This week, unsurprisingly, President Biden launched his bid to campaign for another term as president. It is not uncommon for presidents to serve two terms. In recent history, Ronald Reagan, Bill ClintonGeorge W. Bush and Barack Obama they served two terms, but George HW Bush did not, losing a second term to Bill Clinton. George Carville, Clinton’s strategist, said: “It’s the economy, stupid.” Focusing on the economy became the mantra of the Clinton campaign, and it succeeded. What will the 2024 elections be about? What will be the issues that will drive voters to the polls? It’s not just the economy, stupid.
Political polarization, tribalism, and culture wars have been defining the American landscape. 2024 is still a long way off and any number of issues may emerge as the key to winning this election. But, What is it that makes Americans lose sleep? Abortion, transgender rights, gun control, immigration, war, healthcare, education, weather and/or the economy?
Reflecting on Biden’s re-election bid, many pundits point to his low approval rating (43%) and his age (he’ll be 86 if he wins a second term). However, the results of the 2022 midterm elections were pretty good for the Democrats, despite the pessimism that preceded the election: the red wave (or massive Republican gains) never happened. Biden has made some significant gains in getting the US out of the pandemic, seriously tackling climate change, and signing a massive infrastructure bill into law.
Unfortunately, inflation has also plagued his tenure as president, for which he has been blamed despite the fact that Biden could do little to prevent rising prices. Mass shootings, abortion rights, and transgender rights seem to grab the news headlines and front-line issues, and the left and right are more polarized than ever.
However, what does this mean for Biden and his chances of winning the election? There are some key points to keep in mind. First, will Biden be able to count on the support of young voters? Young people are the ones who brought Biden to the White House (although critics at the time thought that she would not have the youth vote). Second, who will be Biden’s opponent? Trump continues to command high approval ratings among Republicans, but will the various court scandals help or hurt him?
Nikki Haley, a more subdued candidate, is a traditional conservative, but conservatism is not what controls the Republican party now, it is populism. Ron DeSantis of Florida is the undeclared candidate many are watching and he has many of the traits of a populist. Ron DeSantis is Trump with a political focus. He’s smarter than Trump, but he has the same crude exterior. Is America tired of the drama? After January 6, what appetite do Americans have for Trump or Trump-friendly candidates? Polls suggest that Trump continues to command significant support.
Third, Biden stands for consistency, inclusiveness, and decency.. With all his flaws, he’s likeable. He speaks to the working class and is a moderate. He defeated Trump in 2020. He was voted out in the early part of the 2020 Democratic primary and then came out on top in South Carolina in one of the greatest political comebacks in American political history. He has a long history in politics and should not be underestimated. With age comes wisdom.
Fourth, the video of Biden declaring his candidacy exposed Vice President Kamala Harris. Harris has not had a highly visible public role in the administration, however, on abortion rights, she has been given a greater platform as a woman of color to speak out on the issue. Using the youth and diversity that Harris represents certainly helps Biden show that she has a young administration around her.
Finally, political polarization around various social issues has divided the country. However, more Americans want gun control and want women to have the right to choose. If populist Republicans want to focus on culture war issues like transgender treatment or book bans, they may find themselves in a situation similar to the 2022 congressional election, in which most Trump-backed candidates they lost.
The result of the 2024 elections is speculation. 2020 taught us that situations can change in an instant. Who would have thought in February 2020 that a global pandemic and Trump’s mismanagement of it would make him lose the White House. There are many national and international issues that could push the elections in different directions. I shudder to think of some of the conflicts threatening global stability, more attempts to limit women’s right to abortion and gun violence, and then there’s the unknown potential crisis looming.
Biden’s call to fight for America’s soul is a challenge, but it is a challenge that resonates with many Americans. On January 6, democracy was threatened and continues to be so. Although those of 2020 seemed like elections with profound consequences, those of 2024 will be no less.