By Sam Routley
The reasons why United States President Joe Biden has decided to run for a second term are obvious. Presidential power is hard to give up, and time goes by very quickly amid the unfathomable demands placed on the office.
If past patterns are still in place, Biden can also expect to win in 2024. Most presidents are re-elected — since 1901, very few have failed to win second terms.
What’s more interesting is the reason why Biden — despite concerns about his age — continues to be the Democratic Party’s standard bearer. What does this say about the evolving state of American national politics?
Biden is arguably a provisional figure, and the prospect of his continuing tenure in office demonstrates that the U.S. has not yet moved on from the chaos generated by Donald Trump’s 2016 election.
In 2020, Biden was considered an adequate anti-Trump figure. Despite running a relatively lacklustre campaign, Biden’s unobtrusive nature allowed him to emerge as the consensus candidate of a divided Democratic party that was nonetheless united in its intent on removing Trump.
Biden’s presidency has therefore been meant to serve two roles — first, to project a state of normalcy in contrast to the unpredictability of the Trump years and, second, to maintain access to power while the party coalesces internally.
This, of course, didn’t mean that Biden had no ideas. He arrived at the Oval Office with an experienced team that quickly overturned several Trump-era initiatives and, through his $2.2 trillion infrastructure plan, implemented an ambitious agenda.
However, it’s clear that Biden’s personal approach to politics — people-centric, morally decent, pragmatic and consensus-driven — is now a part of the past given the extreme political polarization and distrust in democratic institutions that’s taken hold in post-Trump America.
The normalcy and state of national unity that Biden has pursued seem no longer attainable.
Since the Democrats’ underwhelming performance in the 2022 mid-term elections, his intention to return the United States to normalcy has stalled. Concerns about the economy have caused the president’s approval ratings to dip.
Biden’s strength now his weakness
Biden’s approach to the presidency is also fundamentally disjointed from the current political environment.
His instinct is to operate according to what American political scientist Stephen Skowronek calls the “politics of articulation.” This is defined as a focus on negotiated, moderate and incremental adjustments to a prevailing public policy framework that is able to command near-unanimous support across party lines.
For Biden, this approach remains unchanged.
Throughout his Senate career, for example, Biden as a Democrat was able to find common ground with both southern segregationists and Republicans because they were in agreement on the bigger picture: the social welfare state and, from the 1990s onward, global neoliberalism.
Most federal politicians generally agreed on the need for a powerful federal government on social policy, the deregulation of international trade and a powerful military presence throughout the world.
But no longer. Instead, the Republican and Democratic parties are embracing distinct and mutually exclusive visions with no possibility for common ground.
The country has increasingly split into two distinctive and geographically confined camps. As a result, the sort of personal, non-partisan Senate politics that Biden excelled at is no longer attainable as a model for federal policymaking.
For the immediate future, no president can hope to achieve national unity and it seems almost impossible that any American leader could earn approval ratings higher than 60 per cent.
Instead, it seems like Biden is now having to rely on the flawed alternative technique of Skowronek’s “politics of disjunction.” This approach involves presidents operating according to an older style of governing despite the fact that there is a breakdown of state and social relations as ideologies change dramatically.
No one really wins
There is now an escalating conflict in the U.S. that only one side can truly win, even if that means by forcing the other side to bend to the will of the victor.
But can the traditional institutional structures of the American republic survive this tumultuous period?
Biden’s political approach isn’t going to fulfil the aspirations of either Democrats or Republicans, which could pave the way to the manipulation of both judicial and electoral institutions.
So is Biden likely to win a second term given these new realities?
The answer here lies in another important aspect of the current American political scene. While bipartisan consensus on Capitol Hill had been declining for some time, Trump was a destructive force who fuelled its near total annihilation. He is a political disruptor who is able to attack what he’s against but struggles to offer positive and enduring replacements.
When he lost the election in 2020, he left behind a deconstructed machine — an unorganized array of parts that need to be reassembled into something new. But there’s yet to emerge an electable alternative who will earn widespread public and elite support.
Biden makes this clear in his own campaign announcement, effectively framing his appeal around the argument that there are no alternatives. His campaign has painted the entire Republican party as extremists and framed the coming election as nothing less than a “battle for the soul of America.”
Within the Democratic Party, Biden has been effective as a coalition-builder of the party’s factions, suggesting a common disdain for Trump may be enough to keep the party united with him at the helm. He also benefits from the fact that he has no clear successor.
But Biden may also stay in power because the Republicans have yet to work out their ongoing relationship with Trump.
The former president’s conduct not only allows Biden to stay on as a candidate, it also keeps the Republican party in a holding pattern in terms of the necessary task of developing a more positive, forward-looking and institutionalized approach to policymaking.
A presidential race that once again pits Biden against Trump not only represents a repeat of 2020, but it will fail to move the dial in any significant way for the American public. Instead, to best move forward beyond this tumultuous era, both parties may need to find new leadership and new ideas.
Sam Routley is a doctoral student in Political Science at Western University.
The Conversation arose out of deep-seated concerns for the fading quality of our public discourse and recognition of the vital role that academic experts could play in the public arena. Information has always been essential to democracy. It’s a societal good, like clean water. But many now find it difficult to put their trust in the media and experts who have spent years researching a topic. Instead, they listen to those who have the loudest voices. Those uninformed views are amplified by social media networks that reward those who spark outrage instead of insight or thoughtful discussion. The Conversation seeks to be part of the solution to this problem, to raise up the voices of true experts and to make their knowledge available to everyone. The Conversation publishes nightly at 9 p.m. on FlaglerLive.
