For an alternate viewpoint, see “Counterpoint: Buck Up Democrats, We’ll Prevail in 2024.”
Whenever Democrats gather, a fatalistic hush permeates the proceedings.
The cause of this quietude, this joylessness, is President Biden, their leader. Day after day, polls point to his declining support and the strength of Donald Trump, his probable opponent — and there is very real fear as to what a Trump return would mean.
Night after night, we see a man who walks with extra care, carefully negotiates descending Air Force One, and often appears to teeter. He reads with difficulty, guaranteed to gaffe if he goes off script.
Gone is the Biden of the Senate and the vice presidency, who never saw a microphone he wasn’t drawn to — sometimes for a long time. It isn’t just that Biden is 81: He is an old 81.
Biden has aged quickly in his three years in the presidency. Yet, he has been deaf to calls for him to step aside, calls from party stalwarts, who have supported Biden in the past but now believe he is heading for defeat and has failed either to remove himself or to up his game.
He says his desire to run for re-election is to finish the job, but it could be read as selfishness, that he loves being president.
There is irony here, of course, because the Biden presidency has been successful, but Biden is low in public esteem. Unless he changes his tactics, those who believe he is decrepit will be proven right.
The overhanging issue is his age, but not so much the fact of his age as manifestations that Biden isn’t the man he used to be. He doesn’t come across as a man at the helm.
Watch Biden on television and see if you can imagine him as the vigorous, visionary leader of the Free World? It’s a hard test to pass.
Who knows what motivates Biden? While he says he’s running to finish the job he started, he doesn’t tell us how he will go about it in a second term.
Most days, he is running on autopilot. Biden, once garrulous, ekes out short speeches from the teleprompter in a strained way. Biden hasn’t delivered stirring speeches and hasn’t addressed us directly on Gaza, Ukraine, artificial intelligence or migration.
Also, he hasn’t taken the fight to Trump, hasn’t landed a blow, hasn’t turned on the invective, added ridicule or gone after the myriad vulnerabilities of Trump, just three years Biden’s junior.
Trump shows vigor and ensures a constant presence before the public by ranting on social media in the knowledge that the media will take the bait over and over — and it does.
Not only has Biden eschewed the great speech, a staple tool in statesmanship, but he has also shamefully followed Trump’s practice of not holding press conferences. Sure, this infuriates journalists, but that doesn’t matter. Although not constitutionally mandated, they are part of the weave of our system.
In Britain, there is Prime Minister’s Question Time. Presidential press conferences do for America what question time does for Britain: It makes the leader explain himself or herself and defend or explain policy.
The first formalized press conferences in the White House began on March 15, 1933. Question Time was formalized in the House of Commons in 1881, during William Gladstone’s premiership.
Questioning the prime minister had always gone on irregularly, but it was given a time slot at the end of the day under Gladstone. Now it is half an hour every Wednesday at noon. Incidentally, Gladstone stayed on as prime minister until he was 84.
If Biden started holding regular press conferences, it would soon be apparent whether he is up to the job.
If he were at a loss for words, forgot himself and was humiliated, it would be clear to the whole party and those closest to Biden that he should withdraw from running for a second term.
If he did well, shone — the gloom that besets the Democrats would lift in tandem with the polls. It is time for Joe Biden to stand up and show his stuff or leave the stage.