In many societies the elders have led the way. This is called gerontocracy, giving the alte kakers real political power. In the United States this seems forever to have been the province of Democrats like Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Pat Leahy, Jim Clyburn, and Dianne Feinstein—all now on or over the cusp of retirement. Nancy was smart to get out when she did, and Democratic gerontocracy has been under fire.
We know the many stories about Biden’s gaffes, his flare-ups of temper, his halting presentation skills. Gaffes go along with aging, as I can attest. Many in his party would like a younger face for 2024 but the alternatives (and a bruising primary) would make for a daunting situation. You’re not going to get a President Buttigieg in two years.
Assuming he does run in 2024, Mr. Biden will face the defining issue of his age. That, I think, is a major reason for the consistent low standings in his approval ratings. His accomplishments notwithstanding, Joe is still Uncle Joe to those who voted for him and a sometimes doddering old coot to others, i.e., Republicans and many swing voters.
Now comes the documents scandal, which the president’s staff bungled badly: no mea culpa explanations, feckless responses way too slow out of the gate, making light of the situation, altogether deplorable crisis management. Quinnipiac (and I hate to quote Byron York) found that 62% “said Biden acted inappropriately, versus just 21% who said he acted appropriately. That’s nearly a 3-to-1 margin of people who do not believe Biden acted appropriately, which does not bode well for his future attempts to get past the scandal.”
Then there’s the ongoing furor about Hunter, the wayward son. Republicans smell a rat, and the Biden folks have never come clean about all this. The latest revelations about Hunter and his crooked Chinese cohorts seem to make it a still-brewing scandal that the GOP won’t fail to exploit.
In foreign affairs, Uncle Joe is still dogged by how badly he executed the Afghanistan pullout. Still, if his handling of the Ukraine war continues to be successful with the electorate, the stain of that retreat “may be washed away,” in Ross Douthat’s opinion. How Biden handles the jittery economy and the knotty issues of immigration in the next two years may well determine his 2024 fate.
So, of course, will his health—and all the crazy vicissitudes of the world situation. The pressure on Uncle Joe to step down will continue, and I have doubts about whether he will in fact run. God knows I wouldn’t, were I in his shoes, despite his legislative accomplishments.
Biden’s people have urged the White House to “let Biden be himself, even if that occasionally leads to uncomfortable moments on camera.” As I’ve learned about myself, your friends do understand the upsides and downsides of aging. Biden’s decision will rest on whether, given the situation, he understands the conditions and limitations of his own body and mind. I don’t think politics will play a significant role in that.