Seven Harsh Realities of 2024

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Here is how 2024 may go, just one crystal ball. Ready? As of late 2023, Trump – facing four politically-motivated indictments, and Biden – facing impeachment, federal bribery, and growing mental acuity concerns – are tied at 43 percent, Trump leading the GOP field by 40 points, Biden leading the Democrat field by 64 percent. So, what’s next?

Seven harsh realities will define 2024, assuming both become nominees – itself a major question.

First, election integrity – faith in it, and the actual thing, is the sine qua non, the “without it nothing,” of 2024. Trust in the “system” dogged 2016 and 2020, losers making outsized claims.

While Clinton’s allegations were contrived and what dogged Trump in 2020 is now water under the bridge, the issue looms large. If voters in either party believe the electoral system is not sound, or does not reflect their votes because tainted by corruption, they may stay home.

Alternatively, if most vote and the outcome seems marred, questions will surface. However, assuming all eyes stay focused on election integrity and we get a true vote, other issues rise.

Second then, even as Republicans and Democrats talk issues, a third-party candidate could run – perhaps with the “No Labels” Party, maybe RFK Jr. or Cornell West. That would split the Democrat vote, creating or widening the victory margin for Republicans.

On the flip side, disaffection with Trump could motivate a longshot Republican, reversing the effect. While seven presidential elections seem upsets, odds are against an upset this time.

Parenthetically, the upsets were – as this analysts sees it – 1844, when James Polk beat incumbent Martin Van Buren for the Democrat nomination, then beat Henry Clay in the general election, running on Texas annexation – or border security. 

That upset was followed by General Zachary Taylor besting Democrat William Cass in 1848, having won the Mexican-American war, again border security. Next was James Garfield, an unlikely compromise candidate who came out of nowhere in 1880, winning then sadly assassinated.

During the past century, Woodrow Wilson caught a victory in 1912 when Theodore Roosevelt, a wildly popular former Republican president – drawing from both parties – ran as a “Bull Mooser,” beating Republican Taft, allowing Wilson to win. Wilson squeaked another win in 1916, almost falling to Republican Charles Evan Hughes, who foresaw WWI.

The last two upsets were Harry Truman over Thomas Dewey in 1948, based on Dewey thinking he had it and Truman not giving up, then Bill Clinton’s plurality in 1992, based on third-party candidate Ross Perot taking 19 percent, conservatives abandoning George HW Bush on taxes.

Okay, now a third big factor. The vice presidential candidate on both sides this time will play a major role, as both presumptive presidential nominees are older. Disapproval of Harris is sky high, and a strong Republican vice presidential nominee could attract new votes to Trump’s side.

Fourth, among top substantive issues, the economy is first – always. Americans are struggling, little faith in Democrat policies. Inflation, interest, and unemployment are rising, causes widely understood – namely, federal overspending, ending energy independence, and overregulation.

Fifth, government overreach has come into its own. This includes attacks on parental control of children, and federal power concentration via vaccine and mask mandates, CRT, ESG, transgenderism, race reparations, attacks on free speech, faith, police, security in homes, and climate-related mandates, taking away traditional private decisions. This is now a hot button.

Sixth, border insecurity – as in 2016 and 2020 – is flashing red. Democrats have, for reasons incognizable except to add voters, opened the southern border, shipping busloads of illegals nationwide, most never returning for asylum hearings. Citizens in blue and red states are furious.

Border security is now a wedge issue, as the country is swamped by illegal-driven homelessness, housing, schooling, economic, and crime crises, border-related drug deaths among the young.

Finally, seventh, Democrats’ stunning foreign policy failures define them, a disastrous Afghanistan pullout and marine deaths – which Biden failed to mention on the anniversary, cozying up to Communist China and terrorist Iran, hemorrhaging US ordinance to Ukraine, and creating dependence on foreign oil.  These are now part of voter calculus, huge liabilities.

Net-net, these seven factors are likely to define 2024, and seem unlikely to favor Democrats. That said, as Van Buren, Cass, Taft, Hughes, Dewey, and Bush 41 all learned – to quote the non-candidate Yogi Berra … “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” Those are the harsh realities of 2024.

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.

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