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US President

Joe Biden Is The 46th President Of The United States

After nearly a week of close calls, recounts, and some of the most razor thin margins in US history, Joe Biden has been elected as the 46th President of the United States.

America Braces For Impact As Election Day Approaches This Week

An extremely divided nation will be voting for their next president this week as both candidates continue last stitch efforts to gain crucial votes while also dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic that has now killed more than 220,000 Americans and infected more than 8 million.

White House

President’s Behavior Unpredictable in Aftermath of Impeachment

Despite the president’s claim that “it doesn’t feel like” he was being impeached, the House of Representatives’ passage of articles of impeachment is having a clear emotional effect on him. Throughout the process, Trump has been especially active on Twitter, a platform he uses to air his many grievances and seek sympathy for what he perceives as unfair attacks on his character and presidency. As the votes that would cement his legacy as only the third American president in history to be impeached and as the first to be impeached during his first term were counted, Trump held a campaign rally in Michigan, basking in his audience’s approval as he angrily castigated Democrats even if he downplayed the significance of the historic night.

Rallies function as a kind of security blanket for the president, as he perhaps loves nothing more than hearing the cheers and applause of his supporters, who are particularly vocal when he belittles and demeans his opponents. As in prior Trump rallies, the president casually encouraged law enforcement officers to use violence against anti-Trump protestors, reiterated improbable or false claims like that he led people to start saying “Merry Christmas” again, and attacked his former political opponent Hillary Clinton and her husband as well as his current rival, Joe Biden. 

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The president apparently acts in this way as a self-soothing behavior, but given the immense level of stress he must be undergoing, this practice may fail to satisfy his ongoing need for admiration and approval. Indeed, Wednesday night’s display was egregious even for a Trump rally, as the president suggested that the recently-deceased husband of a sitting US Representative was looking up at her from Hell as she cast her vote to impeach. This comment offended even some of the president’s most loyal defenders, as a number of audience members audibly groaned and Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the president’s closest allies, criticized him for his slur against a dead man and his grieving widow.

If the president wins re-election next year and Republicans regain full control over Congress, it’s difficult to imagine what obstacles to the expansion of his power would remain.

While Trump’s psychological state has long been a subject of interest and concern to mental health professionals and political experts, it is of particular note in the aftermath of impeachment, as the unprecedented nature of Wednesday’s proceedings combined with his volatile disposition makes it even harder than usual to predict his behavior, which may grow even more chaotic and dangerous as the reality of impeachment’s impact on his legacy sinks in. The president seems to live in a state of perpetual denial, constantly projecting by accusing others of engaging in the same misconduct he is in fact guilty of; however, he does seem to recognize the reality of his circumstances, though his pathological lying makes it difficult to discern his true beliefs. 

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By analyzing official accounts of his behavior, psychologists have found with a high degree of confidence that Trump does not generally take in critical information and advice, has profound impairments relating to information processing and decision making, and tends to endanger himself and the people around him. These characteristics will likely only intensify as the president processes this new stain on his legacy, and reports have indicated that Trump is incensed by the situation and has privately vowed to exact revenge on his political enemies. As such, the president may not only continue to abuse the awesome powers of the executive branch in his quest for vengeance, but expand his misconduct in further unprecedented and as-of-yet unknown ways. 

Given the Republican party’s near-absolute loyalty to Trump, the limits of executive power are unclear, as congressional Republicans have not yet generally shown any interest in curbing his abnormal and illegal acts as the Constitution requires. Most political analysts agree that Trump is virtually certain to be acquitted in the upcoming Senate trial; if he is, he is likely to feel vindicated and emboldened to expand the scope of his wrongdoing, just as he did on the day after Robert Mueller testified when he tried to cheat in the next election. And if the president wins re-election next year and Republicans regain full control over Congress, it’s difficult to imagine what obstacles to the expansion of his power would remain.

Impeachment

What to Expect from Public Impeachment Hearings This Week

The presidential impeachment inquiry is well underway in the House of Representatives, as they just voted along party lines to enter into the public phase of the process, during which witness testimony will be televised live on several networks. While much of the evidence unearthed during the inquiry has already been made public by way of news reports, comments from representatives, and document releases including transcripts, the public performances from witnesses with first-hand knowledge of Trump’s phone call with the president of Ukraine are hoped to bring about a sea change in the American people’s view of the matter. 

Scheduled to be broadcast live on major networks like ABC and NBC, the hearings are expected to attract a wide audience both in America and around the world, as political spectacles of this sort have historically drawn large crowds. Democrats hope that being able to hear witnesses speak directly about the president’s misconduct will persuade more Americans to support impeachment, whereas Republicans will try to use the opportunity to deflect and evade, as they have by and large criticized the inquiry as a “witch hunt” since it began.

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The current impeachment inquiry is historic, as presidential impeachment has only been attempted three other times in U.S. history, and while impeachment led to the resignation of Richard Nixon, no American president has ever been removed from office through the mechanism of impeachment. Impeachment is built into the U.S. constitution as a corrective mechanism against a tyrannical or dangerous president, and is meant to be used only in extreme circumstances when essential elements of American democracy are at risk. 

Democrats hope to explain, through witness testimony, how the president abused the awesome powers of the executive branch in service of his own personal interests, against the interests of the country and of American democracy as a whole.

