Biden and the nightmare of the American dream

By Paul Hopkins

A majority of Democrats now think one term is enough for President Joe Biden, despite his insistence that he plans to seek re-election in 2024. Although there has been no formal declaration yet.

According to a new poll from the Associated Press-NORC Centre for Public Affairs Research just 37% of Democrats say they want Biden – who, as I write, is leaving Ireland after a short visit to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday agreement – to seek a second term, down from 52% during last year’s midterm elections.

While the president has had considerable success with legislative victories, the poll surprisingly suggests relatively few Americans give him credit for such. Many believe the 80-year-old’s age is a liability, with people talking about his gait and his gaffes, and that the world’s most stressful job would be better suited to someone younger.

Democrats performed better than expected in the midterms, no small thanks to President Biden.

They expanded control of the Senate by one seat and narrowly lost their House of Representatives majority even though history indicated there would be a Republican runaway success.

Most Democrats still approve of the job Biden is doing as president, yet appetite for his re-election has slipped, with the decline mainly among young people.

Already the oldest president in US history, Joe Biden is being dogged by questions about his age as he will be 86 if he serves eight years as president. He is said to often work long days, standing for hours; to remember the names of strangers he meets who want to share their stories with him. Sadly, those moments when he appears lost on stage or stumbles somewhat through speeches can attract more attention than do his policies.

He has been an American political figure for 50 years, having first been elected to the Senate in 1972. Today, his administration, in two years, has four big legislative victories under its belt – despite the Republican-led House – among them the coronavirus relief packages, and tax and spending measures that address climate change and improve Revenue’s enforcing of tax compliancy and, in turn, help taxpayers.

Biden’s advisers have spent months preparing for him to formally announce his re-election campaign. Now, with the president still silent, a sense of doubt is cutting into conversations about 2024. What if he decides not to run?

While the belief in Biden’s circle is that he will soon give the go-ahead, his indecision has resulted in a ‘stalled moment’ across the party — in which some potential presidential aspirants and scores of major donors are considering that optional strategies may be needed going forward, even developing a Plan B while supportive of the president.

A kind of political inertia has crept in. After Donald Trump’s 2024 launch in November last, Biden advisers wanted got get cracking in earnest on their own 2024 plans. That urgency seems to me no longer evident. That said, they likely feel no threat of a credible primary challenge later this year, a dynamic owed to those Democrats’ better-than-expected midterms in 2022.

A no-show Joe would see an avalanche of attention on Vice-President Kamala Harris whose so-so performances have raised doubts among Democrats about her ability to win. And there is no apparent ‘other’ waiting in the wings.

As mentioned above, Republicans with Trump onboard did badly in the 2022 primaries and increasingly the majority centrist are distancing themselves from him, realising that, if they have any chance of winning in 2024, they don’t need his inciteful rhetoric out front. His core base is shrinking. His indictment ultimately won’t help his campaign, the ‘martyr’ scenario notwithstanding. And, be assured, there is politics at play here.

With no clear potential ‘winning’ president on either side, the fate of America seems to be one of increasing divisiveness. Abortion, gun law, immigration and the economy are still the divisive issues. However, in some ways it is no longer Republican against Democrat or liberal v. conservative. It is rural against urban, the haves v. the have-nots.

The nightmare, seemingly, of the American dream…

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