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County Hall Corner: What are We in for in 2024?

We still have a month left in 2023, but the upcoming year may be one of this century’s most important years, and we need to get ready. The United States has never been more divided than it is right now. Given that even antisemitism is publicly displayed, and in the spirit of ‘diversity’ considered acceptable in today’s society, there appears to be nothing that we Americans can agree on. The coming year will either keep us on the same course we are in now or result in a seismic change of direction. Hopefully, a good change is in the wind because right now, the United States is in a real mess both socially, economically, and politically.

Everything starts at the top, so we should consider the upcoming presidential race first. Unfortunately, the frontrunners for the two major parties are both seriously flawed. The incumbent, President Joe Biden, has the lowest approval rating since Jimmy Carter, who lost to Ronald Reagan in 1980 by an electoral vote of 489 to 49 (more on this later). Yet the Republican candidate Donald Trump, who is miles ahead of the other Republican candidates, is dealing with a host of lawsuits and a resistance that is almost maniacal. Both parties seem to have their hands tied behind their backs, given that both Biden and Trump are far and away the odds-on favorites for their respective parties. However, much may happen in the next few months, and it would not be a surprise if one or even both of these men will not be on the ballot next November. Who would replace them, however, is anyone’s guess.

Pennsylvania will be electing a US Senator in 2024, with the incumbent Democrat Bob Casey Jr., running against the Republican Dave McCormick. Casey has held the position since 2007 and has secured a good war chest in funds for the coming election. However, his Democrat colleague John Fetterman has made national news, and not in a good way, which may result in a pushback to Casey. Dave McCormick is an excellent challenger and should make this race tight.

In the Pennsylvania House and Senate, the incumbents will be running again. In our region, this would be Senator Gene Yaw and Representatives Joe Hamm and Jamie Flick; all three are Republicans. Senator Yaw would seem a lock; the only pushback may be his age, given that he will turn 81 in February. Joe Hamm and Jamie Flick have been extremely hard-working reps; our region is fortunate to have them. Of course, they do not have one hundred percent customer satisfaction, but who does? Outside of something very unusual, all three should probably win comfortably.

That is the field of candidates for us, but the playing field is where the mess is. The mainstream media has become a political weapon, evidenced most vividly by the widely featured letter three years ago from 51 senior intelligence officials that the email disclosures from Hunter Biden’s laptop had “all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.” It turned out to be a lie, a political move to protect President Biden’s presidential run. The recent release of videos from the infamous ‘insurrection’ on January 6, 2021, proves most of that hype was propaganda. And the country is still digging out of the hole from the COVID shutdowns, which started originally “to flatten the curve” and then got extended over two years.

Oddly enough, our present situation is strikingly similar to where our country was fifty years ago. Those of us who lived in the 1970s remember it as an awful decade. Politics were ugly, with President Nixon forced to resign rather than being impeached from office. The Yom Kippur War in 1973 resulted in an oil embargo by the OPEC countries, which caused gas prices to triple and inflation to go through the roof. The Republicans were blamed for almost all of this, which created an opening for the one-term Georgia governor Jimmy Carter to get elected in 1976.

President Jimmy Carter had some positive initiatives, but he was portrayed as weak. A vivid illustration of this was the Iranian students storming the US Embassy in Tehran on November 4th, 1979, and holding as hostages more than 50 Americans. The Iranians scoffed at international diplomatic immunity and held these US citizens and State Department officials hostage for 444 days. Not coincidentally, they released the hostages on the inauguration day of Ronald Reagan.

The troubled national economy and the international upheavals of that decade are not unlike what we are facing today. President Carter was not exactly inept, but he seemed out of his depth as president. Ronald Reagan had been a two-time governor of California in the 1960s but was still mostly recognized as a Hollywood actor and was also up in age. In the only televised debate with President Carter on October 28, 1980, Reagan closed his comments by looking into the camera and asked a very simple question, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”

In that spirit, we should ask every incumbent, what have you done within your sphere of influence to make our community, state, or country stronger, more stable, and more prosperous? We should ask any candidate for office to not just tell us about their education or experience but exactly what they will do to increase our standard of living, protect our homes and community, and educate our children successfully.

This next election will bring us into 2026, which is the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Our country has been a hope for the world for over two centuries, but I question if this will continue if we stay on the present course. Finger-pointing and name-calling are great theater, but it is time for the grownups to show up now. Our leaders should be providing us with answers and not anger — hope, and not horror — and show respect for our country’s strengths, our traditions, and our heritage.