Biden Is Walking for President
It’s clear Biden and his team see 2024 as a 2020 rematch.
President Joe Biden will seek reelection. Like the result of a coin flip, it is the most boring surprise in the world. On the one hand the president had repeatedly indicated his intention to run again; on the other hand, his approval numbers and especially his age—at 80 already the oldest president in history—prompted wide speculation Democrats might seek a replacement. Polls continue to show that many voters believe he is simply too old.
Biden announced his campaign Tuesday in a three-minute video that typified his appeal. In content, it continues the Biden team’s portrayal of elections as an existential battle for the soul of the nation against something called MAGA extremism, which, like Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups Washington has declared war on before, allegedly hates our freedoms. In aesthetics, however, it is all Americana and mestizo futurism, a multicultural-multiethnic-multiracial working class promising a brighter tomorrow. “It’s time to finish the job,” he says—and do what? Make America great again? In all these contradictions, of American carnage and forward-looking nostalgia, Biden continues to present a mirror image to former President Donald Trump. Perhaps, like a head or tail, that’s inevitable, too.
Looking from one side, Biden’s official entry into the 2024 race suggests the Democratic Party has never been stronger as a party. In a cover story foreshadowing the announcement in yesterday’s New York Times, reporter Shane Goldmacher describes a deeply divided party falling into line behind their safest bet. Goldmacher writes, “People close to the White House have been surprised at the speed with which the full spectrum of the party has gone from hand-wringing about Mr. Biden to almost unanimous acclamation, at least in public.” Such hand-wringing from progressive factions within the Democratic coalition has always had a bit of showmanship about it. After all, the arc of liberal history bends in one direction only; the rest is timing. Representative Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, a former co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told the Times his part of the party is focused on “the fight against the isms: fascism, racism, sexism”—and for that, slow Uncle Joe will do.
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The cause of all this unity is Trump, of course. That’s the text, not the subtext. “The former president has proved to be the greatest unifying force in Democratic politics in the last decade,” Goldmacher writes, “and the same factors that caused the party to rally behind Mr. Biden then are still present today.” But after detailing the president’s leftist bonafides, tucked into the end of the piece, where journalism professors tell young writers to put something colorful but not too important, is the heart of the matter. “Blue-collar workers used to always be our folks,” the Times reports Biden told donors in January. “A lot of people think we left them behind.” Biden is the only national Democrat that can credibly claim to represent white voters without college degrees, who remain the biggest piece of the American electorate.
Seen from this side, perhaps the Democrats have never been weaker. In another preparation of the way for Biden’s announcement in Tuesday’s paper, New York Times White House correspondent Michael D. Shear writes that the president’s “mission will be more complicated the second time around.” Biden will have to appeal to moderates, and to the white working class attracted to a second Trump administration, without alienating progressives playing ball for the party—and his record, epitomized by a so-called Inflation Reduction Act packed with green technocracy, is mixed. But he is the only Democrat who can do it; the party has no alternatives. Voters aren’t ready for the country to become Gavin Newsom’s California or J.B. Pritzker’s Illinois. Isn’t that too many white men, anyway? The Democratic establishment is thus, despite the obvious senescence of the horse, forced to dutifully hook up the wagon.
Donald Trump remains the odds-on favorite to win the Republican primary contest. Judging by his announcement video, President Biden and his team believe 2024 will be a 2020 rematch, and those voters who might have hoped that the election could be about tinkering with fiscal policy at the middle’s margins should wake up and accept reality. We are all America Firsters now—it’s the America that is in question. In response to liberal-internationalism’s regime change failures around the world, many on the post-2015 right have suggested perhaps it is time for regime change at home. When Biden says in his campaign launch that “every generation of Americans have faced a moment when they have to defend democracy, stand up for our personal freedom, stand up for the right to vote and our civil rights, and this is our moment,” one must worry that he agrees.