The Next 12 Months: Part I
As 2023 gives way to 2024, my biggest area of concern continues to be increasing internal discord in the United States.
Have you seen the trailer for the movie Civil War, set for release in April 2024? Here it is if you haven’t:
It’s kicked off a predictable fusillade of commentary and debate, exactly what you want if you’re the makers of the film. Personally, I’m looking forward to it and willing to give it a chance, so long as I don’t find out anything about the film that indicates an intent on the part of creators to push a specific political narrative. I realize this sounds like a tall order for a movie titled “Civil War,” but other works have managed to broach the topic without being overtly political, at least not in partisan manner. A great example is the short-lived, but well-received 2000s television series Jericho. However, times have changed.
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As 2023 gives way to 2024, my biggest area of concern continues to be increasing internal discord in the United States. I said in my last entry there exists an uncomfortable calm at the moment; the never-ending moral panicking that defined the Trump years seems to be, for now, in the rear-view mirror. But tensions are still out there; like a volcano, it’s merely gone from being active to dormant. Expect the environment to go active again in 2024, with a potential eruption in 2025, if not sooner.
The lingering question: what sparks the next inferno? The answer isn’t as obvious as you might think. It’s easy to think the conflagration of 2020 was the result of George Floyd’s death under policy custody, but you also had the pandemic - I highly doubt Floyd’s death would’ve sparked the same sort of uprising without an entire society locked down, fixated on whatever the media happened to be transmitting over the airwaves at a given time. Then you had the hugely divisive Donald Trump in office. All this is to say, crisis is the culmination of many smaller things converging at point of singularity.
Is a similarly explosive compound being formulated as we speak? In case you forgot, there’s a presidential election in 2024. Elections aren’t simply a part of our political process; they act as a relief valve for the internal pressure that’s built up due to dissatisfaction with the state of affairs. Whether voting makes a difference or not, it at least provides citizens the illusion of having a say. But within the last generation, elections have increasingly taken on a more existential veneer, with the literal fate of the country being seemingly at risk with every subsequent turn. Up until recently, such rhetoric has been hyperbolic, but at some point, elections do matter. If they didn’t, would there be any point in voting?
Speaking of voting, it appears the first official shot has been fired in the 2024 presidential election:
Colorado’s top court ruled on Tuesday that former President Donald J. Trump is disqualified from holding office again because he engaged in insurrection with his actions leading up to the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol, an explosive ruling that is likely to put the basic contours of the 2024 election in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Colorado Supreme Court was the first in the nation to find that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment — which disqualifies people who engage in insurrection against the Constitution after taking an oath to support it — applies to Mr. Trump, an argument that his opponents have been making around the country.
The ruling directs the Colorado secretary of state to exclude Mr. Trump’s name from the state’s Republican primary ballot. It does not address the general election.
My initial reaction was that this will ultimately amount to nothing in the end. Even if the ruling stands, Colorado is a state Joe Biden won by over 13% in 2020. I’d think this sort of action would be a bigger deal if it happened in a swing-state like Michigan. And this is precisely where it becomes more concerning - having broken the “taboo,” why wouldn’t other states make the same attempt? I’m not saying they will - there are risks involved in doing so - but if you wanted to squeeze the political opposition through seemingly legal means, this would be a way to do it.
Already, another state is attempting to follow suit:
Neither California nor Maine are in play for Trump to win. But you can see how the Colorado ruling has triggered a cascade of states to engage in increasingly provocative forms of political warfare, or “lawfare,” which ever term one prefers. The problem is that even if these moves are, ultimately, meaningless gestures, they’re escalatory, pushing the party on the receiving end to respond in some fashion. So far, the Right is holding its fire, mainly because there aren’t many moves they could make, aside from maybe remove incumbent Joe Biden off ballots, which would open a whole new can of worms.
I doubt a civil war is going to break out over this. They said something would happen once Trump finally got prosecuted, but nothing ever did. Trump has never been a popular figure, what popularity he does possess is more performative than any sign of deep-seated loyalty, and even many of his supporters have grown weary of his act. As I was saying earlier, however, this is just another one of those little things that gets tossed atop an ever growing pile of combustibles. When it finally does get set ablaze, it won’t be because people couldn’t vote for Trump. It’ll be because there was just no other way to make the people in charge hear what you had to say. As the saying goes, those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.
Nobody knows when that moment comes. It could come in 2024, it could come in 10 years, or who knows, maybe we’ll live out our lives with it never happening. I know, I’ve made a lot of specific predictions lately and I stand by them, but nobody, myself included, can predict the future. Still, there’s an increasingly prevalent sense out there that we’re approaching a critical moment in our history, if we’re not there already, and that the status quo cannot hold. In some ways, it’s refreshing to think more Americans are aware of our vulnerability, since you can’t fix problems you deny the existence of.
At the same time, more Americans being aware of our vulnerability is an indication of how serious the moment has become. I’d venture to guess, if you’re not a little worried by this point, life must either be very good for you, or you’re choosing to be oblivious. The warning signs are flashing and have been for some time. Noticing or not noticing is a choice.
The 2024 elections are, ultimately, a vessel through which our divisions and frustrations are propagated. This is going to sound bizarre, but I think the matter of Trump is a distraction from the real problems, the things that are really going to drive this country apart and lead to violence, unfortunately. Up front, I feel confident in saying we won’t be on the verge of civil war a year from now, but if you think tensions are high today, well, just wait.
