What will 2023 bring for America?

2022 was a turbulent year. In a historic midterm election, American voters rejected an extremist out-party over an unpopular incumbent party. Inflation reached a 40-year high, causing volatility in the stock market. The world entered a post-Cold War era when Russia invaded Ukraine, and the United States rallied NATO to defend the sovereign nation against Vladimir Putin’s aggression.

What will 2023 bring for America – in terms of our politics, our economy, and our role in the Russia-Ukraine war?

By mid-year, the speculation surrounding President Biden’s political future will likely die down, as it becomes clear that he will once again be his party’s nominee without a serious primary challenger.

Much to his chagrin, Biden’s main political vulnerability, inflation, will persist in the new year. The Federal Reserve will continue to raise interest rates, bringing the Federal funds rate to 5 or 6 percent, likely causing the stock market to remain weak for the first half of 2023. Later in the year, though, we could see inflation decline, and a possible recovery of the stock market if corporate earnings improve.

In terms of the contest for the Republican nomination for president, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a rising star within the party and the current establishment favorite for 2024, will wait to rack up a few legislative victories as governor before announcing his bid for the presidency sometime later in the year.

After experiencing a bump in the polls upon jumping into the race, DeSantis will go toe-to-toe with a weakened Donald Trump, who will have been buried in investigations and continuously blamed for the GOP’s midterm losses. Trump will unleash a furious attack campaign to diminish and ultimately destroy the candidacy of the man he anointed the Governor of Florida just a few years prior. If DeSantis is able to sustain Trump’s attacks, the GOP primary will rapidly devolve into a two-candidate race.

From the new and narrowly divided Congress, we can expect polarization, extremism, and gridlock to intensify.

The Republican Party, which has seen far-right extremists rise in their ranks, will hold a scant majority in the House of Representatives. The Senate will still be controlled by The Democratic Party, which was plagued with infighting between progressives and moderates in the last Congress.

Given the reactive nature of the extreme wings of both parties, as the far-right pursues baseless investigations and impeachment against Biden administration officials in 2023, the far-left will become even more uncompromising, and party infighting will increase substantially.

Assuming Kevin McCarthy can maintain unified Republican support and become the next Speaker of the House, he will face a great deal of pressure from far-right members to begin aggressively pursuing the impeachment of President Biden and members of his administration, including Attorney General Merrick Garland and DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

The Freedom Caucus has already indicated that they plan to go after President Biden personally for his alleged role in his son’s foreign business dealings. The far-right group will also likely pressure leadership to investigate the administration for the botched withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, the migrant crisis at the Southern border, and for their ongoing investigations into Donald Trump.

House Republicans have expressed no real desire to actually govern, and it is highly unlikely that either party will be able to advance any significant piece of legislation in the run-up to the 2024 election. Any genuine effort by McCarthy to work with Democrats would be met with intense backlash from within the GOP, as well as resistance from the increasingly powerful progressive wing.

Not only will progressives be emboldened by their party’s relatively strong midterm performance, but they will also feel no real incentive to compromise with the more moderate members of the Democratic caucus, let alone with those across the aisle. These members will intensify their calls for a Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and higher taxes on the rich.

To be sure, members of the Senate from both parties are on the whole less extreme than their counterparts in the House, and a sizable group of Republican senators have brushed off calls for a mass impeachment. That being said, any legislation advanced by a bipartisan group of Senators would almost certainly die in the deeply polarized House.

While the far-right and far-left agree on very little, both sides have, in different ways, expressed opposition to continuing American aid to Ukraine. While the far-right’s position is founded in their isolationist and anti-democratic views, the far-left’s stance is grounded in a rejection of what they view as America’s pro-war policies.

Positively, the inclusion of $45 billion of military and economic assistance in the recently passed omnibus spending bill suggests that these factions will not have any real power when it comes to America’s Ukraine policy.

In the beginning of the new year, the West will strengthen its resolve to support Ukraine by providing President Zelenskyy with more advanced weapons systems and introducing new rounds of sanctions against Russia. In response, Putin could grow more desperate, and Russia will renew its offensive in Ukraine, likely sometime in the first three months of the year.

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Russians increasingly understand the need to negotiate, but Putin has indicated that the only diplomatic resolution he would agree to involves Russia retaining all of the Ukrainian territories that his military is unjustly occupying – including Crimea and the recently “annexed” regions of Kherson, Zaporizhzia, Donetsk, and Luhansk.

To be sure, President Zelensky is justified in refusing to compromise under these terms, and the West should – and likely will – continue to support Ukraine’s efforts to reclaim their stolen land.

That being said, by the end of 2023, the Biden Administration will likely feel that they have no choice but to put optimal pressure on Ukraine to at least begin negotiations with Russia, with the tacit understanding that at the very least Crimea, if not all territory taken since 2014, has to be discussed as part of a peace process.

Ultimately, my hope is that the new year ushers in more bipartisanship, greater economic stability, and a victory for Ukraine. But each year brings its own twists, turns, and turmoil – and 2023 will be no different.

Douglas Schoen is a longtime Democratic political consultant.

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