The 2024 U.S. Presidential Race is starting to take shape.
Like all elections, from Parish Council to the Leader of the Free World, it will be decided by a combination of three key elements – Candidates, Policies and Campaigns.
Here is my ‘cheat sheet’ for those not closely following or immersed in the election on a day-to-day basis yet but want to know what to look out for in the coming 18 months.
Let’s start with the Candidates.
This week, White House incumbent, Joe Biden, formally declared his intention to seek a second term.
Short of a medical crisis, this means he will be the Democrats’ choice.
Meanwhile the Republican Party (GOP) are struggling to find a candidate they can rally behind.
The current front-runners are former President and legally challenged Donald Trump; former VP Mike Pence who may or may not testify in court against his old boss; or Ron DeSantis, the Florida Governor currently locked in a battle with libraries, schools, universities, and Disney Corporation about his hard-line views on homosexuality, the family and religion.
Long odds are available for the GOP to add a candidate of colour or a female to the ticket in the shape of former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley or Vivek Ramaswamy, a right-wing Wall St financier and opponent of Environment, Social and Governance investing and regulations.
And while an independent may throw their hat in too – Kanye is talking about doing that – in a decidedly two-party race, the choice of candidates appears to be more of the same – Male, Pale and Stale.
Joe Biden will be a fortnight shy of turning 82 years old when he asks voters to back his vision of the future. That’s a bold request. Donald Trump will be 77 years old if he makes it onto the ticket, Mike Pence will be a youthful 65, while the baby of the bunch, Ronald Dion DeSantis, will be a mere 45 years of age.
U.S. voters are being asked to choose a President who is probably older than their grandparents to shape the next generation’s political, social and economic landscape.
Beyond the age and favourability of the candidates, the Issues and Policy Decisions which will be central to this election are already taking shape.
High on the list will be Abortion and Reproduction Rights for women. The long-standing constitutional right for access to abortion established in the landmark case Roe vs Wade was overturned in 2022 and many states – all Republican controlled in the South and Mid-West – have recently enacted laws which outlaw abortions, even in cases of rape and incest.
The candidates will be asked repeatedly their views on the issue, and what they propose to do if elected. The challenge for Presidents of any political persuasion is they don’t have far reaching and wide sweeping powers. Current President Biden is not able to reinstate the protections offered by Roe v Wade without Congress, but lawmakers and activists have clamoured for him to take other steps, such as finding ways for the federal government to defend abortion access in every state, build clinics on Federal Land in states with bans, and safeguard the rights of women to travel across state lines unhindered to seek medical support.
Next on the list of hot-button topics will be the reverse of democracy in America and the challenge to legitimacy of elections, big government, and the institutions of power.
Here, activists on all the fringes of the US political system come out shouting. The Hard Right, supported by white supremacist groups, racists and Christian nationalists stormed the Capitol to challenge the authenticity of the 2020 election, claiming Trump won. The Far Left want to undermine the capitalist structures which steward the nation’s economy. Diverse groups are calling for the de-funding of the police, punitive tax rates for the wealthy and businesses, and withdrawing America’s military role around the World.
And, of course, in the largest free market anywhere – its about the economy, stupid.
The COVID-19 pandemic saw the nation commit trillions of dollars – first under President Trump, then his successor Joe Biden – to shoring up small business, covering medical insurance costs for the low paid, and the continued operation of key government departments with a reduced tax take. Since then, President Biden has signed off on a further $2.3trillion spend on infrastructure to improve our power grid, build new schools and houses, and create a domestic semi-conductor manufacturing industry amongst other priorities. He then signed off on a $1.8trillion to support early years education, tax credits for working families, college and university grants, and student debt relief.
Whether the US economy is strong enough to support such high levels of spending will be a big feature of the presidential discourse, and the need to set a debt ceiling – an extension of the nation’s overdraft – will become a flash point later this Summer as the two sides start taking pot shots at each other.
And finally, there will be the Campaigns. What can we expect to see in the papers, on the airwaves, and most significantly in our inboxes and social media feeds.
Biden, smartly, took advantage of ‘first mover’ opportunity and is effectively up and running in the campaign while the GOP is going to have to go through a brutal and nasty domestic row in front of the entire country to pick a candidate who keeps fundamentalists, gun lovers, high net worth individuals and angry rust belt white men onside.
Biden has launched his bid talking about freedom, rights, and hard work – Republican tropes. He has also declared it’s time to ‘Finish the Job” – linking his second term to his first.
The President and his team will want to make this a Biden v Trump Rematch. They will be confident that despite Biden’s personal favourability being underwater, if he is up against an even less popular and more divisive figure in Trump, he will have enough to get his Zimmer frame over the line.
Trump will want it to be about the Big Lie again. He will want to reach out to everyone who is angry and scare them even more. He will raise millions from angry folk – they’ll take your guns, they’ll give your taxes to immigrants, their social programs will bankrupt your health insurance, and watch out for crime horror stories – will be his refrain. But with criminal prosecutions looming, he may not be the man.
If DeSantis gets the nod, then the campaign turns really dirty. Trump and his followers probably hate DeSantis more than Biden, declaring him disloyal to their hero. So far, Ron has had a relatively easy ride on his colourful back story but expect both the Democrats and the MAGA troops to go low, real low, if he starts looking like the candidate.
While this may be one of the most important election cycles based on what’s going on in the World, it is hard to see the new ideas, innovative solutions and creative thinking that will benefit anyone.
Apart from PR agencies, lobbyists and campaign advisors, thankfully.