The radio is playing “Work” by Rihanna, and the wind smells like cold packed lunches and cafeteria trays. It feels as though the dog filter is popular on Snapchat and Captain America: Civil War just came out a few months ago. The air is thick with the scent of jolly ranchers that some kid is parading around the playground because his dad brought them back from a business trip to the US. We are all at school, talking about how Portugal won the Euros without Cristiano Ronaldo, and how there is no way that the UK is going to vote to leave the EU. The fourth period is about to begin.
The reason it feels like 2016 again, is because that is the year that some man with terrible hair who appeared in Home Alone 2 ran for the US presidency. Not one of us thought that he could win, and yet we watched as the votes were counted on the projector in my class. “What now?” One of my classmates asked. No one really knew what to say. Now, the air seems to smell like Blue Raspberry-flavored candy because the wave of 2016 flashbacks is hitting us like a brick. Donald Trump is one of the favorites to run for US office, and the rest of the world is watching.
While neither party has decided on their candidate yet, the 2024 election will likely be a repeat of the last one, where Donald Trump and Joe Biden will compete for the Presidency. However, this time both candidates have served a term in office, and we know exactly how they acted. They acted badly. Both of them acted badly. Currently, the discontent for Biden is continuing to grow. From his stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict and the economy to his age alone, voters have become increasingly dissatisfied with his performance throughout the last three years.
This trend can be seen throughout all demographic groups, but data shows that he has failed Black and Latino voters especially. In addition, when it comes to White voters under the age of 45, Biden has lost enough support to be almost tied with Trump himself. These numbers are due to Biden’s performance as well as his dwindling likeability. He is not seen as fit to run a country, nor does he have the charisma to convince people that he is. The accumulation of these issues is not just bad news for the Democratic Party, it is bad news for everyone. As the unlikeable candidate loses support, the criminal in the opposition wins it.
Now, American democracy has been in trouble for a long time. Once seen as the strongest democracy in the world, the truth is that its quality has been deteriorating since the civil rights movement. According to author Steven Levitsky, this is because the 1960s were when the two parties began their paths of complete polarization. Pulling on racial cleavages that were brought to the surface by the civil rights movement, the Democratic Party became the one for non-White voters, and the Republican one became that of White Christians. Nevertheless, these differences were almost always contained by the electoral system in order to preserve democracy.
Parties were able to deal with extremists and prevent them from becoming real candidates. This meant that they were able to prevent anyone antidemocratic from becoming a presidential candidate. As such, racism was still rampant and affected politics from every direction, of course, but the pillars of democracy themselves were not directly threatened by its consequences. While American presidents have had their (many) issues, none endangered the existence of the United States institutions. That is, until 2016. No other president had threatened American democracy. Trump took a sledgehammer to it.
Authors of “How Democracies Die” Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt outline four key indicators of antidemocratic behavior: the rejection of democratic rules of the game, denying the legitimacy of political opponents, toleration or encouragement of violence, and readiness to curtail civil liberties of opponents, including the media. Our friend Donald Trump has portrayed every single one of these behaviors. From describing the press as “the enemy of the people,” claiming voter fraud, and attacking the electoral system, to January 6th, it seems as though the man could not get more antidemocratic if he wanted it.
Unfortunately, he can. Armed with the proof that he can commit literal crimes, support a riot, or destroy American democracy and still run for office, he will likely be worse than ever before. No matter how much the air smells like Jolly Ranchers or the radio is blasting Rihanna, a Trump victory in 2024 will not be a repeat of 2016. It will be unfathomably worse. If he wins this election, he will have the evidence he needs that there is nothing he cannot do, and no one who can stop him.
This, in combination with the growing number of people who do not want to vote for either candidate, is a recipe for disaster. Due to Biden’s falling numbers, the possibility that Trump could win de facto is more and more likely. The 2024 elections could be a pivotal point in US history, and by extension, in the world’s. As much as we like to deny it, what happens in the United States can easily have a ripple effect across the globe, for better or for worse.
The situation is scary, and the only thing that American citizens can do to prevent it is to vote. Reluctantly, and for the lesser of two evils, they have to cast their ballots. As for the rest of us, we will have to sit back, watch, and hope that the situation that all of us remember from our childhoods does not repeat itself. This time around, there will be no jolly ranchers or playground conversations to envelope our ignorance. This time, we will live through it as adults.
Featured image: CTV News