Author : Manoj Joshi

Originally Published 2023-08-01 12:37:42 Published on Aug 01, 2023
Republicans could well end up with a nominee who might have been convicted more than once
The road to 2024 is uphill for Trump
AMERICA’S brutal summer of 2023 is unrelenting. In many ways, it is symptomatic of the fevers, political and cultural, that are gripping the country, a little more than a year away from what is being called the most consequential presidential election in recent history.
Clearly, the USA is undergoing change, but the process is not without its dangers, as exemplified by the politics of the Republican Party.
There is a kind of an auto-immune disease that has turned America against itself. Consider the likely candidate and possible future President Donald Trump. He will go on trial in May next year in the case pertaining to mishandling of classified documents. But this is only one of the several cases he will confront in 2024. The date for the criminal trial relating to the payment of hush money to cover up a sex scandal during the 2016 presidential campaign has been set for March. There is also an ongoing investigation into Trump’s efforts to reverse the election loss in Georgia. Finally, investigations into the charge that he attempted to overturn the 2020 election verdict through a conspiracy involving fake electors — which culminated in the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol — are nearing completion. The Republican process to choose its candidate will begin in January 2024 and could conclude even before various trials are over. The Republican Party could well end up with a nominee who might have been convicted more than once. The current Republican approach to the Trump issue seems to be to ignore his crimes and misdemeanors and argue that the responsibility for this outcome rests with the Democrats. Just how the Republican Party has gotten here is not clear. But from the party of ‘law and order’, it has become one which sees nothing unusual in the January 2021 riot. It now also wants to abolish the FBI. The party of high morality which cannot tolerate abortion is also the party that doesn’t care that its nominee has consorted with porn stars. Where their erstwhile leader Reagan led the campaign against the Soviet ‘Evil Empire’, their current leader is Putin’s best hope. The Democrats have their problems, not in the least being an unpopular Joe Biden seeking a second term. On paper, things are going well: the economy is flourishing, jobs are plentiful and expectations are that things will get better in the coming six months. The Republicans are trying to undermine Biden by threatening impeachment. They claim that the activities of Biden and his son Hunter involved corrupt practices, though as of now there is little evidence of wrongdoing by the President himself. Equally dramatic are the culture wars gripping the country. The biggest divide is, of course, abortion. After the US Supreme Court stripped away the constitutional protection for abortion rights, several Republican states have passed stringent laws prohibiting it and criminalising abortion providers. This is despite the polls showing now, as they have in the past, that a majority of the Americans favour the right to abortion, with some restrictions. Last week, President Biden inaugurated the Emmet Till monument to memorialise a 14-year-old black boy who was abducted, tortured and killed in Mississippi in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman. The murder and the acquittal of his killers triggered the civil rights surge of the 1960s. And in the last decade, we have seen the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, an outcome of the persistence of racism in the US. Just how contemporary racism works is evident from the steps being taken by Florida Governor and Republican presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis to play down slavery to the point of inanity. Revised text books in the state claim that slaves actually benefited from their status since they picked up certain skills doing slave labour. And then there are wars over sex education, sexual orientation and gender identity. Building upon the successful efforts to establish gay rights, bisexual and transgender people are seeking to stake out their rights. According to opinion polls, almost 21 per cent of Gen Z — those born between the mid-1990s and around 2010 — identifies itself as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), as against 10 per cent of the millennials (born between early 1980s and mid-1990s). The arrival of Gen Z is affecting the country in other ways too. A Gallup poll has revealed that the share of young people (18-34 years) who say they are “extremely proud” to be American has plummeted from around 40 per cent in 2013 to just 18 per cent now. The political divide is deep. This year, some 75 Bills aimed at restricting LGBT rights were passed in legislatures across the US. Hate crimes based on sexual orientation have increased and demonstrations and counter-demonstrations have become a regular feature. The battleground includes school and university curricula as well. These so-called ‘culture wars’ are really an attempt by the conservatives to fight change. They project themselves as victims of liberalism run amok, with immigrants, gays, women, poor, black and other groups being given unfair privileges at their cost. Notwithstanding the noise, the road is uphill for Trump. According to one pollster, between 2016 and 2024, there will be an addition of 52 million more voters, younger and leaning towards the Democratic Party. Clearly, the USA is undergoing change, which by itself is not unusual. But the process is not without its dangers, as exemplified by the politics of the Republican Party under Trump. With the help of institutions such as the right-wing-dominated Supreme Court, they are attempting to maintain ‘white male dominance’ of the country. But that is simply not possible. Change is coming, like it or not.
This commentary originally appeared in The Tribune.
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Manoj Joshi

Manoj Joshi

Manoj Joshi is a Distinguished Fellow at the ORF. He has been a journalist specialising on national and international politics and is a commentator and ...

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