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Latest Narrative Analysis News Summary

February 1-15, 2024 Threat Scan

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Current Threat Level: High Threat Level 6

Vital Signs of Democracy Scan Results – February 1-15, 2024

Current Threat Level: High Threat Level 6



Happy Presidents Day! A remembrance of past presidential leaders, some of them remarkable, some completely forgettable. Yet, whoever was elected we survived as a democracy with the one exception of Lincoln’s election in 1860 that led to civil war. This time our future crystal ball political prognosticator seems very cloudy.


In an election that is more important than any in our recent cultural memory, 70% of the American public would not choose either of two men currently vying for the job if they had a choice. What does that mean? Is it possible that one or both of them will not be their parties standard bearer following their party conventions. In this type of environment, with this kind of uncertainty, surprises can emerge that no one predicted. If that happens will these “surprises” lean us towards democracy or away from it to something darker? The last two elections have reflected a razors edge of difference between winning and losing.


While we contemplate our prophesized future our historical narrative marches on in the here and now…


The VSD Threat Level for February 1-15, 2024 remains at a High Threat Level 6. Most news categories that were at threat level 6 and 7 in the last scan remained that way. The only category that declined in threat level was Voting Rights. This was primarily because Arizona, one of the battleground states, is attempting to clean up their election practices for 2024 and the Democrats won another special election in New York. This good news was in spite of President Biden’s approval ratings remaining low and the continuing speculation about his age and memory issues.


On the other side of the aisle much has been made about the seeming lack of impact Trumps 90 legal indictments have had on his voter support. However, a first sign that Trumps legal problems may affect his candidacy negatively surfaced in a new poll. This poll reported a majority of American voters say they will not choose Trump IF he is CONVICTED in any of his federal trials. This group does not include hardcore MAGA true believers, but is more than enough to tilt the election to the Democrats.


This highlights how important it is for at least one of Trumps federal cases to come to an initial  conclusion prior to the 2024 election. Americans have a right to know if he is guilty or not before they cast their vote. You would think Trump would also want to be declared not guilty… IF he is. The question still remains IF the US Justice System can respond in a timely fashion. Democracies are only as strong as their ability to hold bad actors accountable for their criminal activity in a timely manner.  


More narrative details on this subject.


The Effectiveness of Our System of Justice news category heated up during this scan because of all the court activities concerning Trumps myriad of indictments. The January 6th criminal case charging Trump with obstructing the peaceful transfer of power is now at the Supreme Court.


They are looking at his claims of complete immunity as president for all the crimes he is charged with committing while in office. IF the court chooses NOT to take up the Appellate Courts unanimous decision to decline his appeal or they rule quickly that presidents do not have complete immunity from crimes they commit while in office, we could see this case in court before the election. On the other hand, if the conservative majority nominated to the Supreme Court by Trump decides to sit on this case for a while it could delay the scheduling of the one federal case that could get to trial before the 2024 election. Exactly what Trump wants. This decision is one to watch.


Other news categories that remained at a high threat level:


Mitigating Climate Change – One of the sidelights of the chaos and confusion swirling in the 2024 election campaign is that we are being distracted from the very real challenges that face us no matter your political orientation. During the last two weeks, the global temperature report for 2023 was released. This past year was again the hottest year on record continuing an overall steep warming trend. At the same time, another study reminded us of the very real possibility the Atlantic ocean current could shift southward because of the rapid melt of Greenland fresh water ice. IF this shift south happens it will cause weather patterns around the planet to become much more extreme. The last time this current shifted in this way Europe and Eastern Northern America suffered through an ICE age. IF extreme weather continues and increases, it can cause major disruptions in the supply chain, damage to coastal property and infrastructure and increased forced migration. All things that could challenge the slow moving governance of our democracy.


The US Economy - Immigration - Dark Money in Politics. Biden is still not getting credit for an improving economy although there were signs that inflation could be going back up again based on the January 2024 numbers. If this continues this is not a good thing for his presidential campaign.


Immigration also remained a mess, particularly at the southern border. To be fair, neither party has come up with a workable solution to this on-going crisis... ever. However, in this scan period, Republicans in the Senate did work out a bi-partisan bill on immigration that included much of what Republicans have wanted in terms of harsher laws and policies.


Democrats agreed with this troubling compromise because MAGA Republicans in the House announced they would not consider funding military aid to Ukraine, Israel or Tiawan unless there was a border bill in place. No sooner had the Senate voted to approve the bill when Trump announced he was against it. His followers in the House followed suit. He didn’t even try to hide his reasoning. He wants to blame Biden during the 2024 election campaign for the immigration mess. He reasoned if this new bill improved conditions at the southern border he didn’t want it passed. So the truth is MAGA Republicans don’t want a solution to the border crisis. This MAGA disfunction not only impacts immigration, but funding they are holding up that would allow Ukraine to continue their war with Russia. This is one to keep a close eye on.


America's Influence in the World. This past scan period saw the current military conflicts in the world continue to worsen. Israel continued their genocidal war on Palestinians and denied humanitarian aid from reaching those displaced in Gaza. The United States continued to call for a lessening of the intensity of Israel’s attacks, but Netanyahu and his far right coalition still see no reason to wind down their campaign. Some part of them knows that when the war is over they will be thrown out of office by Israeli voters. There is still a very real danger that the war in Gaza could expand into the entire Mideast region. US navel forces in the Red Sea continue to be attacked by missiles and drones fired by Houthi rebels. If just one of those drones gets through and hits a US naval ship, all bets are off of finding peace in the region.  


