In the wake of his 80th birthday, Joe Biden is defying political forces that have pushed his white, octogenarian colleagues like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) out of party leadership.
While Biden’s age is painfully visible in one embarrassing “gaffe” after the next, the party appears prepared to acquiesce to four more years of “Sleepy Joe” for one reason only: Donald Trump.
Biden hangs on
Pelosi, 82, finally retired from party leadership after Republicans flipped the House in the midterm elections — a career move that was expected and which came after years of pressure for younger and more “diverse” leaders like Hakeem Jeffries (D-Ny.), Pelosi’s heir apparent.
House Majority leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), 83, is also retiring. But the push for fresh blood hasn’t forced Biden out just yet.
While many Democrats are uncomfortable with having Biden at the helm, they feel encouraged, as does Biden, about his prospects after Democrats evaded a widely anticipated rebuke in the midterm elections, with Democrats holding the Senate and denying Republicans a large House majority.
“Why would he get out now?” said presidential historian Douglas Brinkley. “He has no clear successor and what matters here is Trump. Joe Biden is seen as the Donald Trump slayer and many Democrats think he can do it again.”
Biden has a few things working in his favor: for one, the oldsters have been at the helm so long that the party has not cultivated a stable of capable successors.
As Democrats survey their options, a depressing reality is setting in that Biden, who turned 80 this month, might be their best choice in 2024. His immediate successor, Kamala Harris, is even more unpopular than he and is widely seen as a liability to his administration.
Biden is also, possibly, living on fumes of nostalgia: long known to Americans as a “moderate,” his age has helped soften the image of what is arguably the most far-left presidency in American history.
While Biden has not made his plans clear yet, Biden 2024 is far from a sure shot, and he acknowledged the chance that “fate” intervenes.
“My intention is that I run again,” he said this month. “But I’m a great respecter of fate.”