It is ironic that the leader who helps resolve a crisis is dumped when the crisis is over.
By Tom Arms
Trump lost. Biden did not win, although he defied the odds and political precedent and came closer than expected. Democracy did win. But Slow Joe may have damaged his 2024 options by securing democracy a winning place on the mid-term ballot.
It is ironic that the leader who helps resolve a crisis is dumped when the crisis is over. It happened to Churchill at war’s end. Biden has done his bit for democracy in America.
At the same time, if President Biden takes the statesmanlike position and declares that he is not a candidate for the 2024 election, then he is more likely to have a working relationship with a Republican-controlled Congress for his final two years.
He also ensures his place in history as the man who saw off the threat to American democracy as opposed to the 80-plus-year-old who clung to power past his sell by date.
But back to the loser. Donald Trump was not officially on the ballot. But he did everything possible to make the 2022 mid-term elections about him and his lies that the 2020 presidential elections were stolen from him in a massive fraud.
He refused to concede defeat and denied the validity of the American electoral process which is the foundation stone of the country’s democratic system.
He enthusiastically endorsed hundreds of candidates. Many were underqualified but they all shared the common platform of accepting his big election lie.
These candidates were overwhelmingly supported by Republicans in state primaries. Then they were either rejected, or barely scraped home, when their names were put to the public at large.
In Wisconsin, Democrat Tony Evers beat Republican Tim Michaels who promised to change the state’s electoral structures to insure Republican Party government in perpetuity. The margin was an overwhelming nine percentage points.
In the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race Democrat Josh Shapiro romped home against election denier Doug Mastriano in a state which only narrowly went to Biden in 2020. In Pennsylvania’s Senate Race, Democratic Doug Fetterman defeated Trump follower Dr. Mehmet Oz despite the former’s inability to speak coherently due to a recent stroke.
So, if Trump is the big loser, than who is the man most likely to win the Republican nomination for the presidency in 2024. The smart money appears to be heading straight for the re-elected Governor of Florida, Ron de Santis.
De Santis is every bit as right-wing as Donald Trump. He is libertarian, anti-vac, anti-immigrant, anti-facemask, anti-Disney and anti-woke. When he was in Congress, de Santis was a founding member of the right-wing Freedom Caucus which includes such luminaries as Marjorie Taylor Greene. He was also an early supporter of Donald Trump. So far, a cookie-cut version of Trump.
But the comparisons end there. There is—so far—no suggestion of sexual impropriety, misogyny, corporate fraud or tax evasion. He bends the truth and provided some support to Trump’s election lie, but he does not appear to regularly trade in “alternative facts” and steers away from conspiracy theories. He is also a young, healthy, 44-year-old, former naval lieutenant with degrees from Harvard and Yale.
Most important, of all, from a Republican Party point of view, De Santis is seen as a winner. He narrowly won the 2016 Florida governorship, but this time around his margin of victory was nearly 20 points. On top of that, he is crediting with securing three additional Florida Republican seats in the House of Representatives.
The strength of Ron de Santis’s position is underscored by the fact that Trump is attacking his former acolyte before either of them have declared their candidacy. He has already dismissed him as “Ron de Sanctimonious” and issued the unveiled warning that he knows things about his would-be opponent which de Santis would prefer to be left unknown.
But the fact is that Trump is on the down slope. De Santis is on the up. And democracy chalked up a big win in this week’s mid-term elections.
- The Ukrainians are advancing—slowly. They don’t trust the Russians. Vladimir Putin has given his troops the order to abandon the western half of the key city of Kherson. Civilians and medical staff have been evacuated from both the eastern and western halves of the city divided by the river Dnieper. But the Ukrainians are not rushing in to fill the vacuum. They are concerned that the Russians have covered their retreat with land mines and other explosives and have trained their artillery on the deserted streets. Furthermore, that they are preparing for deadly street-to-street, house-to-house fighting in the eastern half of the city. In the meantime, the Kremlin rumour mill continues to churn out stories about the imminent overthrow of President Putin. The left anti-war wants peace and an end to the war while the right nationalist wing is demanding that more resources—including, if necessary, tactical nuclear weapons, be thrown into the fight. The latest opinion polls, however, show that 78 percent continue to support Putin personally, although support for the war is slipping.
