Expert Speak Raisina Debates
Published on Jan 15, 2024

The US faces deepening political divisions and discontent with governance. This portends a volatile electoral race with significant domestic and international implications.

Precarious path to the 2024 US Election

The United States (US) will elect its next president in November 2024, marking a critical juncture in American politics. The lead-up to this pivotal election has already been dramatically impacted by both domestic controversies and unfolding geopolitical events. Within the Republican party, the presumed nominee, Donald Trump, faces novel legal challenges to his candidacy unlike any in modern presidential politics. Meanwhile, salient foreign policy issues like the ongoing war in Ukraine, the October 2022 Hamas war against Israel, the tumultuous 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan, and escalating great power tensions with China have shaped voter concerns. Understanding the fractious domestic political dynamics in the US requires examining them against the backdrop of these consequential international developments. Any analysis of the 2024 election must consider how domestic controversies surrounding candidates, especially within the Republican field, combined with evolving geopolitical realities, may interact to shape the ultimate race and its outcome. This election may have long-lasting implications for America's role on the global stage and the trajectory of its domestic politics.

Biden has confronted challenges including protests over the Israel-Gaza conflict and Republican obstruction on immigration reform and Ukraine aid without stricter border policies.

Recent polls indicate a tight 2024 presidential race between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, with the latter having an edge with voters who did not participate in 2020. Meanwhile, Biden has confronted challenges including protests over the Israel-Gaza conflict and Republican obstruction on immigration reform and Ukraine aid without stricter border policies. These dynamics underscore Biden's vulnerabilities with both progressive voters wanting more left-wing policies on Israel and immigration and swing voters concerned about border security. For Trump, while many Republicans initially preferred an alternative nominee, his enduring support now comprises nearly two-thirds of the party. This resilience despite the January 6th hearings and legal troubles reflects ongoing loyalty amongst his base voters. Ultimately though, the candidates' fortunes may hinge on broader political and economic contexts. Global phenomena like rising populism and tightened trade and immigration policies could benefit rightwing candidates like Trump. But worsening economic conditions or other pre-election “October surprises” could also shift the race.

As the 2024 Republican presidential primaries approach, Donald Trump holds a commanding lead nationally over his potential intraparty rivals. Recent polls show Trump garnering over 60 percent support among Republican voters and besting his closest challengers, Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, by over 40 percentage points. DeSantis and Haley scrape just 10-15 percent support each, while lower profile candidates like Vivek Ramaswamy languish around 4 percent. Trump's majority support is resilient even when polled in hypothetical head-to-head matchups against a consolidated anti-Trump candidate. This suggests that despite controversies surrounding Trump, he retains an extremely loyal base amongst Republican voters. Trump appears well-positioned to sweep the GOP nomination barring an unlikely collapse of his broad base of Republican support.

Trump's majority support is resilient even when polled in hypothetical head-to-head matchups against a consolidated anti-Trump candidate.

Donald Trump faces mounting controversies and investigations that cast uncertainty over his 2024 political ambitions. His inflammatory rhetoric continues evoking historical demagogues, recently equating immigrants to “poison” in the nation's “blood” in a manner recalling Nazi propaganda. While such polarising language galvanises Trump's loyal populist base, it signals extremism increasingly out-of-step with mainstream politics. This rhetoric compounds Trump's legal vulnerabilities, as he faces over 90 criminal charges for election subversion and inciting the 6th January Capitol insurrection. With two unprecedented impeachments already marring his record, these charges raise serious questions about both Trump's electability and his suitability for office. Trump's pugilistic political style enhances his outsider appeal. Trump represents a uniquely disruptive force in American politics, yet one whose future now hinges on unpredictable events that could upend his ambitions. Trump’s brazen disregard for rules perversely buoys his standing with supporters who admire his projection of masculine toughness and appetite for breaking norms.

Colorado verdict

The Colorado Supreme Court's ground-breaking ruling that Donald Trump is ineligible for the presidency under the 14th Amendment's ‘disqualification clause’ has seismic implications. While no court had previously barred a candidate under this provision, Colorado's interpretation that Trump's conduct surrounding 6 January constitutes insurrection presents a significant legal threat to his 2024 ambitions. In the next episodic event, Maine’s secretary of state, who is the top election officer, followed similar lines and disqualified Trump from the state’s 2024 primary ballot. Trump will almost certainly appeal the ruling to the US Supreme Court. However, the outcome is uncertain given the Court's conservative makeup. Most current justices were appointed by Republican presidents, including three by Trump himself. This ideological balance initially suggests the Court may overturn Colorado's novel application of the 14th Amendment. However, Chief Justice John Roberts has proven less predictable in high-profile cases. The Court's recent refusal to halt the DOJ's criminal probe of Trump also indicates judicial reluctance to confer blanket immunity. Ultimately, the Colorado ruling underscores uncharted constitutional territory and enforcement ambiguities surrounding the novel disqualification of a former president. While the ruling's national enforceability remains doubtful, it highlights 14th Amendment risks for Trump that could gain traction in other state courts. The Colorado Supreme Court ruling disqualifying Trump from the ballot under the 14th Amendment raises knotty legal questions heading into 2024. Rulings against Trump could enrage his supporters, while decisions favouring him could undermine faith in the Court's integrity. Beyond insulation, questions persist whether disqualification constitutes a legal or political matter.

The Colorado Supreme Court ruling disqualifying Trump from the ballot under the 14th Amendment raises knotty legal questions heading into 2024.

Even amid high turnout, Americans hold remarkably negative views of politics and politicians. Biden faces public discontent over issues like Gaza, Ukraine aid divides, and immigration. Regarding Gaza, Biden has confronted protests demanding firmer action to restrain Israeli military operations against Hamas. However, exerting pressure risks alienating pro-Israel voters. On Ukraine, nearly half of Republicans believe US aid is excessive, reflecting war weariness and isolationist sentiment. This threatens support for continued assistance to counter Russian aggression. Meanwhile, Biden's liberal immigration reform efforts have stalled due to GOP demands for increased border security as a precondition for cooperation. Here, Biden must balance his own party's progressive wing favoring more lenient policies against swing voters concerned about undocumented migration. Across these complex challenges, Biden has struggled to reconcile ideological divisions within his party and amongst the broader electorate. His policy options remain constrained by these clashing priorities on emotive issues lacking consensus. As the 2024 election approaches, America faces deepening political divisions and widespread discontent with governance. Legal uncertainties plague Trump while frustrations constrain Biden. Both confront factionalism within their coalitions. This portends a volatile race with significant implications. More broadly, the election will measure voter commitment to democratic principles versus authoritarian impulses. While the eventual winner remains uncertain, 2024 promises to reshape party agendas and America's trajectory. This pivotal moment will test the durability of alliances and shake assumptions about the electorate. The stage is set for a defining showdown with lasting repercussions.

Vivek Mishra is a Fellow with the Strategic Studies Programme at the Observer Research Foundation

Pankaj Fanase is a research intern at the Observer Research Foundation

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Vivek Mishra

Vivek Mishra

Vivek Mishra is a Fellow with ORF’s Strategic Studies Programme. His research interests include America in the Indian Ocean and Indo-Pacific and Asia-Pacific regions, particularly ...

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Pankaj Fanase

Pankaj Fanase

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