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Treasuring Irish–US links in the climate of America first
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Larry Donnelly
University of Galway lecturer, Writer and American Attorney
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Global Impact Edition

Treasuring Irish–US links in the climate of America first

Larry Donnelly, an American attorney, University of Galway lecturer and writer, has a foot in both the Irish and US camps, so to speak.

Here he offers his views on the complex electoral process that is the US Presidential election, and the “unknowns” that could derail either candidate. Donnelly argues that despite their critical differences, most Americans agree on one point – America first.

For Ireland, given our critical and treasured connections with the US, this means being aware of, and not naïve about, what is occurring across the Atlantic. 

Same candidates but a different battle

For some time now, repeated polls have indicated that overwhelming majorities of the American people would prefer if neither Joe Biden nor Donald Trump be the 2024 presidential nominees of the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively. They are considered too old, too male, too pale and too stale by a broad, ideologically diverse range of the citizenry. Doubts of varying sorts as to each man’s fitness to serve a four-year term in the White House are common.

Yet in this context, Biden, the actual incumbent, and Trump, the de facto incumbent in the eyes of many in his party, cruised to victory with little by way of opposition. That Biden was able to do so is an indictment of “the system” – for lack of a better way of describing it. It is simply not true that there were no other eminently capable putative standard bearers.

California Governor Gavin Newsom and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, for instance, would have been formidable. Team Biden nonetheless managed to box off all credible challengers with the aid of the Democratic National Committee, insiders who’ve benefitted from their association with Biden over decades, and big money donors.

Plenty of observers, this one included, believed that in the GOP (Grand Old Party), Trump-loving right-wingers would thank the New York billionaire for cutting taxes on the wealthy and relegating Roe v Wade to the history books, but in the face of swirling clouds of legal trouble and additional unfortunate political realities, opt for a newer model.

Perhaps someone like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, whose policies are undeniably “Trumpist” but who doesn’t carry the same amount of baggage, would be anointed a fresher messenger for the different brand of conservatism so favoured by the grassroots and also embraced by cohorts of improbable Republican voters, such as Latinos and African American males. Those of us who miscalculated grossly underestimated the cult of personality that has sprung up around Trump and the unwavering loyalty he commands from adoring adherents, which is the secret envy of politicians of all stripes everywhere.

And so here we are, staring down the barrel of a rematch. It has been widely projected that this will be an uninspiring, downright ugly fight in which a substantial swathe of the citizenry will ultimately tick the box for the man they deem the least bad option.

It seems destined to be a very tight contest. The aggregated data continues to show that Trump, who holds slim advantages in all of the battleground states, maintains a slight edge. That said, Biden has been gaining incrementally. The following are three matters – not to mention any number of unknowable surprises that could emerge closer to Election Day – 5 November – that could tip the balance.

It has been widely projected that this will be an uninspiring, downright ugly fight in which a substantial swathe of the citizenry will ultimately tick the box for the man they deem the least bad option.

Larry Donnelly
University of Galway

2024,Presidential Election US

Issues that could tip the balance

First, there are the protests on college and university campuses throughout the United States motivated by the anger of students at both the failure of their institutions’ leaders to sufficiently condemn the objectively disproportionate response of Israel to the horrific attacks carried out by Hamas on 7 October 2023, and the fact that these institutions’ endowments benefit financially from investments tied to Israel. The students are also furious at the Biden administration’s pro-Israeli stance.

The US has always been Israel’s staunchest ally. A Pew Research poll reveals that roughly 40% of Americans approve of Israel’s conduct of the war to date. A questionnaire put to the Irish electorate would produce a drastically divergent result. At any rate, the protests hint that many young people see the Middle East very differently to their elders. President Biden desperately needs voters aged 18 to 35 to turn out and support him to win. Any diminution in their backing, which could take the form of declining to cast a ballot or opting for a third-party candidate, could be fatal to his chances.

Second is the spoiler role that these third-party candidates might play. They, too, could wound the current Commander in Chief fatally. The best known is Robert F Kennedy Jr, the scion of Democratic Party royalty and an environmental lawyer who has espoused conspiracy theories about vaccines and other topics.

There has been speculation that he will hurt Trump and Biden equally. The opinion surveys, though, fairly consistently, demonstrate that, by peeling away some Democrats who revere his surname and aren’t fully tuned in, as well as another faction that is disenchanted by their party’s leftward lurch, Kennedy poses a bigger threat to the sitting president. The African American academic Cornell West and Jill Stein of the Greens are also mounting long-shot bids. None of them will get a sizeable vote, but there is the possibility that they could collectively tilt a key state or two in Trump’s direction.

Lastly, there is the great uncertainty of the potential impact a conviction would have on Donald Trump’s standing among the public. Nothing has stuck to him thus far. The prosecution’s case in New York is legally tenuous. Polling in the wake of the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary earlier this year, however, suggested that a jury verdict against him would make a cadre of Republicans rethink their allegiance to Trump.

Even the drift of a small number could cost him dearly in a tight battle. Major, damaging developments in the pending matters in Washington DC, Georgia and Florida appear highly unlikely at this juncture. Still, watch that space.

There is insufficient justification, in my estimation, for pessimism or gloom with respect to the future. But there is ample cause for us stakeholders to redouble our efforts to preserve all that has been so mutually beneficial […] as America continues to recalibrate its relationship with the rest of the world.

Larry Donnelly
University of Galway

Post-election concerns

Predictions, primarily of a negative variety, are being offered about happenings in January 2025 after the 47th POTUS (President of the United States) is sworn in. In particular, onlookers around the globe fear what lies in store for America itself and for places further afield if Donald Trump gets four more years in the Oval Office, freed from all political constraints and surrounded by sycophants, not experts.

Regardless, if the people decide this is too risky, the truth is that Joe Biden as 47th President would be bequeathed a thankless task. Recent visitors to the US comment to me that the cost of living and price of consumer items have gone through the roof, that the disenfranchised and devastated increasingly seek refuge in substance abuse as the odour of marijuana permeating the air manifests, that the gulf dividing haves and have-nots is palpable and that the prospect of third-level education without the assumption of mammoth debt is beyond the reach of all save the super-rich.

Treasuring Irish–US links in the climate of America first
Source: Unsplash

“America first” is key

Accordingly, it is not surprising that Americans aren’t as concerned about events transpiring beyond their borders. They want attention, and consequent action, focused on all that ails their own country. The electorate quite clearly wants the politicians they elect to put America first. They want American corporations to pay tax at home, locate their headquarters in the US and employ Americans. They want the US to avoid foreign entanglements, military or otherwise, unless they are a national threat or clear and present danger to America’s security. Democrats and Republicans alike are going to be responsive to this now dominant public mood.

In this context and given the interconnectedness at every conceivable level between Ireland – and the region this university is anchored in, specifically – and the US, which millions of us treasure, we need to be cognisant of, not naïve about, what is occurring across the Atlantic.

There is insufficient justification, in my estimation, for pessimism or gloom with respect to the future. But there is ample cause for us stakeholders to redouble our efforts to preserve all that has been so mutually beneficial – culturally, economically, educationally and otherwise – as America continues to recalibrate its relationship with the rest of the world.

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