“Will the United States stay united and governable?“
What’s at stake for the US and what impact of the outcome of the midterms will have – An Interview with Clay Risen
Joe Biden seems absent in the campaign, whereas Donald Trump is out there, helping his supporters secure candidacies for the mid-term election. Why is that?
The Democrats are playing for independents, and many – but not all – Republicans are playing to turn out their base. Biden is not very popular in purple states and swing districts, and recently we have been seeing a big swing to the right among college-educated women, the constituency he would otherwise be out there addressing. Trump remains popular among the GOP base, so he’s making appearances for those candidates – Kari Lake, for example, in Arizona – who are running a base-first strategy.
Most Americans say they are not happy with the handling of the economy by the Biden administration. Would they be seeing a better day with the republicans controlling the house?
Perhaps, but not for any causal reason. The economy is tightening for several reasons far beyond Biden’s control –The Ukraine War, lingering supply-chain issues, rising interest rates by the Fed –but he has also signaled a change in those things he can control, namely domestic spending. I don’t see him pushing any major domestic spending packages in the next few years, regardless of who controls Congress.
Donald Trump seems to be having a chance to run again for president, or do you think the Republicans could put forward another candidate? And if so, who would that potentially be?
Trump is running, and I don’t see anyone else. Ron DeSantis is the only viable alternative, and he is quietly signaling that he will sit out in 2024. He’s very young and doesn’t need to make enemies in the party.
In the Democrats’ camp, there was hood for Kamila Harris to become a natural successor of Joe Biden. That view seems to be not widely shared anymore. What happened?
We’ll see. Fair or not, she developed a reputation as cold, calculating, and not especially likable. To me, there is some truth to that, but also a big double standard because she’s a woman. It’s also simply the case that vice presidents have a hard time moving into the White House. They get exposure but not much chance to prove themselves; they have to play second fiddle to the president. Only a handful have done it; George H.W. Bush is the only vice president to win an election directly into the presidency since Martin Van Buren.
A third of Americans, seventy preventing Republican voters believe that Joe Biden is not a legitimate president. Under these circumstances: How will the United States will stay united and governable?
I have no idea. Most days I don’t think it will. We have to change the political culture first, and I’m not sure how we get there. I think the solution has to be a move beyond the two-party, winner-take-all system, but that’s much easier said than done.
The repercussions of a broken democracy in the United States would be felt everywhere in the world, potentially leading to an entire collapse of the existing world order. In your opinion, why seems no one in the Republican Party to be aware of what is at stake?
I think many people in the Republican Party are indeed aware of what’s at stake but have come to believe that the threat to democracy comes from the left. I also believe there is a good bit of nationalist myopia on the right, which simply refuses to take into account the interrelationships of American culture and politics with those of the rest of the world.
What options do you see for the Democrats to bolster the American economy and combat inflation?
Oof. That’s a tough one. I don’t think there is much the Democrats can do. I think the Fed’s recent moves are the right ones, as painful as they are in the short term.
Clay Risen is a reporter at the New York Times and the author of “The Crowded Hour: Theodore Roosevelt, the Rough Riders and the Dawn of the American Century,” among other books.
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