The current American scene

Hussein Hassouna
Wednesday 16 Aug 2023

The US today is marked by severe polarisation and deep divisions between the Democratic and Republican parties in the run-up to next year’s presidential elections.


I recently revisited the United States, where I had earlier resided for many years as representative of Egypt and subsequently of the Arab League in both Washington and New York. 

During this visit, I realised that the US is currently undergoing significant internal changes as a result of the severe polarisation and deep divisions between the Democratic and Republican Parties. This is certainly a regrettable development in view of its impact on the unity of the American people and their solidarity, always the main source of their strength and determination in confronting the many challenges that they have faced over the years.

The current divisions are apparent in the different approaches adopted by the two parties towards a variety of issues, including raising the US debt ceiling, foreign immigration, banning weapons, raising taxes, protecting the environment, climate change, and women’s right to abortion, among others.

However, the main political event currently figuring on the American scene is undoubtedly the US presidential elections of 2024. On the Democratic side, US President Joe Biden remains the main candidate owing to his party’s belief that in spite of his advanced age he is the only candidate capable of defeating any Republican candidate, including Donald Trump whom he defeated in the 2020 elections. 

Supporters of Biden point to the many achievements that have occurred during his presidency, including improvements to the employment rate, renovating the country’s basic infrastructure, the adoption of measures to face up to climate change, reforms to the health sector, and assistance to those affected by Covid-19. As a result of these achievements, the Biden administration unexpectedly obtained good results during the mid-term Congressional elections.

On the Republican side, Donald Trump is the most prominent candidate among a number of others that include Mike Pence, the former Republican vice-president Ron DeSantis, the current Governor of Florida Chris Christie, a former governor of New Jersey, Tim Scott, a senator from South Carolina, and Nikki Haley, a former US ambassador to the United Nations.

But in spite of the large number of Republican candidates and their active campaigning, all the recent public opinion polls have confirmed that Trump is the frontrunner among Republican voters. This is occurring despite the current judicial proceedings against him, the various scandals he has been involved in, his role in the attack on Congress following his defeat in the last presidential elections, and his concealment of sensitive secret documents at his Florida residence, for which he is facing federal charges and trial in 2024. 

Trump denies any wrongdoing and claims that the charges are politically motivated and designed to sway the outcome of the forthcoming presidential elections. Only time will tell whether they will affect his chances.

Regarding relations between Egypt and the US, these are founded on a strategic partnership based on common interests and mutual respect. Egypt is prepared to cooperate with the US administration in the field of peace and security in the Middle East. It further looks forward to broadening the scope of the military, economic, and investment cooperation between the two countries, in particular since Egypt is a major economic and investment partner of the US in Africa and the Middle East. 

On a personal note, I can testify that the Egyptian Embassy in Washington is playing an important role in promoting Egyptian-US relations through its active contacts with the administration, Congress, and the US Chambers of Commerce, in addition to its hosting numerous Egyptian delegations in Washington. 

In my view, the visits of such delegations, whether official or non-official, should continue and multiply. However, they should not only concentrate on visits to US officials, but should also engage in dialogue with the media, the private sector, research centres, and civil society and pressure groups, since all these have roles to play in forming US public opinion and influencing the position of decision-makers in Washington. 

One must recognise that in spite of its present internal challenges, the US remains a leading power in world politics and still enjoys supremacy in the economic, military, and technological fields, with this in turn underlying its responsibility towards its own people and towards the rest of the world.

* The writer is a former assistant foreign minister and former ambassador to Washington and the UN.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 17 August, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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