The US in 2024: what's at stake in the year ahead

The changing Israel-US relationship and the possibility of another Trump presidency could make 2024 a very interesting year

A '2024' sign in Times Square, where the New Year’s Eve Ball special celebratory design was revealed. Reuters
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In 2018, a medieval scholar posited that the worst year to be alive was 536. A volcanic eruption that year caused temperatures to plummet and crops to fail, resulting in widespread famine. There were some wars thrown in there, as well as the beginning of something called the Plague of Justinian.

Without meaning to sound defeatist, I have a feeling 2024 won't be that great either. Average surface temperatures are projected to rise past the 1.5°C limit set out in the Paris Agreement for the first time. The storms, floods and earthquakes of last year probably herald worse to come. Wars in Gaza, Ukraine and Sudan are raging. Those of us living in the US are facing a whole host of issues that could potentially change the course of the country.

In short, 2024 has me about as excited as a bout of plague.

The election and Trump's cult of personality

There's a reason Donald Trump's The Apprentice was such a big hit: the guy has star power. Regardless of whether he's actually allowed to run again – due to the several criminal lawsuits he's facing – he's bound to make political waves this year. And he knows all the right buttons to push to drive his diehard fans wild.

He's anti-immigration, which resonates with people living in America's border states. He's anti-China, which pings with those still clinging to Soviet-era fears of global communism, as well as those looking to protect American jobs. He's irreverent, which speaks to voters tired of Washington spin as well as those wary of a changing world that is increasingly critical of the values they hold dear.

Perhaps the biggest thing, though, is that many Republicans see him as the only candidate strong enough to win against President Joe Biden.

Meanwhile, Mr Biden is nobody's darling, as his recent polling numbers have shown. He's that first (or last) piece of sliced bread: not your first choice but you'll eat it if there's nothing else left.

Regardless, the choice should be clear between an incumbent who's done an OK job of helping the country bounce back from the pandemic and, though king of the gaffes, has mostly helped the US recoup its reputation on the world stage, versus a man indicted on numerous criminal charges whose more coherent rhetoric is alarming at best.

But after the upset of 2016, few are going into this election season blind to Mr Trump's charms.


As the daughter of immigrants and the wife of an immigrant, the consequences of this election can't help but be near the top of my list of concerns for this year. And I'm not alone.

The southern border has been a major rallying point for conservatives over the years. Border states have been burdened with the increasingly difficult task of securing the southern frontier with little federal assistance as thousands of people attempt to cross into the country.

Immigration has become a sort of existential issue for some Americans. The terms used to describe migrants – “flood”, “surge”, “influx” – make it seem like it's an invasion, us against the “wave”. It's not, of course. It's vulnerable, often penniless people travelling hundreds if not thousands of kilometres in search of a better life. They're coming because they sometimes have no other choice.

But try telling that to someone living near Eagle Pass, Texas, where, as of writing, about 11,000 migrants were waiting to be processed after being stopped by border police.

The real question going into this year is what's going to be done about it. Progressives are calling for intensified asylum claim processing and the establishment of humanitarian reception centres at the border, while Texas and Arizona are spending millions busing tens of thousands of migrants to Democrat-run cities.

Whatever happens, it's sure to divide the country further while not doing much to help migrants.

Israel-US relationship

Meanwhile, there is a great deal of cognitive dissonance among many Americans when it comes to Israel, bolstered by a heavy dose of “whataboutism”. Sure, Israeli strikes have killed an estimated 20,000 Palestinians. But what about October 7? Sure, Israel has bombed hospitals. But what about the hostages?

It's becoming increasingly difficult, however, for people in the US to fully ignore the harrowing images and stories coming out of Gaza.

An internal battle is being waged in the minds of many Americans when it comes to one of Washington's strongest allies, and it might have major implications for the future of US politics and foreign policy.

Support for Mr Biden's response to the conflict is plummeting. Protests across the US against Israel's actions in Gaza have drawn numbers never seen before. Arab and Muslim Americans, a small but increasingly important voting bloc, have expressed strong dissatisfaction with Mr Biden and his Democrats over the handling of the war. A growing number of members of Congress have publicly criticised Israel and called for a ceasefire.

American voters have lots of other issues to concern themselves with in the upcoming presidential election, and foreign policy is rarely a central issue. But I can't help but think Gaza has the potential to be Mr Biden's Jimmy Carter moment.

While Americans grapple with their own feelings towards Israel and the Biden administration does nothing more than belatedly urge the country to protect civilians, Washington is still sending bombs that are being dropped almost indiscriminately on Gaza. And it doesn't look like that will change anytime soon.

Published: January 01, 2024, 4:00 AM