Majority of Americans don't want this reelection campaign

Public-opinion polling regularly shows that lopsided majorities of the American people, and even significant majorities of Democrats, think that Joe Biden should not run for another term as president. An NBC News poll released on Sunday, for example, showed that 70 percent of Americans thought Biden should not run again, and only 26 percent thought he should.

In February, however, Jill Biden announced in an interview with the Associated Press that her 80-year-old husband was going to run again, and that the announcement was just a matter of time. That announcement came today, via a pre-recorded video, four years to the day after Biden’s announcement in 2019. It didn’t mention Donald Trump by name, but it was clearly aimed at the former president and his “ultra MAGA” followers.

Four years ago, Biden sold himself on two reassuring bases: that the nation needed him to end Trump’s polarizing presidency, and that he would serve as a transitional figure until the next Democratic generation was ready. Now that Trump is waiting in the wings again, Biden took another look at that next Democratic generation and decided that maybe he shouldn’t step aside after all.

In that narrow sense, he might be right: The available Democratic alternatives are bleak. But dim a view though we may have of those alternatives, Biden can’t escape responsibility for failing to groom a successor. He is the one who chose Kamala Harris as his vice president, and nobody in this administration other than Harris herself seems to actually believe she is up to the job. As for Pete Buttigieg, widely mentioned as a potential president, his shortcomings have been badly exposed at the Transportation Department.

Four more years of Biden, of course, is far from reassuring. Already the oldest man ever to hold the office, he would be 82 when sworn in for a second term and would be 86 when it ends. His slowed speech, shuffling gait, and leisurely schedule all suggest a man worse for age. A serious health crisis — actuarially increasingly likely — would throw the nation into a crisis of governance, and perhaps of untested provisions of the Constitution. It would also elevate Harris.

Biden’s record when in full control of his faculties is bad enough. He has been a feckless commander in chief, disastrously abandoning Afghanistan to the Taliban and signaling to Vladimir Putin that NATO might tolerate a “minor incursion” into Ukraine. His administration has prioritized chimerical climate negotiations over the hard work of alliance-building against the China-Russia-Iran axis, and needlessly alienated allies such as Saudi Arabia while badly neglecting American sovereignty at our southern border.

The most shameful aspect of Biden’s presidency has been his flagrant and repeated contempt for the constitutional limits of his office. Time and again, in unilaterally decreeing sweeping legislative policies such as student-loan forgiveness, an eviction moratorium, and a national vaccine mandate, Biden has acted as if the president is a national lawgiver with general police powers. A man who has been in Washington for half a century, most of it in the Senate, has no excuse for this. He has exacerbated lawlessness with scorn for norms of behavior (such as questioning the legitimacy of the 2022 midterm elections in advance) and evident partiality in the enforcement of law.

Biden’s profligacy with federal spending exacerbated the runaway inflation of his first term, which has yet to be fully tamed. Elsewhere, he has simply abdicated leadership to his party’s radicals on a host of cultural and economic issues from women’s sports to gas stoves to domestic energy production to mishandling of the nation’s transport infrastructure. The Democrats are laundering their policy radicalism through an aged figurehead.

The voters answering the polls are right: America doesn’t need, or want in the abstract, four more years of Joe Biden. His choice to run again will likely limit intra-party challengers and encourage Democrats to double down on prodding apparently all-too-willing Republicans to nominate Donald Trump again, in order to argue that the other choice is worse. No one who wants the best for America should want to go down this route.