Two sessions will take place, on Wednesday and Friday, during which some of the most compelling witnesses from the first phase of the inquiry will speak candidly before the American public, answering questions from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers. Democrats will use the opportunity to attempt to establish a clear, compelling, straightforward narrative of events concerning the president’s attempted extortion of the Ukrainian government for political favors. Meanwhile, Republicans will likely do everything in their power to obstruct the investigation, and are bound to attack the process of impeachment, accuse the Bidens of wrongdoing, and attempt to diminish the credibility of witnesses. While Republicans can suggest witnesses, the direction of the inquiry is currently in the hands of Democrats, as they represent the majority party in the House. Republicans have taken bold steps in their opposition of the inquiry, even attempting to reveal the identity of the original whistleblower, in violation of federal law.

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Congress and the American people will hear testimony from three key witnesses: the former United States Ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor; the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, George Kent; and senior American diplomat Marie Yovanovitch. Bill Taylor will testify first. All three witnesses have previously testified during closed-door meetings, and the transcripts of these testimonies have been released, so lawmakers and journalists already have a good idea of what the testimony will contain. These witnesses defied a White House order not to comply with congressional subpoenas and have all told very similar stories about their observations of the President’s conduct. As career government officials and non-political-appointees, they are considered by experts and the media to be reliable and trustworthy witnesses, though Republicans are sure to attack their credibility nevertheless. 

Republicans have struggled to mount a unified defense for the president, who often changes his explanations and justifications for his conduct. Public impeachment hearings will only make this problem worse for Republicans, at least in the short term, as the many allegations of the president’s extortion of Ukraine are consistent and even corroborated by evidence released by the White House and statements from Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. Witnesses will likely testify that the president engaged not only in a quid-pro-quo arrangement with Ukraine, but in fact extorted the small European country for illegal election assistance. Democrats hope to explain, through witness testimony, how the president abused the awesome powers of the executive branch in service of his own personal interests, against the interests of the country and of American democracy as a whole. Only time will tell, however, how voters react and more importantly how Republican senators handle the likely upcoming trial after Democrats present them with articles of impeachment.

American Flag

Warren Overtakes Biden in 2020 Democratic Primary Race

Ever since he announced his intention to run for President, former Vice President Joe Biden has led the race, often by double-digit percentage points. However, following a series of embarrassing gaffes and questions about his conduct in Ukraine amplified by the President, Biden’s favorability in the polls has subsided, and in recent days a poll from The Economy/YouGov has shown the far-more left-leaning Elizabeth Warren as the frontrunner. Although Biden benefits tremendously from the name-recognition factor created by eight years as Barack Obama’s Vice President, his moderate positions on a number of issues important to Democrats, a party which has grown increasingly progressive over the past several years, suggest his dominance among the field of 2020 contenders is not as certain as it once seemed. Since the start of the race Biden has remained the favorite of black voters, a caucus of critical importance in the early stages of the Democratic Primary, owing to perceptions of his electability among a constituency disillusioned by an electorate who put Donald Trump in the White House.

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Historically, black voters have tended to be near-unanimous in their support of a particular candidate this early in a presidential primary, but new reports indicate their preference for Biden is beginning to shift in favor of Elizabeth Warren, whose progressive position on policies from health care to maternal mortality rates to racial justice appeal to this critical demographic. A Quinnipiac University Poll released on September 25th showed a nine-point jump in Elizabeth Warren’s favorability among black voters, and although she continues to trail Biden among this demographic, she has been on an upward trajectory since the beginning of her campaign. Biden’s favorability, on the other hand, has remained relatively static since his campaign started, and while he remains virtually tied with Warren, with several polls showing just a single-digit lead, her gradual climb in the polls is sure to worry Biden’s campaign.

At this point in the primary process, name-recognition is of critical importance, as most of the current candidates were virtually unknown prior to announcing their candidacy, barring perhaps Biden and Sanders. Warren’s unique approach to her campaign has generated a lot of news, from her practice of taking hundreds of selfies with supporters at campaign rallies to her detailed policy proposals on a wide range of issues. Recently, leaked audio from a staff meeting at Facebook portrayed CEO Mark Zuckerberg suggesting Warren’s candidacy as an “existential threat” to the company, and he claimed he would “go to the mat to fight” her. Warren, whose policy proposals include a pledge to break up big tech companies like Facebook, welcomed this fight, and doubled down on her commitment to take on companies like Facebook. This high-profile fight has generated a lot of attention for the candidate, whose representation of the of the progressive wing of the Democratic party is fairly evenly split with that of Sanders.

The recent announcement by Nancy Pelosi that the House of Representatives has opened an impeachment inquiry into President Trump is sure to have a significant impact on the democratic primary, though given the unprecedented nature of current events, it is difficult to predict exactly how this impact will manifest. The very suggestion of corruption on Biden’s part, as unsubstantiated as these claims may be, is likely to hurt perceptions of his electability among primary voters, which in turn is likely to hurt his chances of winning the nomination as primary voters list electability as among their primary concerns when selecting their preferred candidate. Many commentators have observed that the phrase “electability” seems to be a code for “white and male,” as the popular image of a President remains somebody who fits that description. Nevertheless, perceptions of Warren’s electability are on the rise, as she is broadly well-liked among Democratic voters, who increasingly view her as capable of defeating Donald Trump in a general election.

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Still, Warren has to contend with superdelegates, who tend to prefer the establishment candidate, as they did in 2016 with their overwhelming support of Clinton over Sanders, although the influence of superdelegates has been dramatically reduced since the last primary. And if Warren maintains her lead over Biden, she is sure to be the subject of vicious and personal attacks from Donald Trump and the Republicans, who have recently shown to be relentless in their hostility towards political opponents, acting without regard to the law in their smearing of potential rivals. As such, it is uniquely difficult to make predictions about the outcome of presidential politics at this juncture, but Warren’s calls for “big, structural change” may just be the rallying cry the Democratic Party needs to win the presidency in 2020.

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