Biden and Trump belong to the so-called “silent generation,” a term in demographic jargon that includes those born between 1928 and 1945, predating the generation that animated the 1960s with a raucous vitality that the silent generation lacked.
Will it once again be the two of them vying for the U.S. presidency in 2024? An 82-year-old Democrat and a 78-year-old Republican? Disappointing both the hopes of aspirants from the baby boomer generation and the younger figures, the likes of Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren in the Democratic camp and Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Nikki Haley in the Republican one?
As things stand right now, they will be the contenders. Biden was given the green light to run again by his party’s national congress, which met over the weekend in Philadelphia. “Four more years,” chanted the delegates in unison. Trump already appointed himself as candidate back in November, obviously not needing the party’s OK to run for a third time, and he is the only one to ever do so in the Grand Old Party, which is, moreover, divided over the figures at the top of its national leadership – a fierce clash that is an encore of the hotly contested election of Kevin McCarthy as the new speaker of the House.
History repeats itself, and it seems it can’t be otherwise in a U.S. that is politically paralyzed by a rift bordering on irreparable rupture. The Biden presidency has averted the latter, but not to the extent of making the country safe from the existential threat of its own disintegration – so much so that the Democrats must once again turn to him to stave off the doomsday scenario of a comeback by the Republicans in 2024. The latter, however battered and bruised, have already managed to take back the House of Representatives. Moreover, the Democrats hope that Biden’s challenger will be Trump once again.
They are calculating that a repeat of the 2020 contest would see Biden in a strong position and Trump weakened, as the midterm vote showed, which saw Trump “lose” with the brutal defeat of most of the candidates he supported. In addition, the Democrats are counting on the escalation of discord in the strife-ridden GOP camp.
At this point, Trump has most of the Republican notables against him. But not the donors. As a result, he has so much cash that his opponents can only dream of; and most importantly, he still has the power of being able to shut down anyone even thinking of winning the nomination against him or without his explicit support, and he intends to use every lever at his disposal to assert his dominance.
The Democrats are counting on the falloff of the Trump phenomenon and the ensuing war of all against all in the Republican house, a brawl that is already underway and which looks like it will become a true madhouse. They count on this giving old Joe a second term, in spite of the increasingly heavy baggage of issues he brings with him. So much so that the Dems are ostentatiously treating the scandal of confidential documents from his term as vice president showing up again and again in all the places Biden frequents as irrelevant, unlike their treatment of Trump for the same offense.
The sheer inertia of things is dictating the scenario we have outlined. Biden cannot fail to run for a second term, even though the handicap of his age, and not only that, is obvious. If he ever even implied that he’d choose to step back, he would immediately become a lame duck, facing a Congress hostile in one of its branches and unfriendly in the other branch, with a domestic agenda full of unresolved problems and new critical issues, all within an international context threatening to boil over, in good measure due to his own strategic choices, with one ongoing war and another low-key one with two other top world superpowers. What’s more, him giving up the nomination would trigger an internal clash among the Democrats between the different wings, from Sanders to the party’s right, which under Biden have been dormant in the name of the common fight against Trump and Trumpism.
Still, there are 640 days left until the presidential election, enough time for the scenario outlined above to change to a great extent. In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Biden presented his policy directions for this crucial year, in which he will have the most opportunity to act, because the next one will be an election year.
But unlike the Congress in which he delivered the State of the Union address last year, this speech focused on cooperation within a new Congress that will undoubtedly throw it back in his face. The proposed “bridge” to the GOP will prove unworkable with the McCarthy-led Republicans, and the clash will occupy most of the presidential agenda.
What if, in the meantime, the Republicans succeed in the feat of getting rid of Trump, which today seems impossible? The main reason for Biden to run again – worn down by the conflict with Congress and the ongoing wars – will be gone. At that point, everything would be back on the table.