Column: Biden’s age is a problem with voters. For Democrats, that’s a huge risk for 2024

Column: Biden’s age is a problem with voters. For Democrats, that’s a huge risk for 2024


In December 1998, Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.) was set to succeed Rep. Newt Gingrich as speaker of the Home. Gingrich had introduced his resignation from Congress and the speakership within the wake of a disastrous midterm election for Republicans in addition to revelations that he’d been having an affair with a Home staffer who was greater than 20 years youthful.

This was an issue for the Republicans given the impeachment of then-President Clinton over issues stemming from his personal infidelity. However earlier than Livingston may get the gavel, it was revealed that he, too, had cheated on his spouse. Livingston responded by saying he would resign instantly. Amongst these most against Livingston’s determination: Clinton. The White Home implored him to rethink. The very last thing Democrats needed was for an adulterous politician to resign in contrition relatively than put his social gathering, his nation and his household by way of extra pointless drama.

That second got here to thoughts final week when President Biden gave his full assist to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), within the wake of a second disturbing episode during which the 81-year-old chief of the Senate Republicans briefly went catatonic when taking questions from reporters. “I’m assured he’s going to be again to his previous self,” Biden advised reporters. He dismissed McConnell’s struggles since a concussion-inducing fall earlier this 12 months, as merely “a part of his restoration.”

The very last thing Biden — who might be 81 in November — wants is for Republicans to indicate some consistency on the difficulty of age and public service, notably when the overwhelming majority of Individuals, together with two-thirds of Democrats, consider Biden is simply too previous to run once more.

That’s one of many humorous issues about partisanship, it could impose consistency, even in an age of partisan expediency. As an example, throughout the #MeToo period, Democrats invested loads within the challenge of sexual impropriety. Amongst different issues, it was a helpful and bonafide cudgel towards a Republican president who might be heard on tape boasting of sexually assaulting ladies (a president who, extra just lately, was discovered liable in a civil trial for sexually abusing E. Jean Carroll). So when former Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota was credibly accused of crossing the road with ladies, he discovered it essential to resign.

In equity, the McConnell-Biden comparability isn’t good. McConnell’s difficulties reportedly stem from a foul fall final March. And whereas Biden usually appears confused or torpid, he hasn’t had an episode as disturbing as the 2 McConnell freeze-ups caught on digicam.

McConnell’s aides, colleagues and others say that in non-public McConnell looks like his previous self. Furthermore, as high-powered as McConnell is, the job isn’t as demanding as being president, by no means thoughts operating for president. It appears Republicans are comfy with a wait-and-see strategy to McConnell’s well being. However the penalties of McConnell’s fall elevate the stakes for Biden. Falls are harmful and customary for the aged. Having a president one tumble away from maybe debilitating cognitive impairment just isn’t reassuring.

Constitutionally, McConnell is merely one essential participant amongst 100 senators and 535 legislators. In the meantime, Biden instructions the whole government department.

And whereas I feel the elevation of the president to a quasi-monarchical determine who “runs” the nation and subsequently wants Kennedyesque “vigor” is pernicious nonsense, that view is extensively held by Individuals in each events.

The White Home is aware of this, which is why a lot of their spin on the age challenge falls flat.

White Home Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre insists that the difficulty for the voters is Biden’s file of means to “get issues performed” because of his a long time of political expertise. It’s the very best argument the Biden camp has, however it doesn’t communicate to the difficulty that causes 7 out of 10 Democrats to assume he’s too previous to serve one other time period. And her reassurances that “it’s laborious for us to maintain up with this president” evoke eye rolls, on condition that he’s spent one thing like 40% of his presidency on private nights away from the White Home and has a really mild schedule.

Politically, the fundamental drawback for Biden is that, whereas Individuals don’t essentially know loads concerning the finer factors of public coverage or the arcana of the legislative course of, they do know what an oldster, already well-past life expectancy, appears to be like like when age begins to take its toll.

The Democrats are betting that even when Individuals assume Biden is bodily unfit for the presidency, he can beat Donald Trump as a result of Trump is characterologically unfit. The wager would possibly repay, however it strikes me as a wildly irresponsible gamble.

@JonahDispatch