The Portland Phoenix

The Universal Notebook: Good ol’ Joe

President Joe Biden is an eminently decent man. Former President Jimmy Carter was even more so, probably the best man to hold the office during my lifetime.

Still, Carter was the first and last Democratic president since the 19th century to lose the general election. I’m afraid Biden could be the second, and for some of the same reasons.

It’s the economy, stupid. 

Presidents take credit for and get blamed for economic conditions they have little or no control over. Inflation and soaring energy costs have a myriad of contributing factors. Add to that the fact that COVID-19 has not gone away (despite what we’d like to think) and Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to threaten world peace with his malignant attack on Ukraine, and you have a recipe for a Biden loss in 2024.

Of course, anything can happen between now and then and probably will.

In the near term, we can pretty much count on Biden and the Democrats taking it on the chin in November. The president’s party historically has performed poorly in midterm elections. Voters are fickle and not all that well informed, so they tend to blame the president for whatever is bothering them at the moment.

The 2016 election of President Donald Trump convinced me that about a third of American voters aren’t very bright. In the wake of the Jan. 6 Republican insurrection and the U.S. Supreme Court’s threat to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 2024 election will likely be less a referendum on Biden than a battle for the soul of a nation. American democracy clearly cannot survive another Trump presidency.

Personally, I’d prefer that neither Biden nor Trump runs again. I’ll vote for Biden if he runs, but I won’t be happy about it. He’s just too darn old and ineffectual, as are most of America’s political leaders. 

If Biden wins a second term he will be 82 on Inauguration Day in 2025 and 86 when he leaves office. Trump will be 78 if he wins a second time. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the U.S. Senate, is 80 years old. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is 82. The average age in America is 38. We live in a gerontocracy: an oligarchy of the ruling elderly. 

It’s pretty clear that the United States should impose age limits on elected and appointed officials, including presidents, members of Congress, and justices of the Supreme Court. I’m 73, and I believe 70 should be the oldest a president or justice should be. Senility is a very real issue for American political leadership.

I would prefer a senile Biden to Trump, who is already certifiably nuts on top of being dishonest, self-serving, and a traitor. But I do wish Biden would step down. That said, what alternatives do we have? Who would be a stronger (and younger) Democratic candidate?

No, not 57-year-old Kamala Harris. The vice president hasn’t accomplished anything and would be seen as a Biden surrogate.

Elizabeth Warren at 72? Too liberal. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is 32 – too young and too extreme. Sixty-one-year-old Amy Klobuchar? Maybe, if America is finally ready to elect a woman. Pete Buttigieg, 40? Maybe, but I’m guessing America may not be ready for a gay president.

In this time of crisis, I’m thinking what we really need is a ruling council of former presidents. Let good ol’ Joe stay in office if he wins, but let’s have Carter (97), George W. Bush (75), Bill Clinton (75), Barack Obama (60), and Trump right there in the White House to make sure he doesn’t do anything crazy.

And that goes double if, God forbid, Trump is elected again.

Edgar Allen Beem has been writing The Universal Notebook weekly since 2003, first for The Forecaster and now for the Phoenix. He also writes the Art Seen feature.

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