Biden lies have caught up to him. He wants 4 more years to finish the job. Should’ve never gotten the 1st 4 years. Inflation for record profits isn’t solid economic performance. What’s saddest, he’ll be voted out and get a POTUS pension & benefits out of it. Does anyone really have 4 more years of this crap show in them ?
Dennis C Rathsam says
Look what has happened to America in the last 3 years under Biden,between inflation, Afganistan, his mumbling & stumbling up & down stairs, to all the lies he tells over & over again. He pissed away the oil preserves to get votes, when most of the oil went to China! Biden has weaponized the once proud FBI. Garland is running cover for him at the DOJ…Why did China, Russia, Romainia, & the Ukrane give the Biden family all that money? What did they do for it? Bank records dont lie! He kept telling us he knew nothing of his sons dealings, yet they visited Biden in the Whitehouse many many times. Everything Biden does is to help China. He says one thing, then his handlers have to walk it back saying this is what he ment to say….I lived through the peanut farmers 4 years, I was laid off for 3 of them. I thought he was the worst president of my life time. But now I must give the props to Balloon Joe. He has the USA reeling… 73% of the voters think America is headed in the wrong direction, more than half democrats want somebody else…. Can you blame them?
Wow dennis did you learn all that from FOX? I dont think there is a true sentence there except for the last one. Love to hear more about how Biden controls global inflation or the deal he struck with the Taliban…..No mention of Trumps kids or the money they stole from sick children. Oh thats right lets go after a guy that doesnt hold a public office. All fake news talking points broadcasted by Fox “news”. I agree id rather see someone other than Biden but will take him over anyone the cons the GQP put out there. Ron is a fascist and Trump was literally the worst piece of garabage ever to step foot in the white house he is a global discrace and would be in prison if our system wasnt already so corrupt. Funny how you mention Biden lies ; see for Presidents people actually have to document the stuff they say and do so run a quick google search for presidential liars and untruthful statements and see what comes up, I promise Biden wont be number 1 or really even come close to it.
Bill C says
The percentage jumped from 52% to 73% right after the January 6th insurrection. IMO this is measuring unhappiness with the anger and division roiling this country brought about by Trump claiming the election was rigged and that he won, and is still saying so, even though his claim has been defeated in Court over 60 times, and Fox News just had to shell out 787 million dollars in damages for knowingly pushing the false Dominion rigged voting machine story. Maybe you’ll get your chance to vote for Trump in 2024.
Id vote for an old man before i’d vote for a full blown rascist fascist every single day. Sad these are the only choices but its what our elders set up for us. I honestly believe if a GQP wins they will be the last president as they will not conceide power. Likely they will have 30 million less votes but still declare victory either way ( see last GQP to loose).Check out which laws have changed since the last sore looser. Nazis are alive and well and currently running the Rebublican party so get your swatikas flags ready or your nazi beating sticks cause this circus show is gonna escalate and probably quickly. The American century started by killing the Nazis and will likely end by becoming them.
I can only respond to Jimbo99 and Dennis by saying they continue to say the same, old, tired, unproven stuff. ZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzz…..
The Democrats just never get it. They worry about age (a bigotry). They don’t talk up what they have accomplished. They pay little attention to white people. They try to be too nice to “marginal” people. They try to be nicer than Republicans. They shoot themselves in the foot daily.
The Republicans put Trump on Old Glory, with muscles, a headband and a machine gun. They suck all the oxygen out of the room with absolutely absurd statements from people like MTG Kruz and Bobart, and retain blatant liars like Santos. They pass unpopular laws in the middle of the night. They make it harder to vote and pass on misinformation like free candy. They play the white man victim card constantly.
Joe Scarboro does the exact same thing as Bill O’Riley (the exact same thing as Trump). They both pretend to be open about some politician, but repeat *possibilities* over and over: I don’t think Obama was born in Kenya. Maybe Obama was born in Kenya. Is there proof Obama was born in Kenya? The repetition there is “Obama was born in Kenya.” Maybe Trump will go to jail. I don’t know if Trump will go to jail. Do you think Trump will go to jail? The repetition there is: “Trump will go to jail.” Witch hunt, witch hunt, witch hunt.
What a load of manipulative crap. Neither party listens to the people, or give the people what they want. Both parties are governed by money and lobbyists.
I’m waiting for Key West to succeed from the U.S. as the Conch Republic for real. I may join them!
Jack Howell says
The political divide and hate that permeates the United States in 2023 result from a complex interplay of various factors. The entrenchment of partisan politics, echo chambers created by media fragmentation, economic inequality, identity politics, tribalism, and divisive rhetoric have all contributed to the escalating polarization. Recognizing these factors and their consequences is crucial for addressing the deep-rooted divisions and fostering a more inclusive and constructive political environment.
The cure: It is imperative that individuals, communities, and leaders make a conscious effort to promote empathy, understanding, and open dialogue to bridge the gaps and foster a healthier and more united society. Unfortunately, I don’t think this will ever happen. Too many bias opinions abound in our society!
The last sentence say’s it all. Both party’s need refreshing, starting with candidates telling us the truth, and acting like Americans
What about Trump? The worst President during my life time. He is the biggest lying President I believe of all times.