The real 'Biden conundrum' is about timing, not age
New polling by CNN and TheWall Street Journal show the president in a deadheat with the criminal former president, and this has inspired another tiresome round of concern-trolling among people who know better but who also can’t be trusted to behave accordingly because they are professionally and politically incentivized to pretend that they don’t know any better.
But instead of talking yet again about the failings of the Washington press corps, I want to talk about a factual aspect of this makebelieve, which is that normal Democratic voters appear to be truly uncomfortable with Joe Biden’s advanced age while at the same time knowing the incumbent is the best choice against the most likely Republican nominee, Donald Trump.
It’s being called the Biden conundrum.
To the extent that this is a conundrum, it’s not much of one. Why? If Democratic normies were as anxious about the president’s advanced age as we’re being told they are, the same polling would indicate some desire for an alternative to him. After all, an alternative would relieve that anxiety!
But polling so far contains no such data. These same Democratic normies, who are feeling understandable levels of anxiety about the unknowable future of democracy, already know that an incumbent Democrat is the best chance they have of winning the election and pushing back against the tide of authoritarianism. They already know that Biden is the right choice.
If Democratic normies already know that Biden is the right choice, and I believe that they do, the “Biden conundrum” isn’t much of a conundrum. It’s probably more an expression of the stress that’s experienced in the face of uncertainty. Since no one knows the future, so there’s always going to be stress about it that’s often free-floating with no identifiable source. We’re talking about Biden’s age, but we could be talking about something else.
The anxiety of Democratic normies is also a consequence of them being normal people. They don’t pay attention to politics the way the press corps does, because they have better things to do than spend all their time thinking, talking and writing about politics. As a result, they tend to reflect the concerns of the state quo, which is articulated on a daily basis by a press corps that has nothing better to do than pay attention to politics. So if the press corps exhibits a generalized concern about the president’s advanced age, it stands to reason that Democratic normies – and normal people of all walks of life – are going to reflect that generalized concern.
But Democratic normies know something that the press corps does not – that the president is not a normal person. Normal people, if they are lucky enough to reach the age of 80, are not expected to work till they die. Presidents, however, are not normal people. It’s OK if they die in harness.
So the real condundrum among Democratic normies, for which there is no polling, as far as I know, is not about Biden’s age. It’s about timing. It’s about whether an octogenarian can go the distance. If the president dies before winning (and being sworn in for a second time), that would be disastrous. But if he dies afterward, well, such cases are what vice presidents are for.
The real conundrum isn’t what we’re talking about. We’re talking about a kinda sorta perhaps maybe conundrum based on polling conducted in late summer, a time when normal people, who already have better things to do than pay attention to politics, have even more better things to do. The CNN poll that’s being used as the basis for the “Biden conundrum” argument has totally ridiculous results, like US Senator Tim Scott, of South Carolina, beating the incumbent by two points while Trump beats him by just one.
Worse is the pretended sophistication of those who are paid to make nonsense polling make sense to normal people. Pollster Nate Silver said that “the obvious alternative to an 80-year-old running for a second term would be his vice president running instead. It's been striking how little enthusiasm there was for a Kamala Harris candidacy, however.” She’d lose to Trump, he suggested. But that’s not why there’s “little enthusiasm” for her. There’s little enthusiasm, because she’s not the president. Joe Biden is. Vice presidents have one job only – to take over when the president dies.
Here’s what I think Democratic normies need to hear: It’s morally OK to believe that Biden is the right choice as the Democratic Party’s nominee, despite all this polling and all these “sophisticated” people giving you all these reasons to doubt whether you’re right. They don’t know anymore than you do on account of the election being a year from now. People say all kinds of things when nothing’s at stake. That changes when everything is.
There is, furthermore, no shame in hoping that an 80-year-old president can go the distance – and that he doesn’t die before being sworn in again. Biden stopped being a normal person long ago. You don’t have to treat him as one. Indeed, he isn’t asking you to. All he’s asking of you is your vote. If he dies after being sworn in, Harris will take over. By that time, Trump will no longer be a threat. (He’s an old man, too.) Sure, someone else will take his place, but that’s future set of political problems best left to a future time.
Finally, there is no shame in there being a rematch, in 2024, of the 2020 presidential election. It’s the opposite of a curse. First, because Biden will busy himself with litigating the future while Trump will busy himself with relitigating the past. Second, related to the first, because a rematch would offer clarity of a kind that Americans have not seen in 30 years. No one knows what the future holds, but a choice like that would be a blessing.
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