Yesterday President Biden answered the question of whether he will run for reelection in 2024. The answer is yes. While I admire much that Biden has accomplished in the last 27 months, I am troubled. There are too many risks inherent in an octogenarian running for president. Remember, if Biden wins and completes a full second term as president, he will be 86 on the day he leaves office.
Biden’s advanced age, as well as the possibility that the indicted and arguably insane ex-president may win the Republican nomination, is likely to lead to a series of surprises for the rest of this year through election day 2024. The race will be historic. This is uncharted territory.
As we are well aware, people age at different speeds. Many of us have met people ready for retirement at age 50 and others who could and sometimes do work productively into their 90’s. Biden is young for his age, but too old to both run for president in 2024 and serve as our Chief Executive for another four years starting in 2025. And imagine an 85-year-old as our chief executive in 2028.
The President’s mental ability, stamina, and focus are legitimate worries even if you believe Biden is an exceptionally young 80-year-old. The problem is that healthy 80-year-olds often do not stay that way. Seniors in their 80’s can decline rapidly, especially after a fall or illness. Most of us have experienced such rapid decline with aging relatives which suggests that even if Biden is up for a stressful presidential campaign and four more years as president, the risk of his rapid decline or death cannot be overlooked.
A second worry about the President’s decision to run is that he does not enjoy the enthusiastic support of Democrats. Despite his achievements as president, rank-and-file Democrats don’t want Biden to run even while saying, as I do, that they will support him if he gets the nomination.
What happens if, in the middle of the 2024 campaign season, something happens to Biden that makes it obvious he is not ready to serve four more years? That situation would benefit Republicans. Why take this risk?
In addition to issues directly involving Biden is his choice for vice president. Kamala Harris is a flawed and unpopular vice president. She has not been impressive in her work on border security and has occasionally been an embarrassment on diplomatic missions. It is difficult to imagine her as a competent commander-in-chief. In short, the principal problem with Harris is that given President Biden’s age, if she runs again as his vice president, she is likely to become president. Many strong Democrats I have spoken to want someone other than Harris on the 2024 ticket. Their rationale is not only that she is not the best choice for a potential future president, but that her unpopularity will hurt the 2024 Democratic ticket. Will her presence on the ticket hurt Biden’s reelection chances? Maybe. Why take the risk?
Some Democrats claim the reelection of Joe Biden is the best means of preventing Donald Trump from returning to the White House. That is a legitimate rationale given that, as of today, Trump remains the Republican front-runner. But how likely is it that Trump will remain a viable candidate by the end of the year?
Polls suggest Trump’s support may decline or even collapse in the coming months. Many voters who supported him in the past want to move on. They are just waiting for the right candidate to emerge. Trump has become boring by repeating the Big Lie, attacking RINOs and prosecutors, and engaging in other strange behaviors. Also, there is the question of how his base will react to his likely indictments for election fraud in Georgia, obstruction of justice, and for crimes associated with the January 6 insurrection.
In my view, a Trump decision to quit the 2024 race increases rather than decreases the risk of chaos in the 2024 elections. Trump’s decision would encourage Democrats to look beyond Biden. Several Democrats who would otherwise reluctantly defer to Biden as the best candidate to defeat Trump, may reconsider their decisions. The president currently benefits from the perception that because he defeated Trump in 2020, he is the best bet to do so again. With no Trump in the race, that benefit disappears.
As we look at the 2024 election, we must also consider the possibility of an economic, foreign policy, or climate crisis that would convince Democrats that the situation is beyond Biden’s ability to manage, even if he did not age another day. Will President Biden be ready to take 3 a.m. phone calls when he is 84?
Do the risks of a Biden 2024 reelection bid outweigh the benefits? Yes. The president’s decision to run for reelection is selfish and egotistical. Does Biden believe there is no other democrat who could run the country as well as he could? Do you?
J.E. Dean is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant writing on politics, government, and other subjects.