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Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. president Donald Trump attends a campaign event in Waterloo, Iowa, Dec. 19, 2023.SCOTT MORGAN/Reuters

The year 2024 will be a much better year, a friend lightheartedly offered. It’s an even number and even numbers are superior. Bolder, more symmetrical, they have a nice ring. And you’re not left at odd’s ends.

It’s a nice thought. But the even years haven’t fared well in recent times. In 2020, COVID. In 2022, the invasion of Ukraine. In 2016, the election of Donald Trump.

Much can be made right though by the defeat of Mr. Trump in 2024. For most Canadians, an exit by Justin Trudeau would be preferable. But though it’s time he stepped down, he’s not taking the hint. It’s not about to happen.

Unlike Mr. Trudeau, Mr. Trump will face, assuming he wins the Republican nomination, an election. Though many handicappers see his chances of reclaiming the White House as being well within reach, favourable even, they are overlooking a critical advantage incumbent Joe Biden will have.

While it is true that incumbent presidents occasionally, though very rarely, lose a re-election bid, they never lose while running with a strong economy. Not ever. Not going back more than a century.

Under Mr. Biden, the U.S. economy is starting to roll. Inflation is sharply dropping, interest rates are headed downward, unemployment is very low, wage growth is moving up nicely, consumer confidence is growing. It’s rolling now, and by the fall it could even be surging.

Thus far, it’s not been reflected in the polls. Mr. Biden is getting no credit. But that will change. He habitually outperforms expectations. Polls underestimated him in 2020 when he beat Mr. Trump and in 2022 when his Democrats did unexpectedly well, even with a bad economy, in the midterm elections.

Mr. Trump is running on an America-is-broken campaign when the country is recovering. His quotes channelling Adolf Hitler are hardly helping his cause. His base might like his quasi-fascist leanings, but his base hasn’t been enough to carry the Republicans in any election since 2016. His 91 felony counts are rallying his wing nuts more than before, but the rap sheet is hardly going to attract the independent voters he needs to win.

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The Democrats have a great vote-turnout motivator with the abortion rights issue, not to mention the threat to stability and democracy Mr. Trump poses. The Dems are topping the GOP in fundraising. A Trump criminal conviction, polls show, will help them.

Given his age and the Hunter Biden follies, Mr. Biden has a lot of baggage, but it doesn’t compare with the poisonous cargo burdening Mr. Trump. Unless independent candidate Robert Kennedy, Jr., siphons off far more votes from him than Mr. Trump, which looks unlikely, old Joe with his economic advantage will prevail, giving the reckless demagogue the reckoning he is due.

On other fronts, sadly the year will not bring any cessation to the Ukraine war. There’s no telling what will happen with the Middle East conflagration but odds are at least better that it will end sooner than the European one. There are fears that a third war could detonate with an invasion by China of Taiwan. Most experts don’t think that will occur. But nor did they think Vladimir Putin would invade Ukraine.

If there’s been a common ugly thread to what’s happened to the world since 2000, when American paramountcy was very much in place, it’s been the rise of authoritarianism and the hard right. It’s transpired in the U.S. where Republican moderates have wilted; in China, which was liberalizing but has seen an authoritarian turn under Xi Jinping; in Russia, which was liberalizing post-Mikhail Gorbachev but eventually saw the same under Mr. Putin; and in India, where democratic liberties are being curtailed by the regime of Narendra Modi.

That’s the world’s four main power blocs. A Trump victory would serve to accelerate the authoritarian trajectory.

Beyond the wars, the big story of 2023 was the surge of artificial intelligence, and the realization that it is a power source the likes of which the world has never seen. The question is whether governments regulate it so it’s for the greater good, as opposed to the greater evil. As with global boiling, it is a race against the clock but with a shorter time frame.

Major wars. Authoritarian dictators ascendant. A burning planet. A dawning digital monster. A dagger, as Mr. Biden warns of Mr. Trump, is at the throat of American democracy.

It is in large part with that old guy, the President whose values are good, where our hopes in the face of such staggering challenges reside. He has to win.

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