- Someone should have warned the Qataris about being careful about what you wish for before they started bribing officials to secure the 2022 World Cup. The sporting event is second only to the Olympics in the pantheon of international sporting events and usually brings economic and political benefits to the host country. In the case of Qatar’s ruling al-Thani family, they are spending $30 billion on hosting the football event. This involves building half a dozen stadiums, roads, a state-of-the-art metro and a number of hotels. They can afford it. Qatar is the smallest nation ever to host the World Cup, but it is among the top ten wealthiest in the world. The per capita income of the oil and gas-rich Gulf emirate is $61,000 a year and it has a sovereign wealth fund of $450 billion. It can afford to show off its wealth. But at the same time, it would rather not have the spotlight turned on its human rights record—especially as regards migrant labour and LGBTQ rights. Tens of thousands of construction workers were recruited from South Asia to build the World Cup infrastructure. They worked in searing hot, were paid abysmally low wages and lived in squalid dormitory conditions. If they wanted to return home they had to apply for an exit visa which was rarely granted. The Guardian reported that 6,500 of them died. This figure been disputed, but the newspaper says it is based on reports from South Asian embassies in Qatar. Support for the LGBTQ community is a major issue in developed countries. In the Islamic world gay sex is banned by the Koran. In Qatar it can result in three years’ imprisonment and a hefty fine. If you are a Muslim, the stated penalty is death, although it is yet to be enforced. The policy has enraged gay footballers and fans and at one point the Dutch football team considered playing in protest pink.
- Africa’s Sahel Region has long been regarded as the fiefdom of the French military where its troops intervened almost at will in former French colonies. No more. This week French President Emmanuel Macron announced his government’s National Strategic Review which confirmed that the French military was withdrawing from Africa and refocusing on the Russian threat to Russia. He is also increasing the French defense budget by 7.4 percent to $44 billion (Britain’s is $49.89 billion and Germany is $49.01 billion). But France’s departure from the Sahel leaves a large and worrying hole in the region’s defences. The French have been the major European force in the region opposed to Jihadist organizations Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa. These organizations have been responsible for displacing 2.3 million people and the deaths of an estimated 300,000 children. They have also contributed to the spread of famine and disease and the migration of refugees to Europe. Britain, Estonia, America and Sweden have also contributed to what became known as Operation Barkhane (named after the crescent-shaped dune in the Sahara), but they were there in a support role for the French. There is not much point in their remaining without the French.
- Conspicuous by their absence from the COP27 climate change in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh are Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. They also failed to turn up at last year’s climate conference in Glasgow. It would seem that neither Russia nor China equate their national interests with the goal of reducing fossil fuel emissions. The Russian economy, is, of course, heavily dependent on the export of oil and gas. It is financing Putin’s Ukraine War. China is the world’s largest consumer of coal. It is also the largest user of coal-generated electricity and the second largest polluter in the world (after the US). The energy crisis created by Russia turning off the fossil fuel taps to Europe has forced many governments to move away from developing renewable sources to trying to squeeze as much as possible out of the non-renewable sector. The result is that the world is likely to fail to reach its Paris target of keeping global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees centigrade. It is already 1.2 degrees hotter than pre-industrial times and climatologists reckon that on the present trajectory it will go to 1.8. The hardest hit will be developing countries and a UN report issued just before the conference said that $2.4 trillion would be needed by the end of the decade to compensate developing countries for the damage caused by global warming and to help in the shift away from fossil fuels. The World Bank is the globe’s biggest multilateral lender and its managing director Axel van Trotsenberg said that it is ready and willing to provide the finance. But its ability to do so depends on capital provided by developed countries.
Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and author of the recently published “America Made in Britain.”