Trump, Putin, high interest rates: scenarios that should shake the US this year

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The Republican Party’s takeover of the US House of Representatives this week ushers in a two-year political stint that threatens to bring confrontation for the administration.

At the same time, a Republican Speaker of the House and a Democratic President try to wield power at opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington’s seat of power.

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The unprecedented possibility that former President Donald Trump, who has already run for the White House again, could face the courts could further divide the country at a time when American democracy is under severe pressure.

Hectic already, the 2024 presidential campaign will cloud the picture even more, as both parties feel that the White House and control of the Capitol are up for grabs after very close midterm elections.

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Abroad, the war in Ukraine has the constant and alarming possibility of turning into a conflict between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Russia. The scenario will test the will of US taxpayers to continue sending billions of dollars to sustain other peoples’ dreams of freedom.

While leading the West through this crisis, President Joe Biden also faces mounting challenges from China and the alarming advances in Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs.

If 2022 was a tumultuous and dangerous year, 2023 could be just as complicated.

Washington’s change of power

Washington is preparing for a severe shock. Since November, there has only been talk of the great red wave (ie, republican), which has not consolidated. But the reality of a divided government will finally set in this week.

The House Republican majority, in which radical conservatives now have disproportionate influence, will take over half of the Capitol.

Republicans will launch investigations, promote obstructions and make possible impeachment requests against the White House. The idea is to stifle Biden’s presidency and ruin his re-election hopes.

Ironically, voters who have rejected Trump-style circus politics and electoral denialism will have to swallow even more of that menu. Is that the tight majority of the GOP (acronym that represents the Republican Party) means that allies of the former president, such as Representative Jim Jordan, from Ohio (appointed as possible head of the Committee on Justice of the House) and Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, of Georgia, will have significant influence in the house.

The new Republican House represents a return to power for Trumpism in a powerful corner of Washington. If Kevin McCarthy, the GOP leader in the house, wins his desperate fight against his party’s hardliners to secure the congressional presidency, he will be in constant danger of walking the plank after making several concessions to the far right.

A weak speaker of the House and an all-out pro-Trump faction in the GOP threaten to produce a series of clashes with the White House on the topic of spending. One of the most dangerous points is the need to increase the government’s borrowing capacity by the middle of the year, which could lead the country to default if not done.

With Democrats in the minority and a new generation of leaders, stalemates in government are more likely to happen — not productive bipartisanship. The GOP is pledging to investigate the president’s son Hunter Biden’s business ties and the Mexican border crisis.

But Republicans could be defeated if voters think they’re overstepping their boundaries — a factor Biden could capitalize on as he runs for re-election.

In the Senate, Democrats are still celebrating the expansion of their slim majority in the midterm elections (after two years of a 50-50 split, the Senate is now 51-49 in favor of the Democratic Party).

Wasting no time to show how important this force is, the president travels to Kentucky this week. He will attend an event also attended by Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, to promote the infrastructure package he passed with bipartisan support in 2021.

The Earthquake Potential of a Trump Indictment

US Attorney General Merrick Garland may soon face one of the toughest decisions in modern politics: whether or not to indict Trump over his attempt to steal the 2020 election and his illegal hoarding of classified documents.

A criminal prosecution of a former president and current presidential candidate by the administration that succeeded him would subject political and judicial institutions to a strain more extreme than even that brought on by Trump.

The former president has already claimed he suffers from persecution — and an early statement from his 2024 campaign gave him the opportunity to frame it all as politicization.

If Trump is indicted, the turmoil could be so corrosive that it’s fair to ask whether such action would actually be in the national interest — assuming that the special counsel appointed to the case, Jack Smith, mounts a lawsuit with a reasonable chance of success in court.

However, if Trump really did break the law (and given the strength of the evidence of insurrection presented in the criminal complaints of the 6 January Parliamentary Committee), the case creates an even deeper dilemma: not prosecuting him would set a precedent. that puts former presidents above the law.

“If a president can incite an insurrection and not be held accountable, then there is no limit to what a president can and cannot do,” said Adam Kinzinger, a former Republican representative from Illinois and a member of the congressional committee.

“If he is not guilty of a crime, then I sincerely fear for the future of the country, because now every future president can say that the limit is to do everything he can to stay in power,” he continued.

It’s already 2024

Like it or not, with his announcement in November, Trump launched the United States into the upcoming presidential campaign. But unusual doubts cloud his future after seven years dominating the Republican Party.

The withered campaign launch, added to the 2020 electoral defeat and the poor performance in 2022 of his handpicked candidates (all denialists of the election result), tarnished Trump’s aura.

Potential alternative figures to his populist and nationalist politics, such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, could test Trump’s connection with his conservative base of loyal worshipers. Even if he manages to get away from the courts, Trump must urgently show he is still the GOP’s strongman, as more and more Republicans see him as a liability.

Biden is close to giving the people a new historical fact: a re-election campaign for a president over 80 years old. His success in preventing the Republicans from winning outright in the midterm elections has caused anxiety among Democrats about his re-election.

And the strongest ace up Biden’s sleeve is that he already defeated Trump once. Still, he wouldn’t be able to play it if Trump steps out of the picture and another potential GOP candidate emerges. At 44, DeSantis, for example, is just over half the current president’s age (80).

With 2023 just around the corner, a replay of the Trump-Biden White House duel — something polls show voters don’t want — is the best bet. But changing politics, major developments in the coming months and the vagaries of fate mean there’s no guarantee the landscape will be the same at the end of the year.

The world is getting more dangerous

Last year’s Russian invasion of Ukraine showed how global events from abroad can redefine a presidency. Biden’s leadership of the West against Russia’s unprovoked aggression will be an impressive centerpiece of his legacy.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin shows every sign that he will struggle for years.

Ukraine, for its part, says it will not stop until all its strength is exhausted. Thus, Biden’s ability to prevent the war from turning into a disastrous confrontation between Russia and NATO will be constantly tested.

No one knows how long US and European voters will put up with high energy prices and send billions of taxpayer dollars to arm Ukraine if western economies plunge into recession in 2023.

Biden has his mind elsewhere, too. An alarming possibility of a collision between a Chinese jet and a US military jet over the South China Sea during the holiday season hints at how tensions in the region, especially over Taiwan, could trigger another stalemate.

Biden also faces escalating nuclear crises with Iran and North Korea. Added to Russia’s nuclear tension, these facts suggest the beginning of a dangerous new era of global conflict and risk.

The economy on the edge of the abyss

Rarely has it been so difficult to assess the economic scenario. In 2022, the highest inflation in the last 40 years and the falling stock market coincided with historically low unemployment rates, which created a strange simultaneous feeling of anxiety and economic well-being.

The key question for 2023 will be whether interest rate hikes, the Federal Reserve’s heavy-handed medicine designed to lower the cost of living, can bring about a soft landing without triggering the recession many analysts believe is on the way.

Clashes between government spending and potential shutdowns could also pose new threats to growth.

The economy will be beyond the power of any political leader to control, but its state at the end of the year will play a vital role in an election that will define America, nationally and globally, beyond 2024.

Source: CNN Brasil

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