by W.D. Ehrhart
With Ron DeSantis’s withdrawal from the Republican presidential field, and Nicki Haley’s defeat in New Hampshire, it seems that only an act of God will prevent Donald Trump from returning to the White House.
Joe Biden was already an old man when he accepted the nomination for president in 2020. He got the nomination because he was perceived as the only Democrat who had a chance of defeating the ignorant, narcissistic, racist, homophobic, misogynistic, criminal, immoral, amoral, reality-starring grifter who’d been occupying the White House for the previous four years.
Uncle Joe won the presidency only because he was not the ignorant, narcissistic, racist, homophobic, misogynistic, criminal, immoral, amoral, reality-starring grifter who’d been occupying the White House for the previous four years.
Biden was supposed to be a “caretaker” president, a one-termer who, by election day 2024, would be days shy of 82 years old. One need only look at photos of former presidents at the beginning of their terms and at the end of just four years to see the toll that being president of the United States takes on the aging process of even much younger men.
One can only speculate about the toll these past three years have taken on Biden, and he’s still got more than a year to go with another bruising campaign ahead of him. I’d say, “Good Luck,” but he’s going to need a lot more than luck.
Why did Biden decide—clearly very early on in his presidency—that he would stand for a second term? And why on Earth has his party allowed him to do it? Once again, the Democratic Party has shown itself to be extremely adept at shooting its collective self in the foot.
The first mistake this time around was choosing Kamala Harris as a running mate. Hey, what could be better? A woman, and a woman of color at that. And not just Black, but also Asian. Three-for-one. What a brilliant choice!
But Harris did so poorly as a presidential candidate that she called off her campaign before 2020 even started. She had a controversial background as a prosecutor, first as district attorney in San Francisco and then as attorney general of California. She often referred to herself as the “top cop,” but by 2020 and the murder of George Floyd, that was not exactly a popular monicker.
And it became clear soon after she took office that she had not been a wise choice. She did not mesh with the Biden team, and she is not at all charismatic or inspirational. It became very clear very early on that she was not going to step into the ring in 2024 and take the reins from Uncle Joe.
So what does the Democratic Party do at that point? How do you repudiate your sitting vice president and begin grooming someone new for the nomination in 2024? I suppose the Democrats saw that prospect as doomed to fail politically. And you certainly couldn’t give Harris the nomination for president outright. And that left only a second term for Biden.
Unfortunately for the Democratic Party, that solution is also doomed to fail politically. And it doesn’t matter if Joe Biden still has all his marbles. Nor does it matter that he’s actually managed to get quite a bit done in the past three years in spite of some enormous disadvantages in the form of obstacles like Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, Joe Manchin, and the self-proclaimed “Freedom Caucus.”
The fact is that Joe Biden is simply not inspirational. He does not excite people—especially young voters—the way Bernie Sanders did in 2016. (More on that anon.) He comes across as exactly what he is: an old man. It’s not an image problem. It’s just what he is.
Biden won the 2020 election only because enough people had had enough of Donald Trump, and wanted him gone. Voters came out in record numbers. They voted for Uncle Joe because he was not Donald Trump.
But three years later, they’ve still got Trump. In the headlines every single day. Still at large in spite of four indictments on 91 felony charges. As outrageous as ever. As ridiculous as ever. As incoherent as ever. As popular as ever. And the presumptive Republican nominee for the presidency of the United States in 2024.
Don’t forget: though the Democratic Party got more votes than ever before in 2020, so did the Republican Party. And huge numbers of those voters were diehard MAGA supporters of Dolt .45. And still are. They will show up at the polls again in 2024; you can bet your future on that, alas.
You will not see the same fanatical devotion for Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. The voters who decide to stay home this time will not be the Trumpsters. They will be young voters dismayed by Biden’s support of a murderous government in Israel that has long since dwarfed the unarguably outrageous crimes of Hamas. They will be older voters who are disillusioned with Biden and don’t fully grasp the consequences of allowing Dolt. 45 to become Dolt .47.
The Democratic Party has been shooting its collective self in the foot ever since it allowed Bill Clinton to turn his back on working Americans, got in bed with the financial elite, and created the Party of Republican Lite. Barack Obama was supposed to “Yes We Can,” but he immediately brought a lot of the people responsible for the economic disaster of 2008 into his administration.
And then the Democratic Party ran roughshod over the popular will of rank-and-file voters in 2016, and cheated Bernie Sanders out of the nomination in favor of the immensely polarizing and unelectable Hillary Clinton.
This time, the Democratic Party has collectively shot itself in the head with a 12-gauge shotgun. But I would like to have something positive to say, something hopeful. I would like to be able to posit an alternative outcome for the 2024 election.
Though overweight, Big Mac-eating Donald Trump is, after all, nearly as old as Uncle Joe, and can’t be in any better health, we simply can’t sit back, do nothing, and count on an Act of God to save us from what seems to be inevitable.
So what should the Democratic Party do? It is now far too late for Uncle Joe to withdraw his candidacy. But can’t he at least make Kamala Harris go away? Get her to say that she has to spend more time with her family, or work on her gardening, or something? And then pick a vice presidential candidate who is more inspiring, and might actually make an attractive running mate?
Gretchen Witmer? Julian Castro? Mark Kelly? There’s gotta be some younger Democrat who’s a lot more appealing than Kamala Harris, who brings nothing to the Biden ticket but dead weight. Biden’s got nothing to lose by giving this strategy a try, and everything to lose if he doesn’t.
W. D. Ehrhart is a retired Master Teacher of History & English, and author of a Vietnam War memoir trilogy published by McFarland & Co.