Although every year brings with it a healthy dose of news, This 2023 is shaping up to be one of profound changes and developments in the United States whose impact will be felt not only in the domestic politics of this country but with implications worldwide.
Perhaps the most concrete of all will begin this week (January 3) when a new Congress is installed in Washington where Republicans will have control of the House of Representatives for the first time in four years. In other words, President Joe Biden will have to run the last leg of his presidency into a headwind.
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Although he is not the first president of the United States to preside over a divided Congress (all recent ones have had to overcome this scenario at some point in their presidency), perhaps none had had to face him in as extreme a polarization as the one that is breathed. in this country today.
not just because Republicans have promised to put the brakes on his entire progressive agenda, but because of the avalanche of investigations that they are about to unleash. After almost five years in the opposition, they are already preparing multiple investigations whose purpose is to put the president – and the Democrats – on the ropes with an eye on the 2024 presidential and legislative elections.
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This week Kevin McCarthy, the likely leader of the House Republicans, announced that from the outset they will go for the head of the Secretary for Internal SecurityAlejandro Mayorkas, whom they blame for the immigration crisis on the southern border and the entry of tons of narcotics that has been causing, they say, a new epidemic of drug addiction and death in the country.
They have also announced investigations into the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in the summer of 2021, the business with China of Hunter Biden, the son of the president, the origin of the covid-19 and the handling that has been given to the pandemic – with Anthony Faucci as his main target – and the investigations by the FBI and the Department of Justice against former President Donald Trump with theft of classified documents from the White House and on other fronts.
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Given the composition of the new Republican majority in the Housemade up of a good number of Trumpism figures and people from the extreme right, the agenda they will try to impose is more radical.
They speak, for example, of reducing aid to Ukraine, promoting a national ban on abortion, limiting sexual and racial education in schools, and abolishing vaccination and mask-wearing requirements to prevent the spread of diseases such as covid-19.
Trump is no longer what he was before. Many see it as a negative rather than a liability.
Of course, since the democrats still control the senate and therefore nothing can pass without their approval, much of what is coming is fireworks and political theater. Even so, Biden and his allies in Congress will go on the defensive in the short and medium term and there will be little he will be able to move forward in these four years.
Despite this, the Republicans will not have it easy. Although they regained control of the Chamber in the last legislative elections, the results They were seen as a defeat because they lost the Senate and will only have a Pyrrhic majority (of 10 votes) in this other body.
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That has translated into a whole battle for the heart of the party where one side wants to distance itself from former President Trump, whom they blame for the bad timing, while the other wants even more loyalty.
In fact, McCarthy is not even guaranteed the House presidency, Well, one sector – the most Trumpist – is tying its support to a more extreme agenda.
In this same order of ideas, this bid will also be reflected in the contest for the party’s nomination for the presidential elections. Although Trump has already announced his candidacy and is leading the polls, he came out of the last elections very weak and his selection is no longer seen as inevitable. Several of his potential rivals have already begun to take steps in the direction of a challenge and several are expected to materialize during the first six months of the year.
Everybody eyes are now on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who in many polls is close to Trump or even surpasses him. At least that’s what a recent sample by the conservative newspaper suggests. The Wall Street Journal.
Others, such as former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, have also begun exploring candidacies.
“Trump is not what he used to be. Many see it as a negative rather than a liability and that has opened the door to a more competitive process,” says Mike Dennehy, a Republican consultant who has been advising this party for decades.
Likewise, and despite the criticism, many rivals have an eye on the impact that the multiple investigations that are being carried out against Trump will have on popularity, both in the Department of Justice and prosecutors in several states.
But in practice that could translate into a fierce nomination dispute that could further divide the party and weaken them ahead of the 2024 election.
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The Democrats, by contrast, start the year in a better position. Although Biden’s popularity ratings are still bad (43.5 percent, according to the latest balance of the 538 portal), they are on the rise (from 38 percent almost a year ago, its lowest point). In large part, that has to do with the better appearance of the economy, an issue that sank it throughout 2022.
Inflation, still high in historical terms, has finally started to fall (7.1 percent annualized in November) and experts predict that it will continue to decline during 2023 and 2024.
And gasoline prices, which were above $5 a gallon, have dropped to $3.10 (average). Another relief for the pockets of Americans that tends to influence, and quite a lot, the perception of the government.
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The impact in Colombia
Bilaterally, this new composition of the United States Congress – and what it implies for Biden’s governance – It will probably also have an impact since it coincides with the coming to power of a Gustavo Petro government that he is not on the same page as a good sector of the United States on the issues that matter to him – or that are usually explosive – such as the fight against drugs, migration and trade.
Although harmony is expected on other issues on the agenda such as climate change and social inclusion, the turns proposed by Petro, such as stopping forced eradication in some areas of the country or migratory relief for undocumented Colombians, will be more difficult to achieve. sell in this Congress and against an administration that has less room for maneuver.
Towards the end of this year, in fact, the State Department communicated to the Petro government its doubts about the plan to make a gradual transition between forced and voluntary eradication and it is known that the decision to buy war planes from France and not the United States fell badly.
Two issues that could generate tensions this year between the two countries, despite the fact that meetings between presidents Petro and Biden and vice presidents Francia Márquez and Kamala Harris are scheduled.
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At the same time, the year will bring with it new challenges. Especially those that are raised before the Supreme Court of Justice.
The sentence that ended the constitutional protections that abortion had in the United States is still fresh, the Court, clearly controlled by conservatives -6 of its 9 members belong to this current- will review this year lawsuits that could modify the rights that protect communities LGBT, the rules that govern the country’s electoral system, as well as immigration policies.
All issues of great importance and that could add fuel to the climate of polarization that is already consuming the country. A year, in any case, that will give a lot to talk about.
SERGIO GOMEZ MASERI
On Twitter: @sergom68