Sunday, November 20, 2022

Happy Birthday, Mr. President!

Happy Birthday, Mr. President! 

Today, President Joe Biden marks the completion of his 80th year. Obviously, 80 is a milestone for anyone. For a president, it is a record. For this president, it must but an especially happy occasion, capping not only a long and distinguished political career, but also a presidential first two years of unprecedented accomplishment (by the standards of recent decades) and a midterm election comparably unprecedented in its stunning success for the President and his party. Yes, the party lost control of the House with all the dangers that entails, but continued Democratic control of the Senate means that the President will continue to be able to make executive appointments. Of most long-lasting significance, he  can continue to make judicial appointments, thus halting somewhat the damage done to the judiciary by the Trump interval.

As attention inexorably moves from the 2022 midterms to 2024, the matter of President Biden's age keeps coming up, sometimes somewhat indirectly, sometimes quite directly. Ageism - defined as "prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person's age" - is apparently alive and well, as it inevitably is in a society that obsessively worships youth and beauty and has lost the once universal appreciation of inherited tradition and the wisdom of experience. It is plausible to argue that it has been Biden's decades of experience in Washington which have helped enable the successes he has enjoyed. It is more than plausible that Biden was the best Democratic candidate on offer in 2020 and perhaps the only one (perhaps because coincidentally the most traditional - and least "woke" - Democrat) of that crowded field of competitors who could actually defeat Donald Trump. That Biden did with the largest popular vote tally ever.

That said, even the most successful statesmen age out at some point. It is certainly reasonable and proper for subsequent generations to aspire for their turn at the political helm, and in a healthy political party processes should be in place to raise up leaders from the next generations.  It will, of course, be up to the President himself to decide whether or not to run for another term at age 82. He has certainly earned the right to renomination. And has equally earned the right to call it quits, having met the moment and fulfilled more than successfully the mission he set himself in 2020.

If, however, he does elect to retire, what next for the party and the country? I had my favorite in 2020, whom I voted for on "Super Tuesday." Presumably lots of others still have their favorites too. But the key question will be not whom did one fall for in 2020, but who can meet the moment that will be 2024. The 2020 primary process more or less ended on the eve of the pandemic, Yet it was covid, perhaps more than any other single issue, that dominated and maybe decided that election. 

Who can say at this point what will matter most in 2024?

Photo: President Biden with Pope Francis, 2021.

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