The 2024 Election Is A War of Attrition

Both voters and the candidates are taking extreme, and often illogical, measures to garner support. The actions ultimately reduce the election to a mere competition rather than a collective effort to select a candidate who will best utilize their position to improve the state of the country.

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During the American Civil War, Union and Confederate forces were committed to one single task: wearing down the enemy to the point of surrender. Whether this was through the destruction of economic resources, as Sherman did during his infamous March to the Sea, a destructive Union offensive across Georgia aimed at frightening locals, or by inflicting the loss of as many soldiers as possible, the ultimate and desirable outcome is one clear winner. This fundamental strategy of attrition was the basis for these battles and contributed to the enormous casualty count. The Civil War came to an end in 1865, but who’s to say that attrition isn’t still being used by our very own presidential candidates right now in 2024? 

With the sheer number of controversies surrounding candidates in both parties, voters face an extremely challenging decision, with many resorting to anger as their biggest motivator. Both voters and candidates themselves are taking extreme, and often illogical, measures to garner support. This ultimately reduces the election to a mere competition rather than a collective effort to select a candidate who will best utilize their position to improve the country. The 2024 presidential election is occurring at a point in our history when partisanship is arguably at its strongest since the Civil War. Many Americans are unhappy with the current president, Joe Biden, especially when it comes to his decisions regarding the economy, immigration, and foreign policy. 

For instance, pro-Palestinian groups are condemning Biden for his firm support of Israel, despite the nearly 28,000 lives lost in Gaza as a result of Israel’s aggression since the start of the war on October 7, 2023. Protestors demanding a ceasefire throughout all 50 states have staged demonstrations at Biden’s campaign events, which have resulted in stricter screening regulations to the extent that some are simply being refused entry to said events. In fact, Biden’s reelection campaign recently denied two Muslim women entry to a Nevada primary campaign event because they were wearing hijabs. People merely exercising their First Amendment rights are being actively dismissed, only adding fuel to the fire that is this year’s election. 

President Biden’s age is another major factor swaying the minds of voters; many believe that he is physically and intellectually unfit to continue holding office. Recent statistics have shown that Biden’s approval rating as the 46th president of the United States is lower than that of any president since Truman, the 33rd president. Slipping to the lowest point throughout his presidency, Biden’s approval rating recently hit a mere 37 percent, with Truman’s being around 23 percent 11 months prior to his reelection bid. Considering how pivotal this election is to the trajectory of U.S. politics—the stability of which is hanging by a thin thread—this statistic is extremely worrisome. 

However, some voters who disapprove of Biden’s reelection have argued that the reelection of his opponent, Donald Trump, is even more concerning. The former president’s reputation is progressively being tarnished by his increasing number of court appearances and criminal charges. As of February 11, he has been accused of 91 criminal offenses in four cases across four states. In the case of his mishandling of classified documents alone, he received 40 felony charges. Furthermore, his attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election was a major turning point in his political career. The 14th Amendment states that those who engage in insurrection cannot run for office. Despite this, Trump remains on the ballot. The fairly recent release of his mug shot, which was taken after his official indictment for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, has furthered the public’s concern, as it was the first time a mug shot had been taken of any U.S. president. Nevertheless, his cult-like group of loyal supporters continued to stand by his side. Less than 24 hours after his arrest, his mug shot was printed on t-shirts, hats, and mugs by both supporters and opponents alike, who jumped at the opportunity to profit off of his legal struggles. For opponents of Trump, the selling of these merchandise became a mechanism to further humiliate him and his supporters. This highlights how truly polarized American society is today, ultimately hindering our ability to properly address the critical issues that these divisions are rooted in. 

More recently, Trump faced a defamation trial against writer E. Jean Caroll, during which a federal jury ruled that he pay Caroll $83 million after denying rape allegations in the 1990s. As Trump campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination, this case stands as a clear example of his continuous unwillingness to cooperate with the legal system. What is even more unfortunate is that this isn’t the first time the former president has refused to take responsibility for the legal charges against him. He is also notorious for historically not being fond of paying his legal bills. On the other hand, his political action committee has spent approximately $50 million on his legal expenses. This appears to be yet another strategy for Trump to remain confident in his refusal to acknowledge his continuous wrongdoings. 

On the other side of the GOP candidacy, Nikki Haley, despite not being the most trustworthy candidate herself, has been sharply criticizing Trump to increase her own poll numbers. At a rally in South Carolina, she referred to Trump as “totally unhinged.” In response to Haley, Trump said that anybody who supports her would be “barred from MAGA (Make America Great Again)” camp. On the day after the New Hampshire primary, Haley declared that her campaign had “a little fun with that,” raising over $1 million by selling T-shirts with the phrase “Barred permanently.” As I read the article about this, my stomach dropped. Not only is it astonishing that people would pay for said shirts, but it is also so disappointing that rather than putting all her efforts into lifting herself and displaying the traits she has to offer, Haley has taken the route of amping up attacks against other candidates to boost her own appearance. Ultimately, the fact that she used the attacks against her as a money-making opportunity reveals a degree of immaturity that may prove to be a major flaw if she is elected. 

Haley’s character has also proven to be rather problematic. As a guest on “Fox and Friends,” Haley told co-host Brian Kilmeade that America has “never been a racist country,” after which she received immediate backlash. Even after being told by CNN’s Jake Tapper that the White House itself was built with slave labor and that her home state of South Carolina seceded from the Union to protect its right to systematically oppress black people, Haley refused to change her stance. With millions of people listening to her every word, Haley missed the opportunity to provide an honest evaluation of American society that could’ve potentially granted her the support of many. How can a politician who blatantly refuses to acknowledge history be trusted to lead our country? 

As of today, less than 10 percent of the population consists of truly persuadable voters, and that number is continuing to decline. During this election, many voters are faced with a difficult decision. As a result, getting people to come to voting polls itself has become a challenge. However, at a time of crisis, when our country needs a person who will move it in the right direction, this is a major issue. Suffrage has long been fought for, which is why it is so important, especially today, that this privilege isn’t taken for granted. The general public doesn’t hold the power to select presidential candidates, so the most effective thing that can be done is to conduct thorough research on each candidate and make informed decisions after evaluating the potential consequences of voting for a candidate. What groups will be harmed or benefited most? Has this candidate previously made choices that have proven to be beneficial for the country? Asking questions and hearing as many sides of the story as possible are key steps in the battle to rise above this war of attrition.