By William J. Furney
How is it that in a land of 340 million people, the only apparent choices for presidential candidates in next year’s election are two men of advanced age? One is apparently losing his marbles, the other facing a tsunami of federal charges that could see him wind up in prison, and from where he could, according to the US Constitution, still rule if elected in November 2024.
President Biden will be 81 in November and the leading contender to swipe the Oval Office from him, Donald Trump, was 77 in June. Notwithstanding their ages — a time of life that most people would surely be taking it easy and not running for the world’s toughest (or at least most stressful) job — scenes of a stumbling and mumbling Biden and the spectre of Trump being locked up on fraud and 77 other charges (possibly more) are doing little to endear them to American voters.
And while there are certainly other Republican candidates, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (a mere 44 years of age); Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence (64); and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy (38), none have the breakaway and seemingly unassailable lead that one-term Trump has been able to sustain. The most recent polling, in early August, puts Trump at a mighty 65%, despite his gargantuan legal problems, with DeSantis’ popularity plummeting to below 20% and the others just under 10%.
In the Democratic camp, Biden has announced he’s running again, and so far will spar with just two other candidates for the party’s nomination: self-help author Marianne Williamson (71) and gravel-voiced Robert F Kennedy Jr (69), who is seen has having a slim chance owing to his controversial stance against vaccines.
Other possible, but not declared, Democratic candidates might well include Biden’s deputy, Kamala Harris, California Governor Gavin Newsom and even the avuncular Bernie Sanders, who campaigned for the Democratic nomination in the last two elections but was not selected.
But in recent months one person above all has set tongues wagging among the Democratic faithful: one half of the powerhouse duo that are the Obamas. It could be just the ticket the party needs to inspire excitement among a jaded electorate, heightened by the tantalizing prospect of America’s first female president.
Michelle Obama may not be a politician, but neither was stand-by-her-man Hillary Clinton until she officially leapt into the fray and became a New York senator, going on to run for the presidency in an ultimately doomed campaign in which voters perceived the former first lady as entitled to the top job. Hillary is now 75 and unlikely, observers say, to mount a second challenge — however much her supporters, including husband Bill, drool at the notion.
Unlike Hillary, Michelle (59 and a best-selling author) remains widely popular, as indeed does her former president husband, Barack. His two terms were marked by stability, poise and style — in marked contrast to the chaotic rollercoaster ride of his successor, Trump (and, indeed, the warring, equally Republican, policies of his predecessor, George W. Bush). A return to those tranquil days when the United States was once again admired, not derided, around the world could be just what voters are looking for.
Some Democrats are not hopeful that “Sleepy Joe” will be their man in the 2024 presidential election and that he will withdraw ahead of the primaries early next year, according to a source mentioned in Britain’s Telegraph newspaper. Should Biden suddenly step aside, that would like an immediate leadership vacuum in which Mrs Obama could step in and fill — Democratic, liberal royalty the party and Blue States would love.
So will it be four more years for President Biden or a second time around for a Trump who can’t believe he lost in 2020 and thinks the election was stolen, resulting in the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by thousands of his supporters and for which he has been charged in federal court?
Or will a new era in American politics be ushered in, with the election of a fresh new face that transcends the tumult of Trump and the languor of Biden, restoring America’s image as a beacon of hope and democracy in a troubled world?