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How the 2024 US Election Will Define the Future of American Democracy and Global Order

The paramount occurrence in 2024 is unequivocally the United States election. Various intellectual institutions and media entities in Europe and the United States, such as the Eurasia Group, The Economist, Time, or the World Bank, universally assert that the U.S. election will dictate the destiny of the world. To a certain extent, this year’s election surpasses the significance of its 2016 counterpart, as Trump, once a candidate with marginally unconventional views, has, by 2024, metamorphosed into a dictator who undermines the fabric of democracy.

The Washington Post’s ominous proclamation, “Democracy dies in the dark,” is by no means hyperbolic. Presently, the United States finds itself at the nadir of political ethics, with the very survival of the constitutional system hanging by a thread. Should Trump emerge victorious in this election, American society would be imperiled, with the precipice of the city atop the mountain looming ominously. The fall of this symbolic city would, in turn, precipitate seismic shifts in the global order.

The year 2024 stands as a pivotal juncture in the survival of American democracy.

01 Trump transgressed the threshold
When conversing with my acquaintances about the U.S. election, few grasp the gravity of Trump’s electoral machinations. Today, I expound upon the perils posed by Trump and elucidate why he constitutes the gravest threat to American constitutionalism.
Trump’s political trajectory can be delineated into two epochs: 2016-2020 and 2021-2024. In the initial phase, Trump’s actions were not markedly aberrant. At most, he espoused extreme perspectives and manifested peculiar behaviors, all within the bounds of U.S. law. Pertaining to freedom of speech, Trump’s rhetoric did not transgress legal boundaries. Furthermore, within the Republican Party, there exist individuals with views more extreme than Trump’s.

For instance, Trump’s deputy, Pence, adopts a stance considerably more radical than Trump on social issues like abortion and homosexuality. Pence advocates for a complete proscription of abortion, while Trump’s position remains ambivalent.
Another exemplification lies in the economic domain. Any member of the Tea Party holds more radical views than Trump. Besides tax cuts, Trump’s other economic policies exhibit incongruity with classical liberalism. During the pandemic, Trump disbursed $2 trillion in cash. On trade, he flouts the tenets of free trade and comparative advantage, embracing trade protectionism. Trump has ardently championed the cause of blue-collar workers by frequenting labor unions.

Economically, Trump is not merely non-right-wing but leans slightly leftward. The peril emanates not from his political ideology but from his disdain for the democratic system. Subsequent to the 2020 election, Trump’s comportment careened into the abyss. He openly contested the election results, asserting that Biden’s triumph was achieved through deceitful means. Trump not only propagated conspiracy theories but also implored his supporters, Vice President Pence, and state election officials to subvert the electoral outcome, culminating in the Capitol Hill incident in January 2021.

Trump proceeded to carve an indelible mark in history, becoming the first president in two centuries to repudiate election results, the inaugural president accused of instigating supporters to violently overthrow the regime, and the initial president perceived as culpable of inciting rebellion and ineligible for presidential candidacy.

The subsequent discourse delves into the crux of constitutional democracy. The essence of democracy lies in the pacific transfer of power through competitive elections. Modern democratic politics can be construed as a game, governed by intricate, explicit, and circumscribed rules. Adherence to these rules and the willingness to concede defeat are imperative for both political factions.

In the pre-constitutional democratic era, power transitions were either hereditary or riddled with extreme violence. The hereditary system is incongruous with contemporary values, as modernity posits that sovereignty rests with the people, not in the divine right of kings. Moreover, perpetuating excellence across generations is an uncertain prospect. Contrastingly, violent usurpation of political power was prevalent in historical epochs, such as the Roman Empire and ancient China during periods of strife.

Constitutional democracies in the United States and Western Europe attain the designation of mature democracies by virtue of participants adhering to rules, embracing defeat graciously, and venerating the sanctity of the electoral process. In contrast, many African and Southeast Asian nations, despite nominal democratic structures, frequently repudiate election outcomes, triggering upheavals in the name of fraud, and subsequently resort to military coups.

The litmus test for distinguishing between robust and feeble democracies lies in the readiness to acknowledge defeat, a threshold that Trump has unequivocally breached. Ponder the repercussions of denying election results: if the election is deemed illegitimate, why adhere to the rules or laws of the game? If purportedly orchestrated by the “lizard people” in Washington, why participate in voting? Wouldn’t armed rebellion be a more efficacious recourse?

This echoes the tactics employed by Caesar in the Roman Republic and Lenin in Soviet Russia, with Trump standing but a step away from the latter. His sole deficiency lies in lacking an unwaveringly loyal army. Bereft of military potency, Trump resorts to staging demonstrations, unable to effectuate a violent overthrow of the regime. In essence, the limited harm inflicted by Trump is attributable not to his elevated ethical standards but to the robust resilience of American political institutions and society in resisting his erosive influence.

