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King’s Votes: Two Visions of America

American Politics Society members debate the big political issues of the early 2020s. Has Biden been up to the task or can the Republicans offer a more attractive vision of America in 2024?

Comment Editor Matteo Cardarelli, a Democrat, defends the Biden administration’s first two years in office, drawing a stark contrast with their Republican counterparts.

There have been rough spots, but overall the good outweighs the bad. While media attention has been hogged by other familiar figures, Biden has rammed through key legislation in the form of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the CHIPS Act, and the first major piece of gun control legislation in the last thirty years.

The IRA, Biden’s crowning jewel, embarked upon a new wave of spending to revamp America’s decrepit infrastructure. In the process, it brought unemployment down to a fifty year low of just 3.4%. It also marks a step-change in America’s leadership in the global fight against climate change, contrasting the  Trump administration’s general nonchalance about the existential threat it poses.

CHIPS aims to solidify America’s technological position in the emerging strategic contest with China. It explicitly focuses on bolstering semi-conductor production, in which America’s share of global production has diminished since the 1990s. Revitalising America’s R&D sector has emerged as one of Biden’s priorities and CHIPS goes a long way towards addressing that, issuing tax breaks and subsidies for firms that use domestic production chains. 

The accomplishments don’t stop there. The Democrats have ushered through the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill that codifies gay marriage as federal law. This is particularly significant in light of the Supreme Court’s attack on abortion rights earlier in 2022, which left many wondering whether gay marriage would be next. By bringing the fight home for many Americans, the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has re-invigorated the Democratic base. Democrats have mounted an effective campaign to protect a woman’s right to choose; attempts by wayward Republican state officials to ban or limit access to abortion by ballot measures have been successfully repulsed across the board, even in deep red states like Kentucky.

In foreign policy, after the opprobrium of the Trump tenure, a semblance of dignity has been returned to America’s reputation. Republicans would be quick to blame Biden for the collapse in Afghanistan, which prompted scenes unseen since the fall of Saigon. Yet they refuse to acknowledge the fact that the previous administration played as much of (if not a more significant role in) in creating that outcome. America’s leadership over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has cemented its role as the main powerbroker in Europe – it was only after American pressure that Germany felt obliged to commit its powerful Leopard II tanks to the fight.

The midterms both rewarded and punished Democrats’ performance in the last two years: the Senate was retained, but the House lost. The main cause of this was undeniably the rampant gas price and runaway inflation experienced over the last few years. It’s hard to fully blame the Democrats for this. The price shocks were exacerbated by exogenous influences – the war in Ukraine increased food prices, and sanctions on Russian oil and gas naturally resulted in sky-high fuel prices. And yet it seems as though we are headed towards the light at the end of the tunnel: the Federal Reserve announced a drop in the inflation rate in December, and gas prices have fallen since hitting their peak over the summer. The Fed’s interest rate, the main measure which has been used to tackle inflation, increased by only 0.25% in January, the lowest such increase since March. Much of what happens in 2023 and 2024 will be determined by the state of the economy. Americans, as the adage goes, vote with their wallets. If the abatement of the inflation crisis proves lasting, Democrats will have overcome a major hurdle.

Lastly, and – much as I hate to play this game – crucially, it is worth remembering what the alternative to the Democrats currently is. It would be banal to say that your parents’ Republican party is no more; a more appropriate description would be to say that it has leaped headfirst into a gaping chasm of moral bankruptcy. I’m not just referring to Trump, though his continued role in the party is proof enough of its utter lack of a moral compass. The direction of the party since 2020 has belied hopes that the end of the MAGA White House would engender a return of sanity to the party.

The two shining lights of this Republican generation are Representatives George Santos and Marjorie Taylor Greene (MTG). Santos is a deranged con-man who lied about virtually everything during his congressional campaign, from his faith to his schooling, employment, and his own mother’s death. He even sufficiently fudged his campaign finances for the Justice Department to open a probe. Yet Santos was not publicly censured or rebuked by his party; he was rewarded, seated on two House committees by party leaders (though he has since declined to sit on both).

MTG admittedly does not suffer from the same resume problems as Santos. But this is simply because no one doubts the veracity of her insanity. I urge you to Google her list of controversies, because I cannot do it justice here. Yet she has become a rising star in the party, and new Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy recently professed his devotion to her, reportedly telling aides, “I will never leave that woman.”

