This New Year has its work cut out for it. 2021 recklessly postponed to 2022 a set of crucial unanswered questions that make it difficult to tell whether America’s glass is half full or half empty. The next 12 months are indeed loaded with starting to provide answers.
At present, the biggest socio-economic trends are exceptionally resistant to any common orientation, in turn leaving the political outlook in an unpredictable limbo.
For example, is the coronavirus pandemic growing out of control or is it instead becoming a manageable part of normal life? It really depends on where you live and how you look at it.
The Omicron variant appears to be spreading much faster than the Delta strain which dominated 2021. As a result, cases in many parts of the United States are approaching or exceeding record levels.
This is the bad news. The very good news is that the symptoms seem much milder. More importantly, as President Joe Biden rightly insists, in terms of hospitalizations, it is now largely “an epidemic of the unvaccinated.”
Hospitalizations and deaths are mostly concentrated in the unvaccinated population. Many people who have been vaccinated test positive and often feel sick, but usually in a manageable way. He’s a huge game changer.
Yet the situation is much more critical in Republican-dominated states where governors and other leaders have encouraged, defended, and even – in at least five US states – financially rewarded for refusing vaccines by extending unemployment benefits to those who do. have lost their jobs because they do not comply with mandatory vaccinations. The intensive care units are overflowing. Patients with other illnesses are now dying because unvaccinated, and therefore largely preventable, Covid-19 cases have consumed existing intensive care beds.
Republicans angrily complain that Mr Biden has failed to contain the pandemic, even though many of them are among the main obstacles to vaccination and mitigation. In much of the rest of the country, the new variant is a challenge that suggests that if vaccines are adopted, the coronavirus may well become an integrated and manageable part of normal life.
The coronavirus cup therefore seems at least half full.
The economy, too, is subject to radically divergent perceptions. Most indicators point to a really robust, arguably roaring recovery. However, inflation continues to erode the purchasing power of most people and create significant and politically powerful anxieties. Again, who and where you are can dictate how you view the depth of the national economic sink.
2022 will likely clarify whether the U.S. economy is rebounding in a way that is felt throughout society. And the big triage between vaccinated and unvaccinated populations on vulnerability to coronavirus should become much more evident, giving Americans a clear choice as to whether they want to remain voluntarily at the mercy of Covid-19.
The political questions that are indeed the corollaries of these ambiguous, or at least contested socio-economic trends and perceptions, are considerably more substantial this year than usual.
The future of American democracy will not be decided in 2022. But the year ahead will tell us a lot about the direction of the Republican Party, which is at the center of efforts to undermine the constitutional system, to consolidate a growing pattern. clearly undemocratic minority regime. and possibly lead the country towards explicit forms of authoritarianism.
The ability of former President Donald Trump, who introduced these undemocratic impulses into American politics, to continue to lead the Republican Party is extremely uncertain.
His hold on the feelings and loyalty of the party base remains unmatched. But he’s obsessed with calling the 2020 election into question and repeatedly repeats baseless and completely debunked lies about how it was allegedly stolen from him by massive fraud.
Most recently, he announced a press conference on Jan.6 on the anniversary of the violent insurgency he instigated to try to prevent Congress from ratifying the 2020 election results. He apparently has intending to regurgitate once again the ridiculous account that he was deceived. Mr. Trump is so obsessed with this illusion that it appears to be his litmus test for supporting Republican Congressional candidates in November’s midterm.
Other party leaders clearly understand that neither he nor anyone else can win the White House in 2024 based on completely discredited fabrications of 2020. Yet they seem to have found no way to dislodge the party from his position. hold.
Even that might not slow the GOP’s descent into ever deeper right-wing extremism. The tip of Republican fanaticism now appears independent of Mr. Trump, with many politicians seeking to outbid each other in rhetorical militancy and incitement to violence.
2022 will say a lot about the strength of the institutions and safeguards designed to control efforts to exploit systemic loopholes and weaknesses in the U.S. constitutional system. The evaporation of the requisite civic virtue appears to have significantly impoverished the American democratic glass.
In the coming year, Senate Democrats must find a way to pass a national election and vote protection law. Otherwise, Republican state-level initiatives to restrict voting and undermine fair election supervision will go dangerously uncontrolled.
The past year has shown that while the attack on democracy by many Republicans supporting Trump was a serious threat, opposition from other Republicans, including state officials and even judges appointed by Trump, thwarted the attempt to create a constitutional crisis in an attempt to keep him in office despite his defeat.
Despite continued efforts to oust or disempower conscientious Republican officials, this points to a venerable American Democratic chalice that is still at least a quarter full. There is clearly a nagging feeling among mainstream Republicans, and even some Trump supporters, that democratic norms and traditions are worth upholding, despite what sense their party may lose.
Even though the pandemic and the economic outlook undeniably brightens over the next eight months, a beaker three-quarters full does not guarantee Democrats a successful mid-term outcome. It is possible, and even probable, that between historical trends, party weaknesses and Republican partisan gerrymandering and vote suppression, they suffer a significant defeat anyway.
But if they can get either electoral protection legislation or some form of increased social spending, let alone both, as I have already explained in these pages, they will find themselves in a strong position to retain the power. White House in 2024.
The prognosis of American democracy will not be made in 2022, but the general trajectory will become clearer. And the pandemic and the economic outlook is unlikely to be as bleak in 2023 as it is now.
2022 doesn’t look like it’s about to introduce anything drastically new to the American scene – although the unexpected is still around the corner. But the New Year will have its hands full to clarify these murky and contested, yet vital realities bequeathed by 2021.
Posted: Jan 2, 2022, 2:00 p.m.