the GOP is very likely to gain control of the Senate in 2024. Who then would be in control? Minority Leader Mitch McConnell easily rebuffed a challenge within his caucus for this session. However, soon to turn 81 and on the ballot in 2026, he may face a repeat party battle. Other Republicans, such as Missouri’s Josh Hawley, though not quite as unhinged as Trump, press a nationalistic, protectionist, atavistic conservatism at variance with Ronald Reagan’s freedom legacy. Hawley advocates transforming the party into something very different and much uglier.
In the House, at least, the gerontocracy is over, with Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer out of the leadership. Alas, replacing Pelosi as speaker is Kevin McCarthy, who brings to mind Theodore Roosevelt’s infamous jab at President William McKinley, that the latter had a “no more backbone than a chocolate eclair.” McCarthy’s posture is preternaturally contorted, a permanent kowtow to Donald Trump, who still spawns cultish fantasies at home and triggers horrific nightmares abroad. McCarthy owes his job to the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene, nutty even by MAGA standards.
Donald Trump: Yikes
Trump hovers over the American political system, a spectral presence bringing to mind the various demons filling the New Testament as Jesus ministers throughout ancient Israel. For instance, when Jesus confronted the possessed man in the Gerasenes, the former “asked him, ‘What is your name?’ ‘My name is Legion,’ he replied, ‘for we are many’.” (Mark 5:9)
So it is with Trump. Despite a lackluster candidacy announcement, he retains the support of much of the Republican Party base. And he is the ultimate bogeyman for much of the world. Other than in Saudi Arabia and Israel, for whom Trump consistently sacrificed US interests, foreign officials run screaming from the room when his name is mentioned. For them even an enfeebled, disabled Biden would be preferable to the increasingly unhinged Orangeman.
Mainstream America, too, appears to be tiring of Trump’s ill-directed belligerency. Gaffes that once seemed almost charming now reek of intolerance and animus. He is unwilling to repudiate even the worst follower, including those with a bizarre appreciation for Adolf Hitler. Although some Trumpist cult members remain ready to drink the Kool-Aid irrespective of reality, more pragmatic MAGA voters are fleeing the DT Titanic.
For instance, last November his minions were busy as candidates across the country, in Arizona, Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and more. The vast majority of his preferred statewide picks were rejected even as other GOP candidates won. Indeed, the Republican Party probably would have had a three- or four-seat majority in the Senate had Trump-endorsed election denier loonies and other badly flawed candidates—such as Pennsylvania’s Mehmet Oz and Georgia’s Herschel Walker—not won their state primaries. Republicans also lost winnable gubernatorial races, as well as control of several state legislatures.
Like Biden, Trump simply is not wearing well. While the current president increasingly isn’t there, Trump is definitely there, unfortunately a crazy place for the addled and disturbed. Wrote National Review’s Charles C.W. Cooke:
“There was a point in time at which Trump’s unusual verbal affect and singular nose for underutilized wedge issues gave him a competitive edge. Now? Now, he’s morphing into one of the three witches from Macbeth. To peruse Trump’s account on Truth Social is to meet a cast of characters about whom nobody who lives beyond the Trump Extended Universe could possibly care one whit. Here in the real world, the border is a catastrophe, inflation is as bad as it’s been in four decades, interest rates have risen to their highest level in 15 years, crime is on the up, and the debt continues to mushroom. And yet, safely ensconced within his own macrocosm, Trump is busy mainlining Edward Lear. Day in, day out, he rambles about the adventures of Coco Chow and the Old Broken Crow; the dastardly Unselect Committee; the (presumably tasty) Stollen Presidential Election; the travails of that famous law-enforcement agency, the Gestopo; Joe Scarborough’s wife “Mike”; and other unusual characters from Coromandel. “Where the early pumpkins blow / In the middle of the woods / Lived the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò / Who STOLLE THE ELECTION / Don’t you know?”
Although securing competent, principled governance should be Americans’ uppermost goal, virtually no one in US politics today believes that any longer is possible. Democratic professionals despair at the thought of Biden leading the ticket. Who knows what mental condition he will be in? Without the COVID pandemic he won’t be able to hide in his basement throughout the campaign, as in 2016. Would Americans elect someone clearly not up to the job simply to keep his notorious opponent out of office?
Yet how to force Biden out of the race? Who would run against him, admitting to the public that Democrats had foisted upon the country a leader manifestly not up to the job? Imagine Democratic Party debates about Biden’s problem-solving and spatial abilities. Harris likely would do no better—it would be difficult for her to challenge Biden, and few would respect her claim to be his heir if he dropped out. Worst would be a multi-candidate scrum against a president who refuses to yield to Father Time.
However, Republicans could be even worse off. Trump’s perceived vulnerability invites a multitude of GOP candidates to launch Hail Merry election campaigns. Even if a popular majority wanted to move beyond Trump, who has transformed the Republican Party and spawned several imitators, the resulting votes could be split several ways, allowing Trump to scoop up delegates in winner-take-all primaries with a plurality. If he won the nomination, a 2020/2022 result is likely: a GOP loss driven by the erosion of onetime support among blue-collar Democrats and moderate Republicans. If he lost the nomination fight, he likely would claim that he was cheated and his supporters might stay home or support a third-party bid, also yielding the party’s defeat. In all these cases the MAGA wars would continue, though perhaps with declining intensity.
A legal indictment of some kind would upend Trump’s campaign, but he still might run, backed by Trumpish zealots convinced that the deep state was out to get him. Only serious physical deterioration seems likely to prevent him from continuing his campaign to the end. For most people at home and abroad, a Biden-Trump contest in today’s world—with Ukraine on fire, China swamped with COVID and eying Taiwan, North Korea testing missiles and building nukes, Iran rapidly moving ahead with its nuclear program—would be a nightmare turned technicolor spectacular.
America will again occupy the globe’s center stage with the upcoming presidential election. In this case, however, the campaign will be a certain embarrassment and possible tragedy. American politics is dysfunctional; America’s political parties are empty of principle; America’s political leaders are inadequate to their duties. Internal conflict continues to deepen and intensify. Only the American people can force the dramatic reforms needed to avert disaster.
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A 19FortyFive Contributing Editor, Doug Bandow is a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan and author of several books, including The Politics of Plunder: Misgovernment in Washington, The Politics of Envy: Statism as Theology, and Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire.