Eyad Abu Shakra

Where Is ‘America 2024…’ and Where Is it Going?  

Amid the influx of "political gifts" Israel is being granted by major Western countries on the anniversary of the Holocaust, and the sympathy shown for its leaders following the position of the International Court on the actions it has taken - and continues to take - in the Gaza Strip... political analysis has been focused on Israel. However, there have also been accelerating unfamiliar developments unfolding in the United States over the past two weeks.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ decision to pull out of the Republican Party primaries may have surprised some observers. DeSantis, whom many considered an "ideal candidate" to win the upcoming elections, decided that it would be best to cut his losses and leave the arena early on, although he came second to Donald Trump in the first primary election in Iowa.

The following qualities determined the strength and weakness of DeSantis’ candidacy, first against Trump in the primaries and then in the presidency against Joe Biden:

1- He was a candidate whose extreme conservatism is indisputable, vying for the nomination in a party where the influence of the extreme conservative right is growing strongly and rapidly.

2- He is among the young politicians expected to shape the future of the Republican Party after the "personalized" Trump era.

3- He was among the first politicians to recognize the significance of pushing back against immigration and asylum seekers. To this end, he unequivocally adopted "Trumpian policies," sometimes seemingly going further than the "founder", who sought a "separation wall" with Mexico.

4- He is the governor of the third most populous state in the United States, which is also the third largest "Latino state" (after California and Texas), and along with Texas, a major stronghold for the Republican Party.

However, it seems that at some point, DeSantis's qualities began worrying his "mentor." Trump went from seeing the man as a promising student to an arch-rival seeking to inherit his position too quickly. The truth is that Trump's apprehension about any serious candidate challenging him from the right is growing in parallel with the increasing doubts about his ability to carry on his electoral campaign until the next fall, given the "myriad" of legal issues and "mines" of political allegations he must overcome.

This reality becomes increasingly evident not only from Trump's stance towards DeSantis but also in his position towards the second competitor, Nikki Haley (the former Governor of South Carolina), who became his serious rival after the withdrawal of the Governor of Florida. Haley might stand to benefit if the problems of the former president accumulate and the provocations he instigates, or sometimes gets dragged into, increase.

In fact, following the Iowa caucus and then the New Hampshire primary, "sensible" voices within the party have urged Haley to remain in the race against Trump so that the party does not find itself without a plan if something unforeseen were to happen in the next few months.

In addition, the recent court ruling against Trump in the defamation case brought by writer E. Jean Carroll, whom he was ordered to pay over $83 million, is not the first and may not be the last verdict that goes against him. Nevertheless, the former president continues to pursue his familiar tactic of "rousing" his supporters by accusing the current administration of targeting him and manipulating the judiciary to fight him.

Meanwhile, another potential "successor" of Trump’s has made use of the "virtues" of "agitation" and populist "rabble-rousing" tactics to assert himself, Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

Abbott, who governs a state that borders Mexico and has a long (political, cultural, and bloody) history with it, decided that Texas would curb immigration and asylum on the borders with its own forces, without referring to the federal government. The Supreme Court of the United States (despite its conservative majority), ruled last Monday, by a narrow margin (5 against 4), in favor of the federal government's right to remove the barbed wire installed on the border with Mexico.

However, Abbott, who is part of the extreme right in the Republican Party, decided to challenge the court's ruling and the government's policy. He has decried the federal government for being soft on immigration and added more barbed wires. He also encouraged his fellow right-wing Republican state governors to ignore Washington and order their National Guards to protect their borders. Six states did indeed follow the example of Texas, including Florida, which faces the Caribbean Sea, and Montana in the far north on the border with Canada.

Their mutiny brings the instigation of the 1861 American Civil War to mind. At the time, the state of South Carolina militarily rebelled against the federal government's anti-slavery policy and fired the first secessionist shot from Fort Sumter in Charleston.

At that time, as is the case today, the pretext was "state rights." The argument was that in a federal political system, the center (i.e., the central government) should not impose its will on the component parts (i.e., the states). As for the new challenge, it is the second in modern American history, after the storming of the Capitol, the seat of the federal legislative authority, by Trump supporters on January 6, 2021... following the refusal of the outgoing president to acknowledge his electoral defeat a few months earlier.

What do we see before us today?

The United States, the world's leading power, suffers from very serious structural problems. Foremost among them is the collapse of the "broad national consensus" on political principles. There are explicit disagreements over how to define democracy, political legitimacy, the independence of the judiciary, and the transfer of power, to say nothing of the trivialization and threat to public freedoms, including academic and media freedoms.

The collapse of a broad consensus in a pluralistic entity in which citizens have the right to bear arms, amid a climate of violent and exclusionary polarization carries the portents of major risks.