The Crazy Contours of the Crazier 2024 Election

We start with the likely American landscape over the next two years.

Joe Biden has no choice but to focus on a purely negative message. So we already know his talking points for the next 18 months: “ultra MAGA” demons, “semi-fascist” insurrectionists, Trump!, Trump!, Trump!, and more Trump!, murdering fellow Americans by putting limits on partial-birth and early abortions, “censorship” as banning critical race theory indoctrination and grooming books, inciting racial tribalism, along with the corollary old boilerplate triad of isms—“fascism, sexism, and racism!”

There will be no Democratic primary debates, even if support for Robert Kennedy, Jr. surges to 25-30 percent of the Democratic electorate. The latter is banking on his name, his gut instinct there are still some JFK-like Democrats and Independents in hiding, the decline of Joe Biden, and the pushback against all things woke.

Biden is failing at a geometric rate of enfeeblement and would likely not be able to rest up, medicate, and prep full-time to salvage the debates as he did as a candidate in the attenuated debate series of 2020. His handlers do not wish to tempt fate a third time and hope that if it comes to a Trump-Biden race that they can goad Trump into offering an excuse to curtail or cancel the debates entirely.

Why Stick with Biden?

So why does the Left stick with Biden, given his high negative ratings, the red-flag example of an enfeebled Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and a disabled Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.,), and his daily lapses of cognition, his inability to read off a teleprompter, his slurring of words to the point of incomprehensibility, his peculiar short-step, hands-out gait, and the indiscreet flashing of his paint-by-numbers, bold-letter prompt cards?

Does the Left not grasp that Biden is one additional bad fall on the steps of Air Force One from full disability, one sparkle-in-his-eye fixation on a young preteen girl in the audience that earns his eerie quips, blowing into the hair, and 20-seconds-too-long hug away from scandal? One complete freeze, in which he loses cognition and the ability to identify those in his immediate vicinity, away from total befuddlement?

Do they not appreciate that Biden is one crooked tax-document dump, one Hunter new-old email release, one burned and flipped former crony whistleblower away from special counsel/impeachment territory?

Do they not understand that the subtext of the current toxic inclusion of Hunter Biden on Air Force One, the shakedown pay for his nose-brush paintings, his new move into the White House, and his cue-card presence at the side of his bewildered dad are all a sort of implied familial blackmail by a prodigal son who believes he got dirty and decadent enriching the Biden clan–his father especially—and yet was never appreciated for his skullduggery?

We are watching a cornered Hunter reclaiming his due as first son. He seeks exemption from the walls-are-closing in law, and wishes to remind the Bidens at any moment he can take them all down with him. Keep your friends close, your family closer.

Nevertheless, the Left Unites

Still, despite the downsides, there are various reasons that explain why the Left unites behind the unpopular and flawed Biden, who is perhaps the least physically able, oldest, and most corrupt president in modern history.

One, the hard Left has learned that despite the obvious liability of a non-compos-mentis president, the advantages of outsourcing the main decision-making of his presidency to the hard Left—the new Democratic Party of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, the squad, the recalibrated Obamas, the black caucus, and the wink and nod to Antifa and BLM—mark a rare moment in U.S.history.

A Jacobin crowd, whose agenda does not poll 50 percent on any issue, is now running the country. Joe Biden is its ancient, happy-face emoji. It has managed in two years to wreck the border, destroy energy autonomy, fuel racial tensions, create an entirely new cause of the aggrieved “transgender community,” tank the economy, spike crime, and put America into rapid decline abroad beneath the Biden façade—and call it all “progress.”

The wherewithal in lieu of popular support came from huge amounts of tech and corporate cash, and the fealty of most of our cultural institutions, from Silicon Valley and the media to the corporate boardroom, academia, K-12, professional sports, entertainment, and the weaponization of the federal bureaucracy including the FBI, Justice Department, Pentagon, CIA, and IRS.

In other words, for the Left having no president at all certainly has its advantages. No one in the Oval Office is warning the socialists, “You guys are crazy and will cost me the election if you keep it up!” Instead, with no one in charge, everyone is in charge.

Two, what choice is there?

The more Kamala Harris knows she must not cackle, must expand her vocabulary to 500 words, and must stop the endless Soak-Wash-Rinse-Spin repetitive cycle of Kahlil Gibran platitudes, the more she simply sticks to her one-trick shtick. No one knows whether on her prompt some aide composed such mush for her teleprompter, or she is freelancing, or if it even matters. Harris is the first vice president in memory whose liabilities prevent an accustomed presence at foreign dignitary funerals.

Three, the Left knows that the strategy of using the Biden veneer for an unpopular socialist agenda is dangerous. It risks Biden’s minute-by-minute octogenarian fragility and, in his vacuum, too much visibility to the absurd people who now surface to lecture the nation on a future of battery-operated tanks, “secure” borders of 6.5 million illegal entries, racist clover-leaves and overpasses, and Dylan Mulvaney’s heroics.

