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While U.S. President Joe Biden had a difficult year and is low in the polls, his standing could well improve.EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/Reuters

Can the United States rally in 2022? Will the domestic cold war abate? Can a return to rationality, given the radicalized, reality-shedding, retrograde state of the Republican Party, be found?

From Canada, where the stakes in the outcome are considerable, we might wish the warring parties a dollop of our strong sense of fairness – the quality that helped build and bond this country. If consensus is ever to be rebuilt in their country, Americans need it.

The year 2021 was supposed to turn back the odious tides. The pandemic would be overcome. Donald Trump would shrink into history. Happiness would return, as Joe Biden pledged, by the Fourth of July.

Such abandoned hopes are now rekindled for 2022. But only the dreamiest among optimists would bet on an American restoration in the coming year.

Some positive signs should be noted. The economy, while threatened by inflation, is firing nicely on most other cylinders – turbocharged, some think. While skeptics forecast a new era of stagflation, others see a repeat of what followed the ghastly epidemic of 1918: a new roaring Twenties.

Omicron is taking a more severe toll on the U.S. given the great number of deluded citizens who refuse to take the vaccine. Even so, there is hope that the new variant will recede within a few months and that the population, more inoculated as the new year wears on, will be in a better state.

While Mr. Biden had a difficult year and is low in the polls – occasionally coming across as a stumblebum, particularly around the Afghanistan file – his standing could well improve. Given time, more Americans might come to see that his heart is in the right place, and that his intentions extend beyond crude political calculation.

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Though unable to bridge the extreme divide between Democrats and Republicans, Mr. Biden, in addition to his economic stewardship, has brought back decency and dignity to the Oval Office and re-established relationships with allies abroad.

After succeeding in passing two major legislative initiatives – the American rescue plan and the sweeping infrastructure bill – he has been stymied on his Build Back Better bill, which is so important in addressing the climate crisis and improving health care. But a trimmed-back version could still get the support of the grandstanding Senator Joe Manchin, who has thus far thwarted it.

But positive spinning aside, any cheery forecasts are brutally countered by realities that could see the U.S. plunge into darker depths. The virus is infecting people in such appalling numbers that hospitals are on the verge of being overrun, deepening the current calamity. This could rain down hell on the U.S. economy, which is soon to be hit by punitive higher interest rates to curb the cost of living increases.

There’s also the threat in the coming year of aggression by Russia and China, which could put the Biden administration in a bind. In the past, American consensus and unity could be forged with the threat of an external enemy, be it communism, terrorism or Saddam Hussein. A Russian invasion of Ukraine might turn Americans’ attention away from their own internal battles, but likely not enough to create a new sense of community.

Adding to the woes – and perhaps topping them all – is the potential for the country to take more steps toward the implosion of its democracy. That could come through a Republican victory in November’s midterm elections, thus strengthening the control of that party by Trumpian demagogues.

For an American restoration, the Republicans must suffer another defeat. But the likelihood of a Democratic win this November, even with a better showing by Mr. Biden in the run-up, is slight, given that the party out of power routinely wins the midterms. Mr. Trump will likely have many victorious coattail candidates. He will be emboldened, interpreting victory as vindication.

The hope for Democrats will lie in the unknown. In American politics, expect the unexpected. Shocks and surprises will come in 2022, and Democrats need them to work in their favour.

There is still the possibility that the continuing investigation in New York State into Mr. Trump’s business practices will lead to criminal charges. Should the Supreme Court continue its dilution of Roe v. Wade, there is the possibility that it will work greatly in Democrats’ electoral favour, given where the majority of Americans sit on the abortion issue.

And there’s a possibility of the biggest shock of all: that large numbers of the population leading the country along a path to perdition will come to their senses.

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