With the Republican primaries approaching, it is becoming increasingly clear that Donald Trump will almost certainly be the party’s presidential candidate. Despite two debates and months of campaigning, no other candidate has been able to command as significant a following. In fact, Trump is now polling at 58 percent, his highest rating since 538 started tracking polling this January. The four different indictment proceedings against the former president seem to have only strengthened his hold on the Republican electorate. Trump’s continued election denial, combined with his undermining of the legal institutions that are prosecuting crimes he most certainly committed, could be making Trump’s base even more violently reactionary than it was on the eve of January 6.
In this environment, several Democrats have correctly pointed out the growing risk of antidemocratic politics in the Republican Party. It’s why many found it credible when Democratic candidates said the 2016 election would be the most important of our lives and when many said the same in 2020. These candidates promised that a Democratic win on election day was the best and only way to prevent an increasingly right-wing Republican Party from imposing their agenda. I expect we will be hearing the same thing as the next election approaches. 2024 will soon become the most important election of our lives—an election on which the democratic system and the soul of our nation hinges. My question is, if it’s really that important, is Joe Biden the best candidate the Democrats can put forward?
According to a Wall Street Journal poll from August of this year, 73 percent of Americans at least somewhat agreed with the claim that Joe Biden is “too old to run for president,” with Democrats “agreeing overwhelmingly.” I found this surprising, since in the last few months, mainstream media coverage and politicians’ responses to the question of Biden’s age have generally fallen along partisan lines. I always imagined that Republican voters would take issue with Biden’s age, but I didn’t expect so many Democrats to disagree with party elites and say the same. Although the Democratic Party today is hardly a grassroots organization, this shows that the party structure is becoming increasingly alienated from its average voter, which is hardly a recipe for success. Given this desire among many of the party’s members for a younger candidate, the fact there has been no dissent or primary opposition from other Democratic politicians is striking. Of course, candidates from outside the party like Marianne Williamson are running to contest Biden. But without influence in the party, Williamson has little chance at success. Only politicians within the party can pose a serious challenge to the President, but they seem unwilling to do so, despite their own convictions. Last month, MSNBC reporter Joe Scarborough disclosed that, in discussions off the air, several Democratic politicians revealed that they feel Biden is “too old” to run for reelection. Biden himself indicated in his 2020 campaign that he would not seek reelection if he won that year, largely to calm voters’ fears about the very issue we are facing today, four years later.
And to respond to those who believe that any attack against Biden signals tacit support for Trump, I agree that Trump is a danger to the U.S., but I argue that we are more likely to end up with him in office come 2024 if Biden is the candidate against him. This is especially relevant because Biden is even with, if not a little behind, Trump in recent national polling. If Democratic politicians and party officials really feel that the 2024 election is all that stands between democracy and authoritarianism, then why won’t any of them put forth an alternative candidate? How weak must the Democratic National Committee really be if it can’t stand up to the broken word of a single man?
In order to prevent Trump from becoming president and make sure Biden doesn’t run for reelection in the future, party control should be in the hands of the people. The Democratic Party should hold primary elections without the interference of undemocratic measures like superdelegates that tilt the elections in favor of party elites. Even Japan’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party, which is far from a grassroots progressive organization, has leadership elections every three years where the rank-and-file can make their voices heard. Again, if Democrats were really serious about saving America from fascism, they would get their acts together along such lines. Through such reforms, the party could both energize its base and rejuvenate its leadership. For now, it seems that individual Democratic politicians are too worried about winning their own reelections and don’t want to rock the boat and risk losing the president’s endorsement. Unless a big upset takes place, it seems that we are heading toward a rematch that will be even more nerve-wracking than the first.