Let’s go over what they are and I’ll offer a prognosis on what to expect in the next 12 months. In the interest of brevity, I’m going to issue individual posts on each topic, so you’re not stuck reading a super-long essay. I’m a fan of long-form writing, but I also understand it’s not easy reading lengthy pieces, so if I have a New Year’s resolution, it’s to diversify the length of my pieces. As an amateur writer, it’s easier to write less frequently, but to throw more content onto individual pieces. I still want to make your subscription worth your time by doing better than one piece per week.
Stay tuned for the next installment in this mini-series.
UPDATE: Reader and frequent commenter “Reckoning” writes:
Everyone is predicting major unrest in 2024, so I’ll be a contrarian and predict no major conflict. I think the major difference from 2024 is that the Democrats are in charge and have no incentive to create disorder, as they will be blamed. And as recent experience shows, the left is the only side with the true ability to create disorder.
There’s nothing I love better than a contrarian view, even when I don’t agree with it. I never saw 2024 as the year it pops off - I’m saving that for 2025, at the earliest - but I find it hard to believe there won’t be major unrest in 2024. While I agree civil disorder on the scale of 2020 would work against the incumbents and that the Democrats have some degree of control over the instigation of disorder, I think reaction to the Israel-Gaza conflict demonstrates they don’t have as much control as we think, either. At least, there are elements on the Left who can act independently of what the party tells to do, with tremendous discord apparent within the coalition.
That said, my head tells me, in a year, the Left will have gotten its act together and will find a way to unite in the face of challenger Donald Trump. But my gut tells me all won’t be peaceful, either.
More from Reckoning:
Right now the elites are frantically trying to improve the economy and wrap up the Ukraine war before the election. Basically trying to pretty up a turd. I doubt they can do it that well, though. I think inflation will continue to be a problem and the Russians will continue to progress. This Red Sea conflict won’t help.
I think Reckoning has a good summary of what the Left is facing. Joe Biden has arguably one of the weakest cases for re-election of any incumbent; his approval ratings alone would disqualify him for re-election in normal times. If this was 50 years ago, it’s doubtful someone with approval ratings so poor would even bother to run for re-election. But Biden isn’t a normal president, despite that being his campaign theme in 2020, and we’re certainly not in normal times.
The only advantage Biden has is that his likely opponent is also unpopular and a lightning rod of a figure. We’ll touch on that more in a moment.
As for the Red Sea situation, this is probably worth a separate treatment, but it suffices to say it isn’t going well for the U.S. The manner in which the coalition is already falling apart is precisely the kind of scenario I’m predicting when it comes to the collapse of the U.S. as a superpower. The only question is whether the Red Sea situation is a preview, or the moment.
I think Trump’s legal problems will drag on inconclusively and the Supreme Court will provide some protection. So he won’t be in jail for election day. Given that Trump’s handling of Covid doesn’t seem horrible in retrospect, the Trump years now seem pretty good compared to the crummy Biden years. So Trump seems to be the favourite for now.
When and if he takes office, of course, that’s when fireworks could begin, as the left attempts to stop him from taking power or governing in any meaningful sense.
I think this is certainly the safe bet. Taking down Trump has proven to be a tall order not only because wealthy people are always tough to knock down, but also because I think it’s not clear if Trump has even committed any of the crimes he’s accused of. Trump has certainly flirted with danger and often makes unreasonable demands of others. It’s one of the reasons I’ve never been as enamored with the man as many on my side are. But politicians are known for nothing if not their eagerness to break the rules they expect everyone else to live by.
I’ve always believed that one of the strangest criticisms of Trump has been his handling of COVID. He did literally the only thing any reasonable person could do in his shoes: listen to the experts. It’s easy to say in retrospect Trump shouldn’t have listened to Anthony Fauci (since revealed to be an utterly corrupt figure), but so much of the public was already writing him off at that point. What people don’t understand is that you need political capital in order to go your own way. Trump had very little of it throughout his presidency (not entirely his doing) but, more important, people were reasonably concerned about a new transmittable disease nobody knew much about. No president would ever take the risk of do nothing about it, especially when everyone who was supposed to know something about it was telling him it needed to be taken seriously.
My views on COVID are complicated and subject to change; the passage of time and new revelations will either confirm my suspicions or force me to pivot. The only points I’ve been fairly consistent on is that the lockdowns were an overreaction and that COVID might be worse than a cold, but it’s nothing remotely close to smallpox, and that we’re all going to get COVID eventually. As for the controversial vaccine, the long-term solution for preventing any disease is vaccination, but people have a right to be skeptical about what they put into their bodies. Regardless of what the data says, nobody should be forced to be injected with something that hadn’t even been around for a year because of a disease that’s nowhere close to as lethal as smallpox.
Wherever you land, blaming Trump for his handling of COVID is grasping at straws. Yes, mistakes (like the lockdown) were made. At the same time, I doubt any president would’ve done much better. Trump’s failures throughout his presidency were more often public relations-oriented than anything else; his handling of COVID was no different. But the idea he should’ve done nothing and instead should’ve regarded the disease with a lack of urgency is totally divorced from reality. If everyone tells you to take something seriously, it’s very difficult not to.
I’m not sure if people will look back on Trump’s handling of COVID fondly, however. I have a feeling people attribute the end of the pandemic more to Biden, undeservedly so, and as I stated above, Trump’s failures were more PR-oriented. Even his successes were often spun as failures. I’m not sure perceptions will change dramatically enough to tip the scales decisively in his favor. But we’ll see.
Max Remington writes about armed conflict and prepping. Follow him on Twitter at @AgentMax90.
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