With President Biden’s numbers still very low and polls showing Trump ahead in most of the battleground states, the rest of the world are showing signs of losing trust the US will continue to support them in resisting invasions from autocratic countries like Russian and China. American voters will eventually tire of spending the millions of dollars we are offering in military aid to keep Putin from marching west or China from invading Tiawan, but MAGA Republicans “America First” pronouncements put the entire world in danger of increasing instability. This is not a good thing for democracies globally.


Other Narratives Worth Considering Concerning Threats to Our Democracy

  • An overwhelming majority of Americans think Biden is too old for another term

  • Seven justices, two cases: How the future of abortion in Florida will be determined

  • Supreme Court to weigh whether Covid misinformation is protected speech

  • Alejandro Mayorkas: House votes to impeach homeland security secretary lacking any evidence of criminal activity.

  • Tech giants pledge to fight AI deepfakes ahead of 2024 elections

  • 'Dreamers' Left Out in the Cold by US Senate Border Bill

  • Kansas City Chiefs victory parade mass shooting stemmed from a dispute between individuals not a terrorist attack.

  • Top U.S. officials warn Congress of China's hacking powers

Individual Narrative Analysis – February 1-15, 2024

Overall threat level is High Threat Level 6


Individual News Categories Threat Ratings

Voting, Elections and State Legislatures

Moderate Threat Level 4


The threat level rating concerning Voting Rights, Elections and State Legislatures declined to  Moderate Threat Level 4. This was primarily because Arizona is making an effort to clean up their 2024 election procedures and Democrats won another special election in a New York house district. 


Relevant News Articles

Who is Winning the Culture War?

High Threat Level 6


The threat rating for the Winning the Culture War factor remained the same at a High Threat Level 6. This categories threat level was still high primarily because President Biden's age and memory were highlighted in the Special Prosecutors report on his handling of classified documents found at his home. In one bit of good news a new poll showed that a majority of American voters would reconsider voting for Trump if he was CONVICTED in one of his cases which are pending.

Relevant News Articles


A Woman’s Right to Choose

High Threat Level 6


The threat level rating for a Women's Right to Choose remains at a High Threat Level 6. This was primarily because abortion will get tested in multiple state referendums in November. Even in red states the pattern so far has been to enshrine a women's right to chose in state constitutions. We will see if that continues in the 2024 election cycle


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The Effectiveness of Our Justice System

Very High Threat Level 7


The threat rating for the Effectiveness of Our Justice System remains at a Very High Threat Level 7. This was primarily because we are still waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on Trumps immunity claim and whether Colorado can keep him off the ballot. The documents case is also be delayed by Trump appointed judge Eileen Cannon. Experts are saying that Jack Smith may look to remove her from the case for conflict of interests and bias toward Trump. 

Relevant News Articles

The Independence of Our System of Checks and Balances

Very High Threat Level 7


The threat rating for the Independence of Our System of Checks and Balances remained at a Very High Threat Level 7 primarily because the MAGA House majority is misusing their impeachment power to charge Biden cabinet officers because they have a difference of opinion on policy not any proof of criminal wrong doing. 

Relevant News Articles


The Impact of Cable News, Social Media News Feeds and Technology on Democracy in America

Very High Threat Level 7


The threat rating for the Impact of Cable News and Social Media on Democracy in America remained the same at Very High Threat Level 7. The primary reason for this was the recognition that AI will play a major role in the election information that will be coming at voters. Signs of this recognition include the FCC making it illegal to deploy robo-AI generated phone messages and that the big tech companies are claiming they are banding together to stop the use of deep fake AI generated videos. 


Relevant News Articles


Mitigating Climate Change

Very High Threat Level 7


The threat level on Mitigating Climate Change increased one threat level to a Very High Threat Level 7. This was primarily because 2023 was the hottest year on record so far and that scientists are warning again about the rapid 

Relevant News Articles


US Economy, Immigration and Dark Money in Politics 

Very High Threat Level 7


The threat level for the US Economy, Immigration and Dark Money factor remained at a Very High Threat Level 7.  This was primarily a result of the President still not getting the credit for the solid recovery of the US economy. And the self-serving chaos surrounding Trump and his allies in the House defeating the bi-partisan immigration bill that would have been a step towards addressing the trouble at the border. It is clear Trump does not want any solution that might help Biden get re-elected. It is obviously not a good thing for America's leaders to be only interested in their personal power instead of what is good for the country. The voters will get to decide in November which focus they want. 

Relevant News Articles


Gun Reform

High Threat Level 6


​The threat level rating for Gun Reform increased one threat level to  High Threat Level 6. This was primary because of the latest mass shooting in Kansas City at the end of the Super Bowl celebration. The usual concerns were expressed by politicians on both side of the aisle as usual very little more to be done other than repeat election years positions. . 

Relevant News Articles


American Influence in World

Very High Threat Level 8


The threat level rating for American Influence in the World remained at a Very High Level Threat 8. This was primarily because Israel's  war against the Palestinians in Gaza continues unabated. And humanitarian aid was still being blocked by at the Egypt border even though refugees were starving. Ukrainian military was still be blocked by the MAGA Republicans in the house as Trump declared he would not come to the aid of any NATO countries that hadn't paid their fair share of military dues. He would let Putin attack them until they brought their dues up to date. 


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