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Sleepy Joe or Demagogue Donald: America’s choice

Joe Biden is in electoral danger. That is the verdict from numerous recent polls which show a reinvigorated Trump in the ascendancy. Unfortunately, Biden’s efforts to come out fighting in Thursday’s address to the media did little to assuage fears of his ageing memory and unsuitability to remain as President. 

Biden successfully managed the media for about 10 minutes, forcefully pushing back on many attempts to attack the quality of his memory, a worry stoked recently by Special Counsel Robert Hur’s comments that presented Biden as ‘an elderly man with a poor memory.’ Even though Hur recommended against charges for faults in Biden’s retention of classified papers and his remarks on Biden’s abilities were attacked as a ‘partisan hit job’, worries abound in the Democrat camp of public perception of Biden’s cognitive capacities. Enter the fateful final question. 

Having successfully dodged the worst pitfalls of Fox News’s interrogations about his age, Biden returned to the lectern to answer a final question on Gaza, in the process managing to assert that Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was the President of Mexico. Therein lies the rub, for al-Sisi is in fact not the President of Mexico, but the President of Egypt. What memory problems? 

Add into the mix Biden’s bizarre allusions to meetings with the (long deceased) François Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl, and Trump’s charges of ‘Sleepy Joe’ may hit home where they did not fully in 2020. Worse still for the Democrats, Trump’s multiple criminal charges do not seem to have a substantial effect on his polling: always pitched as the anti-Establishment candidate, throwing everything that the Establishment has at Trump only plays into his narrative. 

Winning the Nevada primary with little opposition, it seems near certain that Biden will take the Democratic presidential nomination. Save for a sudden surge in support for Nikki Haley, who lost to ‘none of these candidates’ in the equivalent Republican primary, Trump will run for the Republicans. There are therefore two routes to avoiding the disaster that would be a second Trump term: his disqualification or a Biden victory. 

A federal court ruled on the 6th of February that as Trump was no longer President, he was not immune from charges related to an alleged conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election results. However, this carries the unfortunate implication, and reminder, that if Trump were President again, he would effectively have few obstacles in his path to taking America further down the road of government by social media diktat. 

The damage that Trump could wreak on America and the world with a second term cannot be understated. With a campaign theme of ‘retribution’, he has talked up using the military to crush protests in Democrat-leaning cities, abolishing the ‘Marxist’ Department for Education, and repealing Obamacare. The danger extends to the existential: with an energy policy mantra of ‘Drill, drill, drill’ and a promise to leave the Paris Accords, a second Trump term would kill stone-dead any prospect of limiting global warming below 2 degrees, and perhaps also 2.5. The world has, after all, already hit 1.5 degrees warming

Trump’s foreign policy could be yet more calamitous for European security and global peace. Taking ‘America First’ to new levels, the fate of NATO and Ukraine would hang in the balance as Trump develops ever closer ties with fellow populist strongmen like Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, and Viktor Orbán. His economic policies could push the world towards a fully blown trade war. The world cannot afford a second term of Donald Trump. If it gets one, it cannot be sure that it will not then see a third, and a fourth – once American democracy has been hollowed out by further authoritarian vandalism of political institutions. 

Biden’s 2024 campaign policies are predicted to involve capping costs on prescription medicines, attempting to ban assault rifles, and restoring a nationwide right to abortion. While the success of many of these programmes is contingent on Democratic majorities in both Houses of Congress, the contrast between Biden’s platform and Trump’s could not be starker. Even if Biden cannot implement all of his policy agenda, he has his continued respect for America’s allies and his commitment to at least not destroying the (albeit insufficient) global coordination on tackling climate change. And he is the Democrats’ only option now. 

With a Supreme Court packed with Trump nominees which casted doubt on Colorado’s decision to remove Trump from the 2024 ballot, disqualification from election seems unlikely. The Democrats should not count on it, and as discussed, such a narrative only plays into Trump’s hands. Accusations regarding Biden’s age often forget that Trump would turn 80 during a second term. He is also at least as foggy, having appeared to suggest that he beat Barack Obama to win the 2016 election. Some scientists have also characterised both as ‘super-agers’ and give Biden a higher chance of surviving than Trump. Like in 2020, Biden is now the Democrats’ only option. Octogenarian presidents are not ideal, but American democracy, world peace, and a fighting chance at averting the worst of the climate emergency may well be at stake. For all the talk of memory, that is the one thing that Americans should remember. 

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