Given all that, the 2024 Democrat campaign in default style has pivoted also to lawfare.

If Alvin Bragg, Letitia James, Fani Willis, Jack Smith, and E. Jean Carroll can stagger their indictments and lawsuits, egg Trump to keep posting on social media, prepare all sorts of gag orders, stays, delays, hearings, and consultations that require Trump to appear in court in chronic fashion, then they believe they can win him just enough empathy to take the Republican nomination, but by November create enough nationwide exhaustion that Independents, Rhinos, and some shaky Trump supporters stay home with a sigh that they “can’t take it anymore.”

So the Left’s strategy seems to be that a few provocative early cuts will create enough blood to excite sympathy and enlist first aid, but subsequent hundreds of cumulative wounds leave such a bloody scene that supporters will recoil, certain either that the victim is terminal or the effort to resuscitate him too messy.

The Republican Strategy

As far as the Republicans, no one knows anything at this early stage and those who say they do know even less.

We forget that in May and June of 2015, we were variously lectured that Jeb! was the Bush who should have been president, that Chris Christie was the sort of blue-state governor that could win nationally, that it was time for Marco Rubio to meet his destiny, that a can-do Rick Perry of 2012 in 2016 would bring Texas know-how to the White House, that Ben Carson was the real outsider we’ve been waiting for, that Ted Cruz alone could unite the anti-Trump vote to rescue the nomination, that Mike Huckabee’s 2012 bid was a just a run-up for his 2016 surge, that the perfect governor Scott Walker had all but locked up on the nomination—and that Trump was a supposed buffoon with zero chance of being nominated and less than zero of being elected.

When Trump currently cuts commercials focusing on the Biden catastrophic record, when he gives televised interviews in which he outlines his solutions to the current self-created messes, and when he omits reference to the “stop-the-steal” past and focuses on 2024, he wins.

And when he detours from comparing his record and agenda to Biden’s and instead replays all the terrible injustices done him (and there were plenty) and goes full bore into ad hominem personal attacks against DeSantis and his sterling record in Florida, he loses the very constituencies he and other Republicans need to win—suburbanites, independents, Democrats terrified of cancel culture, and a few stray rhinos embarrassed by their past nihilistic votes for Biden.

The strange thing is that Trump knows this paradox better than anyone, and seems happy and content when he keeps to his record and future solutions, and morose and moody when he replays the past with himself as the central character rather than the suffering country.

The Democrats fear Ron DeSantis more, evident by the Left’s strange occasional praise of Trump and the latter’s own even stranger attacks from the Left on the Florida governor on abortion, Social Security, the Florida response to COVID, and the repeal of the ossified, crony-capitalist special exemptions for a now woke Disney. The Left’s operative strategy apparently is that it believes Trump customarily gets mad, but DeSantis even more dangerously gets even.

Still, the Left viscerally hates Trump more than it despises DeSantis. It knows the present pro-Trump strategy is risky, since, in 2016, that gambit gave a billion dollars in free media to Trump, only to see him win the Electoral College over a flawed candidate but perhaps even less flawed than Biden. It rationally knows that risk, but emotionally knows it cannot stop taking it.

Lots of candidates may jump into the race, either as vice presidential hopefuls, or hoping that DeSantis proves a Scott Walker, the great Governor hope, who nearly turned a purple state red, took on the right enemies, got reelected, had data and policy at his fingertips—and strangely fizzled out in the first debates.

In contrast, the apparent DeSantis strategy is to declare in mid-May to late June, as the Biden record becomes more depressing, as the Trump legal morass grows and empathy fades, and the more Trump attacks him, the more an above-the-fray DeSantis talks about his record and agenda and creeps back in the polls.

All of the parameters above may be what is known so far. Far greater are the known unknowns of the next year and a half.

If we hit full stagflation with more bank collapses, higher interest, soaring energy prices, and a scary expansion of the slugfest in Ukraine, then all the Democratic strategies in the world will not prevent Biden’s Cartesque fate.

Will Biden manage to simulate a presidency or continue to scare even his supporters? Which, if any, of the four or five legal attacks on Trump will stick, and if so, when, why, and how? And how will DeSantis do with crowds, rallies, and messy spars?

Again, the only thing that is now known is what is possible. What everyone now thinks is certain is likely unlikely. The 2024 race is not predetermined but more fluid than ever.

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004, and is the 2023 Giles O'Malley Distinguished Visiting Professor at the School of Public Policy, Pepperdine University. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush, and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson is also a farmer (growing almonds on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author most recently of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, The Case for Trump and the recently released The Dying Citizen, and the forthcoming The End of Everything (May 7, 2024)..

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