One will be 81 years old, the other is Trump

One will be 81 years old, the other is Trump

It is not a good sign for the strongest Western democracy that in 2024 an 81-year-old and a 77-year-old may be the two rivals for the presidency. It shows the inability of the American system to look for new, dynamic leadership that can inspire Americans and the West. The US establishment was able to discover a John F. Kennedy, a (not young but still dynamic) Ronald Reagan, and a Bill Clinton. Now it seems to be at an impasse.

How did we end up here? Former president Donald Trump has managed to regain control of the Republican Party’s base. Moderate Republicans are scared or nonexistent. Those who could challenge him on the populist turf, such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, are unconvincing and lack his momentum and appeal. At the same time, the charges brought against him or about to be brought against him have backfired. They rallied the base of his party. His avowed opponents are afraid to criticize him; instead they are forced to defend him against the attacks of the “system.” After all, his power became evident with the passage of time after the unprecedented events of January 6 and the attack on the Capitol. After initially distancing themselves, the Republican leadership got scared and rallied behind him again.

On the other hand, the Democratic Party has its own problems. President Joe Biden chose as his vice president a politician who is not convincing, who has no leadership skills. If he were to retire, Kamala Harris would be the most likely candidate to succeed him. If the party sidelined her, it would displease two critical voting blocks, Black Americans and women. But Harris stands no chance against Trump, so Biden ended up being the only solution.

We obviously live in an age where politics is not a particularly attractive profession. The toxicity, the attacks, the straitjacket of excessive political correctness drive many people out of public life. They prefer their peace and the private sector. The idea that they might also have to face a unhinged, hypertoxic, unreserved rival scares them even more.

Biden is not a bad president. He may even be better than Barack Obama as he was able to pass important bills through Congress and is handling the war in Ukraine competently. However, the image of such an old president does not project power, vigor, or dynamism. The Chinese and others see him as yet another sign of the decline of American influence.

Yet here we are. We have reached a point where the fate of the West will depend on whether a now 80-year-old politician falls down the steps of the presidential airplane or suffers a heart attack. Because, let’s not kid ourselves, something like that would instantly blow up Biden’s re-election chances. And, let’s not kid ourselves, the return of a now uncontrollable and all-powerful Trump to power would mean the end of the West as we know it. 

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