Five political trends that could make 2023 a memorable year


The Republican takeover of the House this week will usher in a two-year political era that threatens to lead to power clashes and shutdowns as a GOP chairman and a Democratic president try to wield power from the ends opposite Pennsylvania Avenue.

The unprecedented possibility that former President Donald Trump, who has already launched another White House bid, could be indicted could further tear the nation apart at a time when American democracy remains under serious strain. The already turbulent 2024 presidential campaign, meanwhile, will stir up more political toxins as both parties sense the White House and control of Congress are up for grabs after hotly contested midterms.

Abroad, the war in Ukraine brings the constant and alarming possibility of spilling over into a NATO-Russia conflict and will test the will of American taxpayers to keep sending billions of dollars to support foreigners’ dreams of freedom. . As he leads the West in this crisis, President Joe Biden faces increasingly obvious challenges from the rise of China and the alarming progress of Iran’s and South Korea’s nuclear programs. North.

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

Washington is preparing for a violent shock. Since November, the big story is that of the red wave that did not arrive. But the reality of a divided government will finally dawn this week. A Republican majority in the House, in which radical conservatives now have disproportionate influence, will take control of half of Capitol Hill. Republicans will launch White House investigations, filibusters and possible impeachments designed to strangle Biden’s presidency and ruin his re-election hopes.

Ironically, voters who scorned Trump-style circus politics and electoral denial will get more since the smaller-than-expected GOP majority means cronies of the ex-president, like the expected House Judiciary Speaker. , Jim Jordan of Ohio, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. of Georgia, will have a significant influence. The new Republican-led House represents, in effect, a return to power for Trumpism in a powerful corner of Washington. If House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy wins his desperate fight against extremists in his party for the presidency, he will be in constant danger of stepping on the board after making multiple concessions to the far right.

A weak speaker and pro-Trump nihilistic faction in the broader GOP are threatening to produce a series of spending showdowns with the White House — most dangerously over whether to increase government borrowing power by the middle of the year, which could throw the US into default if not done.

As Democrats head into the minority under a new generation of leaders, government shutdowns are more likely than bipartisanship. The GOP pledges to investigate the business ties of the president’s son, Hunter Biden, and the crisis on the southern border. The GOP could suffer, however, if voters think they’ve overstepped — a factor Biden will use as he eyes a second term.

In the Senate, the Democrats always celebrate the enlargement of their tiny majority at mid-term. (After two years split 50-50, the chamber is now 51-49 in their favor). Wasting no time seeking to carve out a reputation among voters as a force for bipartisanship and effective governance, the president will visit Kentucky this week. He will take part in an event also featuring Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, to highlight the infrastructure package that passed with bipartisan support in 2021.

Attorney General Merrick Garland could soon face one of the most fateful decisions in modern politics: whether to indict Trump for his attempt to steal the 2020 election and for his hoarding of classified documents.

A criminal prosecution of a former president and current presidential candidate by his successor administration would subject the country’s political and judicial institutions to more extreme strain than even Trump has yet managed. The ex-president has claimed persecution before for the investigations he faces – and an early statement from his 2024 campaign gave him the opportunity to call them politicized.

If Trump were indicted, the uproar could be so caustic that it’s fair to wonder whether such action would really be in the national interest – assuming Special Counsel Jack Smith mounts a case that has a reasonable chance of success. before the courts.

Yet if Trump did indeed break the law — and given the strength of the insurgency evidence against him presented in the House committee’s January 6 criminal referrals — his case also creates an even deeper dilemma. Failure to prosecute him would set a precedent that would place former presidents above the law.

“If a president can incite an insurrection and not be held accountable, then there really is no limit to what a president can or cannot do,” said the outgoing GOP representative of the Illinois, Adam Kinzinger, select committee member, on CNN. Sunday on the State of the Union.

“If he’s not guilty of a crime, then frankly, I fear for the future of his country because now every future president can say, ‘Hey, here’s the bar.’ And the bar is to do whatever you can to stay in power.

Like it or not, with his November announcement, Trump propelled America into the next presidential campaign. But unusual doubts cloud his future after seven years of dominating the Republican Party. His lame campaign launch, bleating about his 2020 election defeat and the poor record of his hand-picked candidates who refuse midterm elections have rattled Trump’s aura.

Potential alternative figureheads for his populist and nationalist culture war policies, like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, are emerging and could test the ex-president’s connection to his beloved conservative base. Even as he pushes back on multiple investigations, Trump urgently needs to show he’s still the GOP’s top dog as more Republicans see him as a national responsibility.

Biden is getting closer to giving Americans a new piece of history — a re-election campaign for a president over 80. His success in staving off a Republican landslide midterm has eased some anxiety among Democrats about possible re-election. And Biden’s strongest card is that he’s already beaten Trump once. Still, he couldn’t play that card if Trump fades and another potential GOP nominee emerges. DeSantis, for example, is about half the age of the current president.

As 2023 opens, a repeated White House duel between Trump and Biden — which polls show voters don’t want — is the best bet. But political developments, significant events in the coming months and the vagaries of fate mean that there is no guarantee that this will be the case at the end of the year.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year showed how world events outside can redefine a presidency. Biden’s leadership of the West against Moscow’s unprovoked aggression will be an impressive centerpiece of his legacy. But Russian President Vladimir Putin shows all the signs of fighting for years. Ukraine says it won’t stop until all of its forces are driven out. Thus, Biden’s ability to prevent the war from turning into a disastrous Russia-NATO clash will be constantly tested.

And who knows how long American and European voters will put up with high energy prices and send billions of taxpayers’ money to arm Ukraine if Western economies plunge into recession this year.

Biden has his hands full elsewhere. An alarming near miss between a Chinese plane and a US military plane over the South China Sea over the holidays suggests that tensions in the region, particularly over Taiwan, could trigger another standoff between the superpowers. Biden also faces burgeoning nuclear crises with Iran and North Korea, which, along with Russia’s nuclear rattle, suggests the start of a dangerous new era of global conflict and risk.

Rarely has an economy been so difficult to judge. In 2022, 40-year-high inflation and falling stock markets coincided with historically low unemployment rates, creating a strange simultaneous feeling of economic anxiety and well-being. The key question for 2023 will be whether the Federal Reserve’s tough interest rate medicine — designed to drive down the cost of living — can bring about a soft landing without triggering a recession that many analysts believe is imminent.

The spending showdown in Washington and potential government shutdowns could also pose new threats to growth. The economy will be beyond the ability 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 after 2024.


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