What's going on with the U.S. presidential election?

Opinion: The two presidential candidates of the world's most powerful nation are making waves, and the problem runs deeper than just the 2024 elections - it also has an impact on Israel

Ben-Dror Yemini|
Here's the good news: Our political situation is fantastic. Yes, everything we know about the most terrible coalition in the country's history, the prime minister's questionable considerations, and Benjamin Netanyahu's efforts to avoid elections - it's all true. Still, from an American perspective, it could be much worse.
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Two days ago, a report from the U.S. Justice Department was released, absolving President Joe Biden of any responsibility for concealing classified documents. If he were 60 or even 70, the investigation's findings would have been different. However, special prosecutor Robert Horowitz closed the investigation without personal recommendations, citing the determination that the 81-year-old president suffers from "impaired memory with significant limitations."
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ג'ו ביידן ודונלד טראמפ
ג'ו ביידן ודונלד טראמפ
Joe Biden, Donald Trump
(Photo: AP)
As expected, Biden reacted angrily and vehemently denied the allegations against him. "I am the most talented person to serve as president of the United States," he claimed at a press conference. However, he also made a mistake there, or perhaps a slip-up, by stating that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is the president of Mexico.
It's worth mentioning that Biden's main rival, Donald Trump, is not exactly young. Moreover, his war chest is unparalleled. At times, the more serious the charges against him, the greater the support for him. It's unclear who learned from whom in this matter: Americans from Israelis, or vice versa. Years ago, I wrote that investigations against Netanyahu might not only fail to harm him but could likely strengthen him. Turns out, it's a universal truth.
How is it that the most powerful nation in the world finds itself in the final stages of selecting presidential candidates with two candidates that raise doubts about the mechanisms of selection and the voters' judgment? What's happening in the United States? At times, it feels like it's not just a president with cognitive issues, but rather a nation with cognitive issues. After all, it's not too late to change. Some candidates are slightly more worthy than the two elderly dinosaurs who are inevitably vying for the finish line. And it doesn't matter who gets elected. We are already anticipating the disappointment.
Israel is in a much better situation, at least in this context. Netanyahu's voters could be understood when they felt there wasn't just an investigation and prosecution. They identified with the pursuit. They sought revenge against the elites. But when Netanyahu's strategic failure became evident, then the polls didn't lie. Netanyahu's party is approaching the severe low of the 2006 elections when Likud won only 12 seats. It's not that the public has turned left-wing. But Netanyahu's plummeting in the polls indicates maturity and pragmatism. That's not the story in the U.S. Identity politics has clouded the American public's judgment. There are fewer and fewer substantive considerations.
It's not just about the presidential election level. Certain cities are undergoing crises, suffering from unnecessary violence, increased poverty and a lack of effective law enforcement. The frightening decline of San Francisco, once a beautiful and desirable city, into a city plagued by violence, hasn't changed voting patterns over the years. Because it's not just among Trumpists, but also among progressives, where there are quasi-religious considerations. And the facts speak for themselves. One could assume that a mayor in Israel who oversaw only a fraction of the decline seen in San Francisco would be ousted in the next elections. But not in the U.S. Some Americans vote with their feet. They abandon declining cities for cities where law enforcement still has some deterrent power.
בן-דרור ימיניBen-Dror YeminiPhoto: Avigail Uzi
In the long run, the slogan following the killing of George Floyd, "Defund the Police," was one of the most foolish in U.S. history. Just two weeks ago, in a serious incident in Times Square in New York, a group of young, undocumented migrants attacked police officers. Most of them were released without bail. Now the police remember to recount it as a "heinous incident." Most of the attackers have already disappeared. Anyway, they're paperless. And that's just the tip of the iceberg of a massive influx of migrants, 6.3 million since Biden took office. Borders are breached. Progressive policy is sometimes reckless policy. But then they remember that the alternative is Trump. And decent Americans, there are many, don't know where to lead the disgrace. Is this America?
All these processes have an impact on Israel, as the extremes strengthen. On one hand, progressives among the Democrats are exerting more and more influence, not only on the fringes of Congress. On the other hand, among Republicans, divisive trends are strengthening. Right now, it's the refusal to continue supporting Ukraine. But make no mistake. These trends will bolster calls for cutting aid to Israel.
Despite all our troubles, Israel has a political center. The center is power. The center is stability. The center is pragmatism. True, this center is not currently in power, and we're in a coalition squeezed by the ultra-Orthodox and messianic. Yet, our situation is better than the dichotomy of progressivism versus Trumpism. The negativity in Israel, and there is negativity, is negligible compared to the destructive and stifling negativity in the US. It just means it could be much worse. And no, this is not consolation; on the contrary, it's a warning sign.
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