Be Careful of Pat Answers About 2024

Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, his wife Ethel standing behind him, gives the victory sign to huge crowd at the Ambassador Hotel June 5, prior to making victory speech after winning the California primary. A few minutes later, the senator was assassinated by Sirhan Bisara Sirhan. (Photograph from the Bettman Collection/Getty Images.)

First, the dull but important disclaimer: What appears to be the most likely scenario for the presidential contest now underway is a repeat of the previous one, with similar results.

That’s far from assured, but you’d have to say that’s the trajectory we’re currently on in our narrowly divided nation. Being trapped by negative partisanship in broadly unsatisfactory standoffs was the major political motif of the 2010s and the ’20s so far. But that’s not the bad news. That’s the good news. 

Even though most Americans would glumly regard a Biden-Trump rematch in which one of them—more likely Biden—limped to a narrow but decisive Electoral College victory with no mandate and a stalemate in Congress, it is a heck of a lot more appealing than many of the other, lower-probability potential outcomes. 

Now, it is certainly possible that we could find a better way through the coming ordeal. It’s very early still: A star could rise. Divisions could ease. 

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