2024 Presidential race a high-stakes groundhog day? by Marjorie Arons-Barron

The entry below is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog.

Newsflash! Joe Biden is a candidate for reelection. It’s hard not to be a little dispirited by the prospects of a replay of the 2020 election. As many as two thirds of both major parties are distinctly unenthusiastic about the expected nominees.

But, while we may yearn for some shiny new thing, the chances of a Biden-Trump do-over are pretty high, barring surprise developments. There should, however, be no false equivalencies here. The stakes are at least as fraught as 2020. There is an acknowledged sense of dread. To paraphrase W. B. Yeats, what “rough beast… slouching toward Bethlehem…waits to be born?” Why, given all that has happened since the last presidential election, is there even a remote chance that Donald Trump could return to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

When Joe Biden ran in 2020, he said he was a bridge to the future, meaning, presumably, he was a transitional leader. He said, “there’s an entire generation of leaders you saw stand behind me. They are the future of this country.” But the future is here, and so is he.

Trump, of course, never went away, and his fawning base of reflexive election deniers still mindlessly clings to his false narrative.

The case against Biden is, simply, he’s too old. One doesn’t need to be ageist to have a shiver of concern. His age also focuses more unflattering light on Vice President Kamala Harris, who so far has not shown herself to be adept at the second spot, much less taking over as the Leader of the Free World. Trump is only four years younger than Biden and logically should be subject to similar concerns, but his age is the least troublesome aspect of his candidacy.

2024 isn’t shaping up as just another in a long-running series of hold-your-nose-and-vote-for-the-lesser-of-two-evils elections. In Biden’s recorded announcement and early campaign spots, he deftly wrested the traditional defender-of-freedom banner from the Republicans. The President asserted his belief that Americans value freedom, honesty, respect, and dignity – the “soul of America” values at risk in the clutches of an “extreme movement” of GOP-dominating MAGA attacks. Their priorities are opposed to majority public opinion on matters like economic security, reproductive freedom, climate protection and free and fair elections. The message will be clear: MAGA means turning back the clock, curbing or eliminating popular gains made over the past half century.

The weakest part of Biden’s message was his pitch for Term Two by saying “Let’s finish the job.” Clearly, the sweeping tasks outlined won’t be “finished” even in a second Biden term. As JFK said in his inaugural address, the lofty goals may not happen “in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.”

JFK was certainly a shiny new thing. Joe Biden is a well-worn old thing. He has accomplished much in the last not-quite-three years, far more, in fact, than Jack Kennedy did. From infrastructure to climate change and more, Biden has more major legislative accomplishments than any chief executive since LBJ.

I’m not troubled that Biden is less popular now than he was in 2020. Of the last nine US Presidents seeking reelection, only three had over 50 percent favorability at this stage of their presidencies. And two of those three (Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush) lost. I’m more concerned that our still-resilient economy might turn south in early fall 2024 or that some bipartisan third-party ticket (think No Labels or a Joe Manchin/Liz Cheney ticket) might get on the ballot in certain key battleground states.

For now, I take heart in a Wall St. Journal poll indicating that swing voters who dislike both Biden and Trump significantly dislike Trump even more.