By traditional standards, Joe Biden’s bid for reelection looks problematic, at best. Polls show Americans are skeptical of his job performance. The economy and inflation, always the bellwethers for incumbents, are a problem. The candidate is not exactly Mr. Smooth in front of a microphone, nor beloved by a majority of his own political party. And did anyone notice his age? He would be 86 years old by the end of a second term. And that’s not even considering how his heartbeat-from-the-presidency running mate, Kamala Harris, comes with a high disapproval rating herself. In short, this could be Jimmy Carter in 1980 or George H.W. Bush in 1992, when both presidential incumbents ran smack into the buzz saw of an economic recession.
Yet Biden’s low-key declaration of his 2024 reelection bid recently, presented by way of a relatively modest video asking Americans to allow him to “finish the job” he started, reflected a quiet confidence borne, we expect, of a fuller accounting of his political circumstances. His ace in the hole? Donald J. Trump, who now appears almost certain to be the Republican nominee in a rematch of the 2020 race. And if Biden’s appeal to voters is uncertain, Trump’s is even more so.
For all the stranglehold the 45th president may have on the GOP’s core constituency, the candidate carries more baggage than United Airlines. His role as instigator-in-chief of the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol and attempt to overturn the last presidential election (along with his continued lies about how the election was “stolen”) should be disqualifying alone. How many functioning democracies choose the anti-democratic candidate? But there’s also the slew of serious criminal and civil charges — including the current lawsuit in New York federal court claiming he lied about raping a woman in the 1990s — that the twice-impeached ex-president faces and will be continuing to fight for months to come.
But, wait, there’s more. Across the country, Republicans have been venturing down the rabbit hole of far-right policies with state legislatures seemingly in competition to enact the strictest anti-abortion laws possible. And that’s on top of the ongoing culture war battles that would ban books, silence slavery teaching and roll back civil rights, especially any serving the LGBTQ community. Whatever Biden’s flaws, they aren’t nearly as frightening as the authoritarian state envisioned by Trump and the MAGA wing. This is why the Democrats under Biden did so well in last year’s midterms absolutely defying historical standards. And it’s what will like set the stage for next year.
A lot of Americans may already be wondering how it came to this. While there are still alternative candidates in the Republican field (and perhaps more may yet enter), there are proving a singularly unimpressive group, from the anti-vaccine activist Robert Kennedy Jr. to former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and former Vice President Mike Pence; combined, their poll numbers look collectively small, let alone individually. News accounts claim Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is poised to announce his own candidacy as early as next month, but polls suggest Trump would trounce him in the primary.
None of this is to suggest the election is a lock for Biden. Trump has been underestimated before. The right-wing media is already busy portraying Biden as demented, corrupt, weak and too progressive, despite his moderate track record. But as abortion rights continue to be stripped away, as House Republicans threaten to bankrupt the federal government by not raising the debt ceiling, and as Trump-related prosecutions and lawsuits march on, Biden’s position will likely grow stronger.
Just as in 2020, Biden can succeed simply by being the most rational and least scary option to lead this country in a time of uncertainty. It doesn’t make much of a bumper sticker or rallying cry, but it may be all he requires to win a second term.
Sorry, there are no recent results for popular commented articles.