Joe Biden 2024 is a bad idea whose time has come.
If Democrats had gotten the shellacking that seemed to be coming their way in the midterms, Biden might have been wounded enough for elements of the Democratic establishment to begin to try to shoulder him into retirement.
Instead, the Democratic overperformance has Biden looking revitalized. Gov. Gavin Newsom of California told the president on election night that he’s not running against him (not that Biden was ever likely to face a direct primary challenge). Press coverage has emphasized Biden’s vindication. The shot in the arm is understandable given what his party was able to pull off, yet it doesn’t make Biden a day younger — in fact, he just turned 80 and every day of his presidency is an experiment in whether an unprecedentedly aged president can perform at the level demanded of the office.
Democrats consider Biden the safe choice in 2024, since he’s the incumbent and surrounded by flawed alternatives, yet he is actually an enormous risk. Nominating him again would be extremely reckless, both for the party and for the country.
It may well be that Biden, even in his enfeebled state, is the best matchup against Donald Trump. He beat him once before, after all, and used him as an effective foil during the midterms. It is to Biden’s advantage that it has proven difficult for anyone to work up a passionate hatred of him, rather than a low-intensity sense of pity or contempt. And he still has a relatively moderate affect and profile — there are limits to how “woke” an 80-something, silver-haired creature of the Democratic establishment can appear, no matter how far left his policies are.
There’s no guarantee, though, that Biden will get the former president as his opponent.
If Trump can’t secure the GOP nomination, everything changes. Ron DeSantis is 44. Ted Cruz is 51. Mike Pompeo is 58. Tim Scott is 47. Basically, any Republican nominee besides Trump would instantly be bequeathed a powerful past-vs.-future theme.
Aging is a progressive condition. Biden isn’t getting any younger or more capable. The good news is that today, right now, he is as fit as he’ll ever be to perform his duties; the bad news is that there are a lot of days between now and 2024 when he’ll be less fit, whether by a tiny increment or by a lot.
The public is already unsettled. According to the exit polls, 58% of voters said Biden does not have the acuity to serve effectively as president.
.The actuarial tables and the realities of aging being what they are, this creates considerable risk of putting the country through the trauma of having a president who is incapable of carrying out his entire term. If you think our politics are deranged now, just wait until we face a genuine, inevitably wrenching 25th Amendment crisis, or we have to deal with the legitimacy issues around an unelected president.
Rich Lowry is editor in chief of National Review