Trump’s conduct is so egregious that even fervent supporters refrain from emulation. During the previous year’s midterm elections, MAGA candidates vociferously disavowed the election results prior to the event. Post-election, however, they willingly conceded defeat. Thus, Trump’s behavior remains an isolated aberration, underscoring his singular standing in the American political landscape.

02 Trump acts with unbridled impunity
Trump’s demeanor in 2020 was disconcerting, yet this year’s iteration might prove even more audacious. Present-day Trump finds himself in an inescapable predicament compared to his 2016 and 2020 counterparts, confronting an onslaught of legal challenges. Conservative approximations suggest that Trump is embroiled in a staggering 91 lawsuits, spanning charges of divulging state secrets, tax evasion, and suspicion of inciting rebellion, among other serious offenses. The U.S. Department of Justice, FBI, state courts, and the Secretary of State are collectively endeavoring to hold Trump accountable.

For Trump, clinching the election is not merely a quest for power but also the sole avenue of escape from legal persecution. His maneuverability is severely restricted.
Trump unequivocally states that, if elected president, he will systematically dismantle officials who defy his orders or implicate him in criminal activities. The prospective targets include retired General Kelly, General Milley, who rebuffed Trump’s directives, as well as FBI and CIA officials investigating collusion with Russia, Department of Justice officials probing incitement of insurrection, and lawmakers entangled in the January 6 investigation.

Trump openly professes a desire for retribution against his political adversaries. Moreover, it is conceivable that, once elected, neither Congress nor the courts would possess the wherewithal to curtail his ambitions. The bar for Congress to impeach a president is exceptionally high, requiring an absolute two-thirds majority. Absent widespread rebellion within the Republican Party, restraining Trump would prove arduous.

Judicial constraints are similarly circumscribed. The three Supreme Court justices are Trump appointees, bestowing conservatives with an unassailable majority. The likelihood of punitive measures against Trump by a Supreme Court dominated by conservatives is dubious.

The investigation into the Capitol Hill incident, ongoing for two years, furnishes copious evidence of Trump’s coercion of state election officials and even threats against Vice President Pence to manipulate election results. However, the path to resolution traverses through the Supreme Court. As verdicts by courts and juries materialize, the prospect of a conservative-dominated Supreme Court convicting Trump and barring him from future candidacy remains nebulous.

Through Trump’s exploits, it becomes evident that the American legal framework harbors numerous loopholes. Discussions on legal quandaries last year, such as whether Trump incited insurrection and whether felons can vie for the presidency, were incredulous. Further scrutiny revealed longstanding loopholes in U.S. laws. The seamless functioning of these laws over two centuries owes much to the elite’s adherence to unwritten rules and societal consensus. These loopholes surfaced only in the Trump era.

From this vantage point, the 2024 election emerges as a crossroads for the rule of law in the United States. Following the 2022 overturning of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s approval rating plummeted. A verdict against Trump this year is likely to galvanize public disapproval and amplify calls for Supreme Court reform. Judiciously, the U.S. Supreme Court necessitates reform, potentially limiting the number of judges nominated by a single president and instituting a term system for justices, particularly if the Democratic Party secures a commanding presence in both the executive and legislative branches.

03 Assorted Prognostications Regarding the United States in 2024

1. Biden will emerge triumphant, albeit through a convoluted process. Analogous to 2020, Trump will fabricate sundry conspiracy theories, particularly impugning mail-in ballots, subsequently refuting the election results. The prospect of Trump supporters instigating another “Capitol Hill incident” cannot be discounted. The United States is destined to grapple with upheaval this year.

2. This year presents an opportunity for the United States. A burgeoning societal consensus, coupled with enhancements to constitutional systems and laws, has the potential to reinvigorate the nation. Currently, this prospect remains viable.

3. The U.S. economy confronts few impediments, with a soft landing highly probable. The rapid advancement of the artificial intelligence industry is poised to spawn more invaluable companies and industries. The U.S. stock market is anticipated to persist in its upward trajectory post-interest rate reductions.

4. Following Trump’s electoral defeat, the Republican Party is poised for introspection, contemplating adjustments to its trajectory since 2016. This transformative phase may span 4-8 years, with the Democratic Party potentially maintaining an extended period of single-party dominance.

5. Sino-U.S. relations are anticipated to remain stable this year. Biden is unlikely to disrupt proceedings during the election, though the tense electoral climate may prompt temporary tightening of immigration, secondary identity processing, and visa services. Despite the general trajectory, a fundamental shift in China-U.S. relations remains elusive.

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