American Bald Eagle in front of flag looking fierce
Eagle Eyed

4 July2024


by J. R. Thomas

Some of the most important elections of the early C21st are going on as you read this; and here is where live media holds all the aces.  You, the reader, will have the advantage of knowing the current state of play, if only via the BBC, CBBC, Facebook or whatever your dubious source of choice; whilst your humble scribe’s thoughts, such as they are, will be out of date as soon as they are set down and sent to the Shaw Sheet’s huge print works hidden away in… ah, but that would be too revealing.

On Thursday, if you are reading this then, or yesterday, if on Friday, the UK election will be taking place, or have taken place.  Either way, Sir Keir is on his way to be Prime Minister, whilst Mr Sunak and the absurd Ed Davey are about to have career changes.  Well, so we must surmise.  Mr Farage, no surmising on him, we would almost certainly be wrong, will be triumphant even if Reform has no seats whatsoever. Expect the unexpected is our best guess.  

In France these excitements must wait until Sunday night, when we expect that Madame Le Pen, Farage-like, will be looking rather pleased with things, whilst everybody else, in Paris and Brussels anyway, will be having hysterics and reaching for the smelling salts.  M le President Macron?  He will be looking a little downcast, no doubt, but we cannot help wondering if an intrusive camera might not catch, at moments when le President is unaware, a sly grin.  For is there not a danger that Madam Le Pen has fallen into a clever trap?  M. Macron will continue as President of the 5th Republic until 2027.  It may be an uncomfortable three years for him, cohabiting with Mme Le Pen’s National Rally and its 27 year old leader as nominated by Mme Le Pen.  But he will still be President; and many of the levers and controls of government, as designed by that wily old General, Charles de Gaulle, will remain within his grasp. And he has three years, a whole three years, to make sure the National Rally becomes exceeding unpopular and remove them from being any threat to a continuation of M Macron’s remarkable career.  Which does not yet allow Macron back for a third term – the constitution does not allow that. Yet. Yet.

And in the US of A things look even more confused, though there may be some clarification between the scribbling of this and you reading it. We must again surmise, but we do so with some certainty, that at some point soon Mr Biden, President Biden, will be advised by his doctors that continuing to run for a second term as President would be inadvisable for his health and wellbeing, and that he should withdraw.  And he will, driving into the Delaware sunset in his beloved Corvette Stingray.  “Joe, mind that fire hyd…. Oh cripes”.

This would be very bad news for Mr Trump, of course.  Against a stumbling forgetful confused 81 year old his chances of winning a second term always looked good.  Against a young fresh agile candidate full of ideas and vim and zizz, and backed enthusiastically by Mr Biden (riding a sudden wave of public sympathy and goodwill as he salutes goodbye after 50 and more years of service), a new Democratic candidate will be in with a serious chance of winning.  What’s more, he will make Donald (78) look old and, by November, tired and fraying.  It only requires the Democrats to choose that new candidate.

Which is where the trouble starts.  Michelle Obama could do it; but has clearly and robustly said she won’t; life is too short was her general message.  Jill Biden, wife of Joe, might do it, and knows her way around Washington better than you might expect, but that would be a dangerous move, given that she is already accused of being the power too closely behind Joe.  For whatever reason the obvious candidate, Kamala Harris, the Vice President, which is, after all, the appointment which exists to cover the job in the Oval Office should a problem arise, might be able to do it, but does not get mentioned except with a sigh and a shrug and a firm “No!”.

Then there are many possible contenders starting with Governor Newsom of California, and passing through a line of various other Governors and the odd Senator or two.  But none really impresses or has, as political commentators are wont to say, “traction” with the electorate.  Which means a bitter fight almost certainly culminating in a vicious struggle at the Democrat Convention in Chicago in the last days of August.  This is not good for the party (or for the USA, come to that, with a sick lame duck president in the White House until next January).  And it gives very little time to November 6th for a new candidate to run their campaign.  The Democrat chiefs must be wondering, when they contemplate the next few months, if they can somehow restore Mr Biden to health and get him to carry on. Or persuade Mrs Obama to step forward after all.

“May you live in interesting times” Leon Trotsky is said to have said, just before a man with an ice axe walked into his library.  (He almost certainly didn’t, or certainly not as an original thought; history favours Austen Chamberlain translating from a Chinese proverb.)  But the times are exceptionally interesting and for lovers of liberal democracy indeed rather worrying, and the only thing that can be said with any degree of certainty, is that by the time you read this, you will know more than me about all three electoral struggles.

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