The 2024 U.S. presidential race was the most dramatic in living memory. Hard-fought, controversial, and constantly entertaining, it was the roller-coaster ride that brought American politics into the post-Trump era. This piece will look at the eighteen months leading up to the election, and analyse the key events that brought about its extraordinary outcome.
Back in 2016, Donald Trump shook the political status quo when he proved a billionaire real estate tycoon and part-time reality television star could win the office usually reserved for lifelong Washington bureaucrats. The 2024 class of presidential hopefuls took note. Among the record one hundred and twenty-three candidates that vied to become the next leader of the free world: activists, pop singers, professional athletes, Hollywood actors, religious figures and a disgraced former T.V. chef. The diverse field was soon whittled down to five genuine contenders.
In the two-man race for the Republican nomination, Walter Meeley took the early lead. Meeley, a small town mayor from Louisiana, brought a message that resonated with many Trump voters: it was Trump’s message. Meeley supported all the same policies as the president and even started wearing the same hairstyle. His campaign slogan, Make America Great Again More, was a winner; the most popular fashion item at his speeches was the famous red MAGAM hat, followed closely by the MAGAM t-shirt, the MAGAM belt-buckle, and the MAGAM gun holster.
While Meeley was winning over Trump loyalists, Todd Alderman became an attractive alternative for the anti-Trump brigade, a throwback to the old days of politics. A family man and former senator, there was a lot for Republican Party bigwigs to like about him. When corruption allegations surfaced regarding Alderman’s handling of government funds, they liked him even more. According to media reports, animosity toward Trump was at its usual high. Alderman saw an opportunity, and began employing the catchphrase, “I don’t like Trump either”. Polls indicated he was a real chance of swinging disgruntled Democrat voters. When he offered Meeley supporters an olive branch by announcing Vietnam War veteran, Vic Dwyer, would be his running mate, he proved himself a statesman. He got the nomination.
On the other side of the aisle, three relative newcomers fought it out for the Democratic nomination. There was Layla Jackson, a first-term senator from Oregon; Martin Guest, a twice-failed candidate for governor; and Aurora Beedler, a Californian artist. Beedler grabbed all the early headlines; her bold hairstyle—entirely shaved but for a single purple dreadlock—naturally drew attention. She adroitly turned that attention to her three-point political philosophy: world peace was good, Israel was bad, and she herself was a lesbian. She grew an enormous Twitter following with posts such as, “Killing white people isn’t murder,” and, “If Jesus was a woman he wouldn’t have failed.” Beedler was the runaway favourite early on, and cemented that position at the first Democratic debate, where, in lieu of an opening statement, she defecated on an American flag. A three hour standing ovation ensued, and she was declared the winner of the debate (which technically never took place). Her nomination seemed a foregone conclusion, until, two days later, a scandalous photograph emerged. It showed Beedler as a young girl, dressed in white and receiving a wafer from a priest. It turned out Beedler was, at some stage in her past, a Catholic. The damage to her campaign was irreparable and she bowed out of the race.
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