The party of Lincoln has become the party of January 6th: fear, ignorance, and bigotry have become its rallying cries. America has taken note, and the GOP’s failure to make any significant inroads in the 2022 midterms was the result of the widespread disgust at its out of touch, authoritarian drift. A Republican America would be a worse America, for everyone.

Staff writer and Republican, Patrick Schnecker, offers an alternative vision of America. He attacks the record of the current administration and hopes for a new course of action in 2024.

The first two years of Joe Biden’s presidency should be categorised as one of the worst starts to a president’s tenure in contemporary American history. From inconsistent promises made to the American citizens, to social, economic and political catastrophes (both domestically and on the world stage), the first half of Biden’s presidency has certainly been one to remember. Excluding other regular criticisms, such as his weak stance on law and order amid the huge wave of crime, the so-called ‘War on Parents’ (his authoritarian-inclined Covid-19 mask and vaccine mandates) or even the latest classified documents scandal, the current US President’s failures can be divided among three principal concerns.

Joe Biden’s administration has been heavily criticized for its approaches to US foreign policy. The withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan is the most perspicuous instance and led to immense backlash from Americans. This left American citizens and diplomats stranded, as well as several hostages – one of the lowest points of US foreign policy since the fall of Saigon in 1975. Facing immense scrutiny, the Biden administration kept quiet and made excuses. This caused certain media outlets – many of which would otherwise never criticise the President – to begin questioning him. Throughout Trump’s presidency, Biden repeatedly urged American leaders to be adults; two years into his own mandate, the US faces a confidence crisis in its leadership. Biden’s record-low approval ratings tell this story.

Adding to the foreign policy issues, the Biden administration has failed to maintain the US’ energy independence by allowing Russia to gain more influence in the market. In 2018, Trump led the US to be a net exporter of oil for the first time in around 75 years. Yet this was all reversed by Biden, who put burdens on the American oil and gas industry in an attempt to shift towards green energy. Biden closed the Keystone XL pipeline project, preventing the US from expanding oil imports from Canada, yet simultaneously did not oppose the Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline to carry natural gas through Germany – this pipeline has since been frozen by Germany and declared bankrupt. Moreover, the Biden administration has repeatedly proven how misguided its leadership is – John Kerry claimed that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was particularly harmful as it distracted Russia from staying “on track” to combat the climate crisis. Such misplaced priorities demonstrate the incapability of Biden as Commander-in-Chief.

Finally, Biden has maintained a similarly disappointing rate in terms of domestic achievements. The President has been found wanting a plethora of times, especially with the border crisis. On January 8th, Biden finally made his first trip to the southern border, in an attempt to ‘prove’ his involvement in the migrant crossing response. The estimated population of illegal immigrants in February 2022 was 11.5 million, a notable increase from 10.2 million in January 2021 when Biden took office. This administration has also propagated the current disastrous inflation rates in the country. By June 2022, US inflation reached 9.1% – the highest it’s been since the recession in 1982. The highest average prices for a gallon of gas in October 2022 were in California and Nevada, where they cost $6.34 and $5.39 respectively. The boondoggling Build Back Better Act, which was not passed into law by Congress, was fundamentally inflationary, due to the price-boosting subsidies and the irresponsible federal spending.

Republicans have the ability to restore a coherent agenda, recover the country’s economy, recoup the US’ leading global status and reinstate a system that guarantees more political stability than the current one. The GOP’s options for 2024 are indeed varied – despite many arguing that the nominee will be either Trump or DeSantis, there are several other figures that may lead the Republicans to victory in 2024. They include Glenn Youngkin, Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, and even Kristi Noem – the party is not short of talent.

The abundance of viable candidates within the Republican party can ensure leadership based on classical conservatism in moderation, where there is a positive balance between archetypal Republican ideals and the interest for bipartisanship. A 2024 Republican ticket consisting of Ron DeSantis as President and Glenn Youngkin as Vice President would mean exactly that. The popular Floridian would follow the policies of with conservative figureheads like Ronald Reagan while the Virginian moderate would bring centrist voters into the GOP tent.

The current Biden administration has caused more harm to the United States in two years (and other nations) than any other administration has managed. With the upcoming invisible primaries, Joe Biden needs to held accountable by his colleagues, his party and his country. If the President continues the same way for the next two years, the 2024 presidential election cannot come soon enough – it will unquestionably determine the future of the United States of America. Let us hope the future lies in safer hands.

Patrick Schnecker

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