23 Jul 2024 Election Preview
“Presidential choices for the 2024 Election are … unappealing.” – The Lonely Realist
How do Americans feel about “Four More Years!”? Not good. Only a minority support a second Biden term.
Would Americans prefer “Let’s Make America Great Again!”? Even among Republicans, only 45% want the former President to be the nominee in 2024.
Why then should Americans be happy about prospects for the country’s leadership? Significantly, why should Americans be faced with choosing the lesser-of-two-evils? The choice for President should be between better and best, not between political retreads with faded ideas … each of whom has seen his best years … and with respect to whom “best” leaves much to be desired. Age alone disqualifies them. Joe Biden will be almost 82 on Election Day and Donald Trump 78 … when the average American will be 38 years old. The performance of each is another disqualification. With America’s Congress being led by a herd of gerontocrats (including Nancy Pelosi (82), Mitch McConnell (80), Chuck Schumer (71), and Charles Grassley (89)), can there be any doubt that America needs generational change at the top? Or that it needs forward-thinking leadership? If so, the Democratic Party must find a replacement for its sitting President and the Republican Party must replace a former President who has the strong support of almost half of his Party. Effecting either will be a neat trick.
President Biden has the lowest approval rating of any incumbent since the 1950s. Even Democrats have lost faith: 67% agree that the economy is doing poorly, 78% believe that the country is heading in the wrong direction, and 64% favor another candidate for President in 2024. Among his false steps, President Biden has allowed extremist progressivism to dictate the Democratic Party’s mantra with slogans that include “defund the police,” abolish immigration enforcement, shun capitalism, re-label women as “birthing people,” and inject “anti-racism” into the classroom (all to the delight of Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck), replacing the mainstream, “big tent” Democratic Party voice. The result has been an increase in radical left influence in the Biden Administration comparable to the radical right’s impact on the Trump Administration. No wonder that a July survey by the New York Times and Siena College found that 94% of Democrats under the age of 30 would favor almost any candidate over President Biden. The early polls similarly indicate that a majority of Americans would not favor another run by former President Trump … most significantly because of the threat he presents to American democracy. It therefore isn’t surprising that most young Americans said they wouldn’t vote for either Biden or Trump in a 2024 rematch. A majority of Americans simply have had enough of both.
President Trump’s core electoral strength is his insistence that the system is rigged. Most Americans agree, although many have concluded that the Trump Administration merely substituted one rigger for another and others that the Trump Administration hadn’t achieved any real success in draining the government swamp. Critics also point out that President Trump’s rhetoric since leaving office has been the same MAGA slogans that brought him to the Presidency 6 years ago (with the added now-debunked claim that the 2020 election was stolen). There is nothing new on offer, neither fresh ideas nor innovative policy goals that Americans so desperately need. Nevertheless, a majority of elected Republicans continue to endorse both the former President and his “stop the steal” campaign, placing a high value on his endorsement with the expectation that they will be rewarded if President Trump returns to the White House in 2025. This makes it challenging for Republican politicians to oppose a 2024 Trump candidacy – for most, joining a Republican Insurgency would be political suicide.
What to do?
The solution for the Democratic Party is clear, although no Democratic Party official dares speak it: President Biden should resign the Presidency, acknowledging his responsibility for his Party’s failures as well as for his inability to persuade Congress to adopt his legislative agenda. In short, the problem isn’t Joe Manchin or the flaws of Build Back Better. The problem is Joe Biden. He has been unable to provide the effective leadership that America needs. The sacrifice Biden would be making and the reasons for doing so are self-evident. He would be taking an historic step, a selfless one, one that would be good for the country and good for the Democratic Party … especially if, in his resignation speech, he explains that his decision is based in part on his belief in the abilities of Vice-President Kamala Harris, confirming his confidence that a President Harris would provide America with renewed energy, vision, and a moderate policy agenda (thereby distancing Harris, with her agreement, from the Democratic Party’s left-wing fringe). By succeeding to the Presidency, a President Harris could provide Americans with the opportunity to judge her leadership prior to the 2024 primary season, opening the primaries to a true free-for-all – which would be a very good thing for American democracy. Democrats would thereby distinguish themselves by constructive action, in contrast to a Republican Party that continues to be in thrall to former President Trump and to members of the Republican Party who robotically follow personal re-election agendas. The fact is that the former President has not been placing national interests over his own interests … and his Republican Party enablers have been reading from his script.
What is a Bidenesque fantasy for Democrats is non-existent for Republicans. The former President will not voluntarily loosen his grip over the GOP, not while retaining the support of 50% of Republican voters and with an 80% favorability rating. A distant second in Republican polls is Ron DeSantis, with other potential challengers, including former Vice-President Pence and former Secretary of State Pompeo, having minimal support among the Party faithful. Whereas America’s two Political Parties were once divided between conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats, today’s Trump-led GOP no longer follows the classic conservative playbook, the one advanced by Bill Buckley and Ronald Reagan. The essential elements of that Republican conservatism (RINO-ism?) included fiscal restraint, a belief in traditional American values, international outreach and alliances, and a belief in a strong national defense. Fiscal restraint has its foundation in low taxes, limited government, balanced government budgets, and minimal government debt. The Trump Administration lowered taxes, but failed to limit big government or reduce excessive government spending, budget deficits, or government debt. Although it stressed traditional values (for example, discussed here), its record on international relationship-building and national defense was among the weakest since WWII. That disconnect provides an opportunity, albeit one that has huge hurdles, to rally Republican stalwarts around an alternative candidate who represents core conservative values. Because former President Trump commands the loyalty of half of Republican voters, doing so would require an insurgency that would unite the “Never Trump” faction with aspiring candidates DeSantis, Pence, Pompeo, etc. In that sense, a consensus for a Republican ticket of DeSantis and Nikki Haley might appear to be the optimal choice. That’s quite a long shot, however …, to say the least.
The Presidential choices for 2024 therefore are quite likely to be unappealing, a bad outcome for America. (For an inciteful perspective on the possible consequences, see Ray Dalio’s essay here.)
An index of TLR titles can be found here.
Finally (from good friends)