Friday, July 15, 2022

Please stop talking about Biden retiring

This is Joseph.

This post by Robert Reich is very good. Worth reading in full. He makes good points about the health issues that arise with age:

It’s not death that’s the worrying thing about a second Biden term. It’s the dwindling capacities that go with aging. "Bodily decrepitude," said Yeats, "is wisdom." I have accumulated somewhat more of the former than the latter, but our president seems fairly spry (why do I feel I have to add “for someone his age?”). I still have my teeth, in contrast to my grandfather whom I vividly recall storing his choppers in a glass next to his bed, and have so far steered clear of heart attack or stroke (I pray I’m not tempting fate by my stating this fact). But I’ve lived through several kidney stones and a few unexplained fits of epilepsy in my late thirties. I’ve had both hips replaced. And my hearing is crap. Even with hearing aids, I have a hard time understanding someone talking to me in a noisy restaurant. You’d think that the sheer market power of 60 million boomers losing their hearing would be enough to generate at least one chain of quiet restaurants

But this is absolutely the wrong time to be having this conversation. 

Why would the Democrats projects weakness ahead of the 2022 congressional races?

With a 50-50 senate there are currently five toss-up races (Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin). Losing the senate is obviously terrible. Even more aggressively, this is a context where the Democrats strategy is to try and add two senators. That means winning all five toss-up races, barring a surprise. It goes without saying that if South Carolina is competitive then things are going really well, but political strategy is not usually based on the other party completely collapsing. 

It is also worth noting all of the key powers holding congress gives. The ability to have the Jan 6th committee is based on holding the house. The ability to appoint judges, including any surprise supreme court vacancies, is based on holding the senate. There are other nice features, like the ability to pass reconciliation bills that can't be held hostage that are based on congressional control. This stuff is important.

Based in the 2020 timelines, events that you need to be ready for start around February of the election year. Lynden Johnson dropped out of a president race on March 31, 1968 -- the same year as the election. So if Joe Biden had a thoughtful conversation over the summer of 2023 that would be plenty of time for the 2024 elections. But more importantly, unless he is about to actually resign and have Kamela Harris be the incumbent, how does talking about it now help?

Even if you wanted Kamela, would it not make sense to wait for 2 years to fully pass given the 22nd amendment to maximize possible future options. Keep in mind, this argument is about the future of the candidate and not his present. 

Finally, would it even be good politics for Joe Biden to retire? I think that the jury is definitely out. Keep in mind that it is possible that Donald Trump will run in 2024. Obviously, Biden versus Trump is a known good match-up. The age issue is less salient politically when two candidates of similar ages are running and Biden has a style that is very good at kicking Trump off of his rhythm. If it is a different candidate then maybe calculations need to be made but the key issue is how Biden is holding up health-wise, and that is not an easy criterion to evaluate externally. 

But no matter how you look at it, the mid-terms are a crucial piece of information about a decision that is currently not even remotely time sensitive. There are actual years before the decision would need to be made and all a premature decision would do is bring about lame duck status even faster and make things look bad before the midterm elections. How does this help? 

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