What Is Happening to America?



Two presidential candidates for the presidency of the world’s most important superpower are raising eyebrows, and the problem is deeply rooted beyond the 2024 elections. It also will impact Israel.

Here’s the good news: Our political situation is wonderful. That is, almost everything we know about the worst coalition in the country’s history, the prime minister’s questionable judgments and the need for elections, which Benjamin Netanyahu is doing everything to avoid, is all true, but from the American angle, we can and should say it could be much worse.

Two days ago, the U.S. Department of Justice released a report that determined criminal charges were not warranted against President Joe Biden for retaining classified documents as a private citizen. In fact, if this involved someone in their 60’s or even 70’s, the investigation’s conclusions would have been different. However, Special Counsel Robert Hur closed the inquiry without recommending criminal charges based on his conclusion that the 81-year-old president suffers from “faulty memory…with significant limitations” among other things.

As expected, Biden reacted angrily, denying the claims against him, telling a press conference of reporters he was the “most qualified person in this country to be president,” but he made a mistake even there, perhaps a slip of the tongue, and referred to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi as the president of Mexico.

We should remember that Biden’s main rival, Donald Trump, is not exactly young. And, mainly, he has amassed a collection of criminal and unethical behavior that is unprecedented. Sometimes it seems that the more indictments there are, and all of them serious, the more support he gets. In this case, it is unclear who has learned from whom – Americans from Israel or vice versa. Years ago, I wrote that investigation into Netanyahu would not only damage him but probably strengthen him. It appears that people are the same everywhere.

How is it that the most important superpower in the world is reaching the final stages of elections with presidential candidates who question the election process, the voters and the political system? What is happening to the United States? Sometimes you get the sense that it’s not the president who has cognitive problems but the country. It is still not too late to change. There are several candidates more worthy than the two old dinosaurs who will soon be standing at the finish line. And it’s not important who wins, we already know there will be disappointment.

Israel is in a much better situation, at least in this context.. We can understand that Netanyahu’s supporters felt it was not just an investigation into his activity, but persecution, and they identified with the one being prosecuted. They took revenge on the elite, but when Netanyahu’s strategic failure became public, the opinion polls did not lie. Netanyahu’s party reached a dangerous low in the 2006 election when Likud only won 12 seats in the Knesset. The public had not turned left, but Netanyahu’s crash in the polls showed maturity and pragmatism among voters. This is not the case in the United States. Identity politics has clouded the American public’s thinking; there are increasingly fewer practical considerations.

This situation is not limited to presidential elections. Cities are dealing with crises as they face increasing violence, poverty and increasingly helpless police forces. The troubling decline of San Francisco from a beautiful and desirable city of flowers to a city rife with violence has not changed voting patterns over the years. This is not only the case among Trumpists but within progressive circles. However, even among progressives, there are considerations that border on the religious, to hell with the facts. One might assume that a mayor of an Israeli city that suffered even a fifth of what San Francisco has experienced would have been voted out of office, but not in the United States. Some Americans vote with their feet. They leave declining cities for cities where the police still maintain a measure of deterrence.

In the wave of demonstrations that followed the George Floyd killing, one heard the refrain “defund the police,” which, in the long run, was one of the most foolish calls in U.S. history. Only two weeks ago, during a serious incident in Times Square at the center of Manhattan, a group of young people who were in the United States illegally attacked police officers. Most of them were released without bail. Now, the police remember to call it a “heinous event.” Most of the attackers have already disappeared. In any case, they are in the United States without documentation.

This is only the tip of the iceberg concerning immigrants, some 6.3 million of whom have streamed into the United States since Biden took office. The borders have been breached. Progressive policies are sometimes abandoned policies, but this is a reminder that that the alternative is Trump. Sane Americans, and there are many of them, do not know where to pin the disgrace. Is this America?

All these developments impact Israel, given that the extremes are growing more extreme. On the one hand, the progressive Democrats are gaining increasing influence, and not only at the fringes of Congress. On the other hand, among Republicans, there is growing isolationism. This is the reason the U.S. is not extending aid to Ukraine. However, let there be no mistake. These tendencies are strengthening calls against providing aid to Israel.

Despite all our difficulties, Israel has a political center. That center is power. That center is stability. That center is rational judgment. True, this center is not currently in control and we are in a coalition that is extorted by the ultraorthodox and messianic fringe. Still, our situation is better than the divide between progressive movements and Trumpism. The polarization in Israel, and of course, there is polarization, is nothing compared to the destructive and silencing polarization in the United States. This only says that things could be much worse, and while this is no comfort, the opposite is true – this is a warning sign.

About this publication

About Charles Railey 61 Articles
I recently retired from the federal government, having worked for many years on Middle East issues and regional media. My fascination with the region has never changed and this is one reason why the work of Watching America caught my eye. I live in the DC area with my wife, two grown children, and three cats.

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