Biden too old to run?

ByShahmir Kazi

works in the private sector with interest in socio-political affairs


August 2, 2022

Shahmir Kazi looks at the main objection against US president’s chances for second term 

American presidential system values the efficacy of incumbency and encourages the incumbent president to take another shot at the presidency and avail a second term in the White House. It is precisely this reason that a successful American president keeps an eye on the prospects of contesting another term of office and designs an appropriate strategy for doing the needful. Moreover, the continuity in the White House for eight years provides a sounder basis for many policies to pan themselves out and bring to fore the desired results that are then often taken advantage by the political party whose candidate had remained in the office for two consecutive terms. Joe Biden obviously wishes to emulate the laid down tradition and would like to follow through on to the second term but this prospect currently looks dicey.

To begin with Joe Biden has come out to be quite a lackluster leader having failed to inspire a large following. In addition to his sinking approval rating, Biden is facing increasingly pointed questions about his age. At 79 years old, Biden is already the oldest president in US history, and if re-elected, he would be 86 when his second term ended. Many polls have found that age and poor job performance ranked as the top two reasons why Democrats said Biden should not run again in 2024. The White House has publicly dismissed concerns about Biden getting older. But some of Biden’s aides privately tell a different story and have expressed hesitation about scheduling long international trips for Biden, out of concern that they are too taxing for him. They also worry that Biden’s slower, more shuffling gait could cause him to fall and they fret over his tendency to jumble words in speeches. In this context many former White House functionaries have pointed out that Biden’s age could be a major issue if he seeks re-election.

Democrats are keenly aware that age is now the existential threat for their future and it is now rated as a wider problem with US politics. This problem goes beyond Biden himself as the current US political leadership is dominated by gerontocracy as Biden is 79. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi 82, House majority leader, Steny Hoyer, 83 and Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, 71. Biden insists he still plans to run again in 2024, assuming his health cooperates. Though Biden maintains that he is in great health and is quite positive about running again but such optimism has not quelled the 2024 conversation, even among fellow Democrats. When progressive congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was asked whether she would endorse Biden as the Democratic nominee in 2024, she demurred. Weeks later, she dodged questions about whether she would consider launching her own presidential campaign in 2024.

The people have taken note of this situation and Biden’s approval rating has steadily fallen since April and now sits in the 30s and a recent poll found that only 10% of Americans believe the country is heading in the right direction.Amid this pessimism, Democrats are bracing for a potential drubbing in the midterm elections, as Republicans appear poised to regain control of the House of Representatives. Faced with a grim outlook for 2022, some Democrats are already looking ahead to 2024 and asking, is Joe Biden the best person to lead the party and the nation. Questions over whether Biden should seek re-election in 2024 have grown louder in recent weeks. In this context a poll shows that 64% of Democrats say they would prefer a different nominee for 2024. Among Democrats under 30, that figure rises to 94%. The young Democrats have grown disillusioned with Biden and other Democratic party leaders. After turning out to vote at near-record levels in 2020 young voters are now watching in dismay as the climate crisis accelerates and reproductive rights are stripped away.

It is pointed out that for any progressive leader chosen to challenge Biden, it would be a historic candidacy. No sitting Democratic president has faced a primary challenge since 1980, when Ted Kennedy chose to run against Jimmy Carter as the country faced record-high inflation and gas shortages. Carter was able to defeat Kennedy in the primary but he ultimately lost the general election to a Republican candidate Ronald Reagan who promised to make America great again. It is often pointed out that there are some clear parallels and important distinctions between Carter and Biden. While Carter had a clear-cut opponent in Kennedy, it remains unclear who – if anyone – from the Democratic party’s highest ranks would challenge Biden.

Biden already is facing difficulty as on the policy front the US supreme court overturned Roe v Wade case ending federal protections for abortion access. Although gas prices are now falling, they remain high and have driven inflation to its largest annual increase in more than 40 years. West Virginia senator Joe Manchin has finally ended any hopes that the president had of passing a climate bill in Congress. With an evenly divided Senate, Biden’s options for addressing these problems – or enacting any of his other legislative priorities – are bleak. It is therefore mentioned that unless Democrats pass real meaningful policy immediately, like what was promised in Build Back Better, they are going to lose the engagement of so many voters, threatening their chances in 2022, 2024 and even further.

Despite all odds, however, one element working in Biden’s favour is time as the 2024 presidential election is still more than two years away, giving the economy some breathing room to return to a place of greater stability. Hopes are expressed that there is time for inflation to ease and for the economy to turn around though it is not clear that is where the country is headed, since there are a lot of forecasts of recession and even the prospect of the very stagflation that crippled Carter. Biden’s allies insist that he has time to improve the economy and the nation’s broader outlook and they are generally dismissive of polls indicating he should step aside in 2024. It is also pointed out that polls are nothing but a snapshot of the time and that what is hot today could be cold tomorrow, and what’s cold today, it could be very hot tomorrow.

It is therefore mentioned that the 2024 chatter appears to be a manufactured outrage from a few in our party and may suggest that those who are engaged in the speculation should instead rededicate themselves to the midterm elections. Even some of the progressives who did not support Biden in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary echo that point. However more concerns are shown about the mid-term elections and note that some of the gubernatorial, state legislative and secretary of state races being held this year will have sweeping implications for 2024. A number of Republican candidates who have embraced Trump’s lies about widespread fraud in the 2020 race are now running for posts that could help them determine election rules in 2024. This is a higher concern doing rounds in the circles of many politicians and may well become a major issue sooner than later. TW


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