*Editor’s Note: On March 4, Russia enacted a law that criminalizes public opposition to, or independent news reporting about, the war in Ukraine. The law makes it a crime to call the war a “war” rather than a “special military operation” on social media or in a news article or broadcast. The law is understood to penalize any language that “discredits” Russia’s use of its military in Ukraine, calls for sanctions or protests Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It punishes anyone found to spread “false information” about the invasion with up to 15 years in prison.
The failure of the Republican-led House of Representatives to elect a speaker on the first try for the first time in 100 years despite Republicans holding the majority might be viewed as a political anecdote if this incident didn’t reveal details about contemporary American politics that affect U.S. policy on Russia.
Contrary to tradition, Democratic representatives voted unanimously while their Republican colleagues demonstrated a heretofore unseen divided nature, giving their seemingly only candidate fewer votes than the minority Democratic candidate Hakeem Jeffries received from his party. Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy not only raked in fewer votes but he lost on every round of voting.* It is a reflection of how power is distributed in the Republican Party: Republicans are divided and politically split. The situation surrounding Donald Trump is destroying the party.
Let’s remember that McCarthy is considered “Trump’s man.” At the same time, the Democratic Party, despite its colossal internal ideological differences, managed to achieve a high level of organizational consolidation, which during the House speaker vote demonstrated that the Democrats have surmounted an apparent organizational crisis that took place in the summer and into the fall of last year.
Indeed, preventing a Republican from winning the 2024 presidential election, a win which seemed inevitable recently, is worth the cost of putting off any showdown among the moderate socialist, radical and aristocratic wings of the party until 2025. Republicans will be forced to settle overdue and overripe differences inside the party immediately any further divisions in the party, something Donald Trump’s presidential aspirations appear to be leading to. We will now see who among the American elite has greater organizational resources, who has stronger political will and who is more in need of a victory in 2024.
Because the Democratic Party also faces a curious prospect that wasn’t there just a couple of months ago: A Democratic presidential candidate may have a real chance of winning in 2024, but only under three conditions that will require the party to change its entire agenda.
First, the last name of the Democratic candidate will have to be other than Biden or Harris, which in itself poses certain difficulties. But it also means that Democrats will have to scramble to find a new political figure who can be a unifier rather than a divider, something that defines the current Democratic upper crust today as it tarnishes relationships with almost everyone inside the U.S. and globally.
The second condition flows from the first one. An American administration must assume a higher level of responsibility in the future, both domestically and internationally. It is no longer relevant to stand by the current ruling idea of “after us, the deluge,” in renominating Joe Biden and Kamala Harris given a possible 2024 victory shimmering on the horizon.
Finally, the Democrats need an economic program that will satisfy a broad swath of society as well as the lobbyists, not just the military-industrial complex and energy market profiteers. That will be the hardest condition to meet. The current American administration didn’t prepare for anything like this, either politically or intellectually, and the economic situation remains dire despite all the optimistic reports.
Surprisingly, the key factor in the Democratic Party’s rising potential for a real presidential in 2024 is its consistent anti-Russian sentiment. The party can maintain this consensus if it is enhanced by escalation on China. (We already see the signs of this. Secretary of State Antony Blinken definitely didn’t issue his last anti-Chinese criticism by himself.) The party can also maintain its tightening policy on Iran. This will require a serious redistribution of resources.
Don’t be fooled. The logic of America’s domestic political struggle will push the U.S. to continue raising the stakes with Russia, but not as wildly as it has for the past six months. It will probably abandon the strategy of burying Russia with the corpses of Ukrainian soldiers, using weapons from NATO as well as weapons from the United States. Washington will simply have to bet on more subtle methods to destabilize the situation in Russia, and that could be significantly more dangerous.
But there’s another issue. The divide between the American party system and the situation on the ground continues to grow according to all available information. The other America is slowly emerging from smoke-filled bars on the city outskirts and from social networks. The American elite, primarily the East Coast aristocracy, essentially represented by both parties, has to make a sincere effort to prevent new structures from deepening this divide, structures that rely on “direct action” rather than on party games and elections, which have long been a farce.
Those new structures rely on something the U.S. refers to as grassroots politics, which has been unfamiliar to the virtualized American political system for quite a while.
*Editor’s note: Rep. Kevin McCarthy was elected speaker of the House of Representatives Saturday Jan. 7 after 15 rounds of voting over three days, after this article was published.
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