April 25, 2023 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
The oldest-ever president is running again? Good
Let’s not regret a lack of choice but celebrate a clarity of choice.
It is no surprise to hear that Joe Biden is going to campaign for president for a second term. The wind is fast at his back.
He has accomplished more in two years than any Democratic president has accomplished in my lifetime. He has more reason to run than did Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
What’s going to surprise some people is the outcome of the president’s decision to make himself clear. That outcome will be in the form of a massive, collective spasm of amnesia by normal Democratic voters.
A majority of normal Democratic voters have been telling pollsters they don’t want Biden to run again. Poll after poll has established this view. The press and pundit corps have attempted to rationalize it, usually by focusing on Biden’s age. He is the oldest chief executive ever.
But now that Biden has cleared up doubt, these normal Democratic voters are going to forget they ever had reservations. A time horizon has instantly materialized that before today did not exist. On that time horizon, which is less than two years away, is the easiest of decisions.
My point is that politics is contingent.
It depends on time and space, when and where it’s happening.
Put politics in an abstract setting, and people will say anything, because why not say anything when politics has been put in an abstract setting?
Put politics in a concrete setting, however, and people come to their senses. Yes, Biden is old. Democratic voters would rather see a new face. They rather see a Republican opponent who isn’t Donald Trump.
None of that matters.
Outside a concrete setting, we can indulge our wishes, desires and dreams. Inside one, they seem impractical, because they are. The only politics that matters is practical. Politics is practical only when set in a concrete time and concrete place. Biden has established both. We can forget about everything else. Normal Democratic voters will almost certainly forget – when massively and collectively spasm with amnesia.
But I think there’s more going on.
I suspect normal Democratic voters were not telling the truth when they said they were worried about the oldest president running again. I suspect they were not telling the truth because there’s something unseemly about saying the oldest president should run again
It’s probably rooted in the liberal vision of the ideal candidate – whose aptitude is elevated enough to meet the elevated demands of the age. We are seeing something similar with respect to Dianne Feinstein, the oldest member of the US Senate. Critics say, in addition to a bout of the shingles that has keep her away for weeks, that she’s no longer capable of doing the job. They say she should step aside for someone who can.
Liberals overvalue aptitude, however, because they undervalue collective action. No one works in a vacuum. Biden is surrounded by people aligned with his views and interests, and aligned with the party’s views and interests, such that as long as he can sign his name, he will keep being a champion of liberty and bulwark against despotism.
This is not to say that a doddering president – and to be sure, Joe Biden dodders on occasion – is ideal. Of course, it’s not ideal. Nothing I have talked about in the last 569 words is anywhere in the orbit of ideal.
I don’t write about ideal things. I write about real things. When it comes to choosing the next president, less than two years from now, the real-thing choice will not be between two makebelieve candidates who satisfy our wishes, desires and dreams. It will be a real-thing choice between two particular people, in a particular place, in a particular time. And because Donald Trump will be the next Republican nominee, short of death, the real-thing choice will be so obvious as to be virtually invisible. You could say that that’s why so many normal Democratic voters will forget why they ever worried about Biden.
The press and pundit corps will not see what’s in front of them. They will find ways of rationalizing why the parties failed to produce candidates Americans wanted to vote for. It should be the opposite.
Instead of regretting a lack of choice, let’s celebrate the clarity of choice. Sure Biden is old as dirt. But he lives here. So should we.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.