Biden-Trump 2024 and the American presidency
In 2024, assuming there is a Biden-Trump rematch, it will be sixty years since Lyndon Johnson defeated the conservative Republican Senator Barry Goldwater by a landslide, writes Syed Badrul Ahsan
The eighty-year-old Joe Biden has made it known that he is ready to have a new four-year term in the White House. That ought to be looked at as quite a normal happening in American presidential politics. Every four years a host of politicians, each believing that she/he has the qualifications and the education necessary to be President of the United States, jumps into the fray. By the end of it all, only two are left to fight it out on Election Day in November.
Now, there is surely nothing wrong in Biden's desire for four more years as President. But, again, there is a problem. He is the oldest President in US history and if he is re-elected in 2024 and if his health holds, he will leave office at age eighty-six. Of course, his supporters will put it about that his likely rival for the Republican nomination, the impeachment-and-indictment battered Donald Trump, is not far behind him. Trump is seventy-six and if he reclaims the presidency next year, he will be eighty when he leaves office.
The curious part of the American story is that aged or ageing men have in recent times been seeking the highest office in the land. The Biden-Trump age factor reminds one of the time when Presidents came younger than these two men. Dwight Eisenhower left the White House at age seventy, after two terms in office. And then, years down the line came Ronald Reagan. When he was elected President at age seventy, much talk went around of whether or not he would be up to the pressures of the job.
The 2024 election promises to be interesting where the age of the leading candidates is concerned. There is that other factor, that of a rematch between Biden and Trump. The President is keen about seeing Trump in the ring again because he is convinced he can beat him again. And Trump would like nothing better than to defeat Biden and so have his false story that the 2020 election was stolen from him 'vindicated'.
The world will simply have to wait to see how the election and the campaign for it pans out. Any idea that new faces will be spotted in the run-up to 2024 seems unlikely to work out at the moment, though there are Americans who hope Florida Governor Ron DeSantis will eventually emerge as the new Republican face for the presidential race. Unless Trump's legal woes begin to overwhelm him, to a point where the law identifies him conclusively as a felon, DeSantis will have little chance of overtaking the former President in the primary races.
As for Biden, when he was elected in 2020, the assumption was that he would not seek a second term and that it would be for Vice President Kamala Harris to make her own bid for the presidency. Now with Biden's second term ambitions made public, Harris' presidential ambitions have come to at least a temporary halt.
It may even be that once Biden secures the Democratic Party nomination next year, he might go for a new running mate and so leave Harris out in the cold. The instances of Franklin Delano Roosevelt dumping his Vice Presidents and choosing newer running mates is part of US political history. Roosevelt was President for twelve years.
A probable Biden-Trump rematch is a reminder of the 1950s, when Dwight Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson were, respectively, the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees in 1952. Stevenson the intellectual lost to Eisenhower the Second World War general. In 1956, the two men had a rematch, with Stevenson losing again. Voters seemed unwilling to replace the quiet, rather stabilising Eisenhower with the passionate Stevenson.
Going back in time, Thomas Dewey, the Republican Governor of New York and his party's presidential candidate twice, did not have a rematch with any of his rivals. He was up against FDR in 1944 and then against Harry Truman in 1948. Dewey was ahead in the polls in 1948, suggesting that he would turf Truman out of the White House. He went to sleep as the votes were being counted. By the time he awoke, Truman had edged past him to have his own four years as President (Truman had come into office when President Roosevelt died in April 1945).
The unexpected and the surprising have often been the staple of presidential politics in America. In 2016, the media projected a landslide for Hillary Clinton over the abrasive Donald Trump. In the event, it was Trump who pushed Clinton aside and went on to have a tumultuous four years as President. Speaking of individuals seeking the presidency as candidates twice, Richard Nixon comes to mind.
In 1960, as Vice President and the Republican nominee, he lost the presidential election to Senator John F. Kennedy, the Democratic Party candidate. A reinvented Nixon returned to the centre of presidential politics in 1968, attained his party's nomination for a second time and went on to narrowly beat his Democratic rival, Vice President Hubert Humphrey.
American Presidents have sprung from among Senators, Governors and Vice Presidents. Trump has been the exception, with his background in business. Barack Obama was in his first term as Senator when he decided to be President. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were both Governors before seeking the presidency. In modern times, Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson succeeded to the presidency following the death of President Roosevelt and President Kennedy, in that order.
In 2024, assuming there is a Biden-Trump rematch, it will be sixty years since Lyndon Johnson defeated the conservative Republican Senator Barry Goldwater by a landslide. If Donald Trump succeeds in retaking the White House from Joe Biden, he will be the second man to have two terms as President, with an interregnum of four years, after Grover Cleveland.
But if Trump loses, will there be a repeat of the less than presidential behaviour he indulged in when he lost the race in 2020? More to the point, now that Trump has been found guilty of sexually assaulting a woman, to what degree will that judgment have an impact on his chances of reclaiming the Republican presidential nomination?