Home / Opinion / Views /  Please abandon your plan to run again, President Biden

US President Joe Biden gave one of his best speeches ever in his second State of the Union Address on Tuesday. He displayed energy, wit, combativeness and a grip on policy, even while looking away from the teleprompters. Yet his party, his country and the world would be better off were he to decide not to run for US President in 2024.

Jacinda Ardern, the most admired prime minister New Zealand has ever had, voluntarily stepped down early in January, saying she didn’t have enough left in the tank to continue. That is rare self-awareness for a politician. Biden clearly does not feel the same way — he considers himself to be a suitable boy, especially if his rival is going to be former president Donald Trump.

No one can blame any Democrat for wanting to take a run at Trump, especially when he has been defeated once. But there are two things wrong about such conditional construction of the Democrat’s presidential candidacy.

Trump is no shoe-in for the Republican nomination. Many Republicans, even those who were happy to support him when he was in office, now feel the party would be better off with a younger, less controversial candidate like Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida.

If Biden offers himself as a candidate for president, fellow Democrats may feel constrained to give him a free pass rather than contest that nomination. While first-term presidents have faced challenges from their own partymen when up for re-election, for a rival Democrat to attack the incumbent president and his record in office might well serve to totally undermine the Democrats’ case altogether, given the extreme polarisation and partisanship of the current American polity.

If Biden looks to secure an uncontested party nomination in 2024 for a rematch with Trump and the Republicans ditch the former US president in favour of someone younger and less prone to controversy, the Democrats will be left flatfooted, with an 82-year-old candidate who garbles his speech and often has to be corrected by his officials.

(This isn't at all about age. People live longer these days and are able to work far longer than they could just a few years ago.)

After Biden called Putin a murderer who should not continue in office, State Department officials had to rush to clarify that the US wasn't seeking regime change in Russia. Another gaffe was to deviate from America’s preferred ambiguity on how it would respond to a forcible Chinese takeover of Taiwan. Biden said, twice, that the US would defend Taiwan, only for that emphatic clarity to be walked back by his officials.

On the timetable for withdrawing from Afghanistan, Biden forgot to consult his NATO allies and unilaterally announced America’s exit without securing any effective guarantees from the Taliban on how they would treat Afghans once Western forces left the country. Biden also didn’t think it necessary to inform America’s oldest ally in Europe, France — which gifted Americans their Statue of Liberty after helping them in their war of independence against the British — of a plan to persuade Australia to cancel a valuable nuclear submarine contract with a French company in favour of an Anglo-American one. The French also weren’t taken on board when the US formed the AUKUS pact with Britain and Australia to take on China in the Indo-Pacific.

Apart from such errors of omission in Asia, Biden embraced errors of commission in Europe when Russia invaded Ukraine. He backed and armed Ukraine to the hilt, led the imposition of sanctions against Russia, inflicted pain on European industry and consumers and on the emerging world, which saw its recovery from the pandemic being choked off by high oil, food and commodity prices. The pain of Europe and the developing world was matched by the gain of American manufacturers of oil, gas and weapons.

A precarious majority in both Houses of Congress allowed Biden to get some key laws passed that would give the US a boost in some green technologies, much to Europe’s chagrin. Biden’s policy towards China continues to be confrontational, with a ban on the sale of advanced semiconductors or vital American technology that’s aimed at halting China’s progress on artificial intelligence, quantum computing and communications.

This could create cracks in the global trading system, depress trade and constrain Asian prosperity, including India’s. A more sensible approach would have been to widen the definition of dual-use technologies to include advanced silicon in the list of items controlled by the Wassenaar Arrangement, which restricts trade in dual-use technologies.

It’s true that under Biden, the Democrats averted a rout in the midterm elections towards the end of 2022. But it is also true that they failed to capitalise on widespread concern among American women about the Republican effort, endorsed by a conservative Supreme Court, to take away women’s control over their own bodies and hand it over to anti-abortionist local politicians.

The Biden administration’s policy on immigration in general, and on the influx across the southern border with Mexico in particular, continues to be muddled. America’s economic woes can hardly be placed at Biden’s door, but the president’s inability to forge a new paradigm of globalisation that would broaden the base of American participation in globalised growth — to everyone’s benefit — rankles.

Extreme partisanship in the US makes politics and policy simplistic, puts a premium on American exceptionalism and its cousin, unilateralism, and makes things worse for the rest of the world.

Everyone would be better off with a new generation of leaders in the US, who could see their domestic rivalries and global conflicts of interest with a fresh set of eyes that look to the future rather than the past.

Please abandon your plan to run again, President Biden.

Catch all the Business News, Market News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on Live Mint. Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates.
More Less
Recommended For You
Get alerts on WhatsApp
Set Preferences My ReadsWatchlistFeedbackRedeem a Gift CardLogout