Opinion

Is Biden's age really what Democrats are worried about?

The sharpest opinions on the debate from around the web

President Biden's approval rating has dropped into the low 30s, according to recent polls, and the chances are rising that he could face a challenge in the primaries if he follows through on his plan to run for a second term. A recent New York Times/Siena College poll found that 64 percent of Democratic voters said they would prefer a new nominee for their party in the 2024 presidential race. "Unless Biden comes to his senses and announces that he won't run again, a contentious battle for the nomination seems very likely," Norman Solomon, founder of the progressive network RootsAction, told The Hill

Biden still has plenty of Democrats in his corner, but many are concerned about his struggle to advance his political agenda. Skeptics question whether he is up to a possible rematch against former President Donald Trump. In union meetings, Capitol Hill offices, and fundraising galas around the country, an increasing number of Democrats are "quietly worrying about Mr. Biden's leadership," according to The New York Times. And one concern for an increasing number of Democrats is Biden's age. At 79, he's already "a year older than Ronald Reagan was at the end of two terms," the Times notes, and if he wins a second term he'll be 86 by the time his second term ends. Is Biden's age something Democrats should consider when they decide who will be their presidential candidate in 2024?

Biden is too old for a second term

Concerns about Biden's age "top the list for why Democratic voters want the party to find an alternative for 2024," and with good reason, says Robert Reich in The Guardian. And "I speak with some authority. I'm now a spritely 76." That's "light years younger than our president," but still old enough to know and accept that "people in their late 70s and 80s wither." Sure, we can still "swing dance and salsa," but there's no denying that at some point we inevitably "begin falling apart," and lose, "shall we say, fizz." Memories grow foggy. Reflexes dull. "It's not death that's the worrying thing about a second Biden term. It's the dwindling capacities that go with aging." 

Ageist attacks are a cop-out that hurts everybody

Give the ageist attacks a rest, says Andrew V. Lorenzen in The Nation. The recent flurry of articles asking whether Biden is too old for a second term is nothing new. Biden endured "an avalanche" of ageist hit jobs in the 2020 Democratic primary and general elections. "In fact, criticizing elderly politicians for lacking sufficient 'fight' is among the oldest—and dirtiest—campaign tricks in American politics." Unfortunately, this tired and unfair tactic can be effective. "Rather than substantively critiquing Biden's policies or governing, one can call him 'too worn-out and unfocused' or 'far past his prime.' Maybe say he's not 'vigorous enough' for good measure." Sadly, if enough people pile on, they can get people to believe "that a country beset by crises hurtling from every conceivable angle is struggling because their leader is old, not because of those crises or the policies that led to them."

Biden's age isn't his biggest problem

It's true that, at 79, Biden's the oldest president in U.S. history, says John Harwood at CNN. But the steady barrage of crises he has faced, from mass shootings to the overturning of Roe v. Wade to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, would be a lot for any president to handle. The sudden questions about whether Biden is "too feeble" are a reflection of Republicans' desire to weaken their rival and Democrats' growing concerns about the party's fate in the mid-terms and beyond. "Without doubt, Biden's age complicates his hopes of winning another term," but "it has nothing to do with his problems in this one." The real reason Biden's Democratic critics, primarily progressives, see him as ineffective is that he can't deliver things they want, like major spending on climate change and lifting up struggling families. But that's due to the evenly split Senate, where Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), a moderate from a coal state, stood in the way. It had nothing to do with Biden's "physical stamina."  

Many voters want someone new. But who?

Biden is "in serious, serious trouble," says Joe Concha at The Hill. Age is an issue, "but his performance on everything from the economy to crime is quite another. If things were going well on these key issues, Biden's age might be forgiven. But they're not." Young voters played a key role in pushing Biden over the top in 2020, but they "have almost completely abandoned the president." The Times poll found that "94 percent of voters 18-29 do not want Biden to run again in 2024. You read that correctly. 94 percent." The question is, if not Biden, who should be the Democrats' standard bearer? Right now, there's no favorite to replace him. "The question is whether a viable alternative to Biden will emerge in the next two years. Only time will tell."

More From...

Picture of Harold MaassHarold Maass
Read All
China escalates military drills, sanctions Pelosi over Taiwan trip
A Chinese vessel off of Taiwan
someone's angry

China escalates military drills, sanctions Pelosi over Taiwan trip

Police change account of crash that killed Rep. Jackie Walorski
The late Rep. Jackie Walorski's office
an update

Police change account of crash that killed Rep. Jackie Walorski

The daily business briefing: August 5, 2022
Kyrsten Sinema
Business briefing

The daily business briefing: August 5, 2022

10 things you need to know today: August 5, 2022
Brittney Griner
Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 5, 2022

Recommended

What's in the Democrats' big climate, health care, and tax bill
Chuck Schumer
News You Can Use

What's in the Democrats' big climate, health care, and tax bill

Senate Democrats pass sweeping climate and health bill
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
a big win

Senate Democrats pass sweeping climate and health bill

Major Indiana employers slam new abortion law
Eli Lilly building
the almighty dollar

Major Indiana employers slam new abortion law

Senate expected to pass Democrat tax and climate bill
Chuck Schumer
finally!

Senate expected to pass Democrat tax and climate bill

Most Popular

How the U.S. killed Al Qaeda's leader, and no one else, with a flying 'knife bomb'
unmanned aerial vehicle
Briefing

How the U.S. killed Al Qaeda's leader, and no one else, with a flying 'knife bomb'

Amazon to buy Roomba maker for $1.7 billion
Roomba
the panamazopticon expands

Amazon to buy Roomba maker for $1.7 billion

Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson break up
Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson
the saga ends

Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson break up