America celebrated another birthday last week, but as I watched the fireworks I wondered, is this the next to last one? I sense our political system may be at a breaking point. If the 2024 election proves to be the disaster it is shaping up to be, our constitutional democracy might not be around on July 4, 2025.
The leading 2024 presidential candidates from each party are individuals who a majority of us do not want to run. One is widely seen as too old to run. The other does not support democracy and is well on his way to being a convicted felon. The election of either Joe Biden or Donald Trump could throw the country into a political crisis that could become the day American democracy died.
Joe Biden, of course is a friend of democracy. The problem with his election is that he might not survive another four years in office. His death or incapacity could trigger another Trump attempt to seize power by force, especially if the incredibly unpopular Kamala Harris becomes president.
The problem of a Trump win in 2024 is that Trump is already promising to “take our country back,” and deliver retribution to the “thugs” who are prosecuting him. Plus, he evidences increasing signs of decline if not outright insanity.
Trump is also too old to run for president—we just do not talk about it because there are so many other reasons why his 2024 candidacy is a threat to our future. He will be 78 years old on election day 2024.
So, are we doomed or is there a way out of the pending crisis? No and yes. We will be fine if both candidates drop their candidacies. For now, that looks unlikely, but it could and should happen.
I have a theory that Joe Biden’s decision to seek a second term resulted from his conclusion that Trump remains a potent political force and could regain the White House. Biden mistakenly believes that he is the best candidate to defeat Trump. After all, he did it before. Biden may also believe that if he were not running, the Democratic party would erupt into a slugfest between moderates and progressives that would facilitate Trump winning the election.
Biden could be right about the risk of a brutal Democratic party primary season, but he does not seem to understand how unpopular he is becoming. Every time the President misspeaks, stumbles on a stage, or appears tired, more voters conclude not only that he is too old to run for president, but that he is not functioning as president today.
What could prompt Biden to rethink his decision to seek a second term? The answer is if Trump either dropped out of the race or is defeated in the Republican primaries.
To date, Trump is holding onto his base. I find it difficult to believe that anyone thinks Trump is “perfectly innocent” or is willing to take the risk of a convicted felon being elected president. Yet the numbers, so far, do not lie.
Trump is not invulnerable. Last weekend I watched the video of Trump’s speech in Council Bluffs, Iowa. It was pathetic. Trump rallied Iowans by suggesting that Democrats seek to destroy Iowa by promoting electric cars (which do not need ethanol). He also focused on “the border” and, after calling Democrats “either evil or stupid” for promoting an open border, told the audience how he pressured Mexico into placing 28,000 troops on the border to stop illegal immigration.
The speech, which included a reference to America going to hell, a claim that Biden is the most corrupt president in history, and that he would fix everything, was reminiscent of a Hitler speech from the 1930s. Trump uses fear and promotes hate to convince voters to support him.
Somehow, somewhere, somebody needs to take Trump down. The justice system may do it, but Trump can also be defeated if the Republican party finally rejects him.
Could former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie be the candidate who makes that happen—the candidate who finally makes Republicans see Trump as the toxic cancer that he is?
In recent weeks I have been encouraged—let me say excited—by Christie’s willingness to call Trump out. Christie has been outspoken in saying that it is time for Republicans to take a stand against Trump and recognize that he is the narcissistic grifter who tried to retain the presidency by force and lies in 2021.
The first GOP presidential debate is scheduled for August 23rd. Governor Christie will qualify for it by securing the requisite number of campaign donors. Will Trump participate? Given his congenital over-confidence, Trump might be persuaded to say yes. Christie expects Trump to be there and is looking forward to the chance to battle Trump directly.
If Chris Christie exposes Trump in a way that has not happened to date, Trump could decide to drop out of the race. That might clear the way for President Biden to change his mind about running in 2024. If that happens, we might get a younger, more energetic Democrat as the party’s nominee, and America might get to celebrate another birthday in 2025.
Naïve? Maybe, but there has to be a way out of this mess. I refuse to quit looking for it.
J.E. Dean is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant writing on politics, government, and other subjects.