While Trump was present at neither of the GOP’s debates thus far, he may as well have taken center stage. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his staunch social conservatism have lost their initial traction. Other Republican candidates were so preoccupied with answering questions about Trump and throwing darts at each other that they could hardly get a word in edgewise about themselves. Vivek Ramaswamy, a rising GOP star, has built his entire campaign on being a Donald Trump superfan.
Unshakeable even after an attempted coup, a slew of sexual assault allegations, election interference, and many more, Trump dominates the Republican polls and is skating toward the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden’s age is the object of absolute media infatuation. With every pause and stutter that Biden takes comes a barrage of headlines about a brain ravaged by time, pundits shaking their heads solemnly at his purported mental fade. The oversaturation of American politics with senile politicians certainly does not help. With every video of the frail-looking Senator Dianne Feinstein rolling across the Senate Floor in a wheelchair, or of Senator Mitch McConnell standing frozen before a group of journalists, his eyes glazed over, America’s trust in its gerontocracy wavers. With it, so does voters’ conviction in 80-year-old Biden.
A recent poll by the Wall Street Journal revealed that a monumental 73 percent of American registered voters, and 69 percent of Democrats, believe that Biden’s age renders him incapacitated for a second term. Only 47 percent of voters say the same about Trump, who, at 77 years old, is a mere three years Biden’s junior.
Some other politicians have taken note — a round of applause for Senator Mitt Romney’s noble decision to bow out at the senatorially fresh-faced and youthful age of 76. This, however, does not change the fact that the 2024 presidential elections will in all likelihood be a repeat of 2020: yet another showdown between two geriatric white men, Donald Trump and Joe Biden. But why the fixation on Biden’s age and not Trump’s?
What it boils down to is that Biden’s presidency has been banal and unremarkable enough that his age jumps out as offensive, especially considering the theatrics of his predecessor. The frequency of Trump’s tantrums and the multitude of his scandals ensure that no single shortcoming, including his age, can stand out as particularly alarming. A story about Trump in a flab-revealing golfing outfit pales in comparison to one about hush money paid to a porn star to cover up an affair. Inundated by Trump’s steady stream of scandals, the left-wing media just hasn’t been given a moment to hone in on Trump’s age.
But Trump is really old, too. If he were to serve an additional four years at the White House, he would be 81 years old at the end of his term and thus be the oldest president in US history. And besides his zealous, ear-shattering speeches that project an illusion of vitality, he displays abundant signs of mental fray. Largely to the credit of differing media coverage, we’ve somehow come to accept Trump’s ludicrousness as part of his whimsical personality, and Biden’s oral gaffes as attributable to his senility.
Really, though, are Biden’s oratory fumblings firmer evidence of cognitive fade than Trump’s tangents? Biden may on occasion embark on a futile search for the right word and struggle with too rapid a cadence, but he is generally coherent and grounded. Trump’s hallucinatory ravings, on the other hand, teeter on the edge of insanity.
Just this year, reflecting upon the construction of the Panama Canal, he mused, “We lost 35,000 people to the mosquito. Malaria. We lost 35,000 people. We lost 35,000 people because of the mosquito. Vicious. They had to build under nets. It was one of the true great wonders of the world. One of the nine wonders,” he added, then corrected himself. “No, no, it was one of the seven,” he insisted before venturing, “You could make nine wonders.” This is also the same man who recommended injections of bleach into the human body to fight Covid. He is a raging dumpster fire of off-the-cuff, garbled observations, certainly not the pinnacle of mental sharpness.
Both candidates are old, older than a presidential candidate ought to be. Neither one’s youth can provide them with an edge. So discard all notions that age should be a relevant factor, much less the tipping point. Far more pertinent is the problem of Trump’s character, considerations of which ought to overtake all else. As the number of Trump’s criminal charges has been steadily climbing over the past few months — 91 and counting — they have begun to blur together. The headlines have lost their shock value and 91 has begun to seem like just a number. However, American voters must resist desensitization. Each and every tally speaks volumes about his avarice and depravity.
Still, the echoes ring hollow when we’re dealing with an electoral audience that has proven, time and time again, to be more than willing to overlook Trump’s many moral failings. Never mind his crude comments about his own daughter, his financial malfeasance, and his piling rape allegations.
Every charge brought against Trump feeds into his woe-is-me act and makes his sycophants adore him even more, perplexing as it is. When Trump was first charged in April of this year for the Stormy Daniels scandal, Marjorie Taylor Greene was quick to compare Trump to Jesus and Nelson Mandela. Resounding cries of a purported witch-hunt rang out from among his supporters. Trump’s scowling mugshot now graces coffee mugs. Fox News’s Jesse Watters practically swooned over the photo. “I say this with an unblemished record of heterosexuality. He looks good, and he looks hard,” Watters gushed.
It’s not just Trump’s inner circle. A Washington Post-ABC poll shows that Biden drags behind Trump by nine percentage points. In this hypothetical matchup, Trump has 51 percent support, while Biden has 42 percent. Trump has somehow convinced a slight majority of the American electorate that he is deserving of the presidency, or at least more so than Biden. It is too high of a number to be made up solely of Trumpian fanatics, abundant as they are. Trump has evidently harnessed the support of many moderate and independent voters, who are willing to turn a blind eye to Trump’s array of wrongdoings because of Biden’s age or because he is not the most graceful orator. It’s simply baffling that so many American voters can sigh and shake their heads at this decision between a man with a stutter and a rapist, that it will in all likelihood come down to bated breaths and wafer-thin margins.
Even if we are to operate under the doubtful assumption that Biden is further mentally gone than Trump, Biden’s age cannot weigh as heavily on the scales of electoral decision-making as the malevolence of Trump’s character. Biden may be old, but his age does not demoralize him. Picking Biden would not be identifying the lesser of two evils, it would be making the necessary distinction between imperfection and evil, between democracy and autocracy.
Is Biden old? Yes. Absolutely. I would love to see a viable Democratic candidate with a bit more vibrancy and ardor, but such a candidate simply is not on the playing field at the moment. The Democratic Party has, albeit reluctantly, huddled around Biden. And so must voters, at least those who hope for a democratic American future.
If the unideal choice before Americans ends up being between Biden, with his imperfections, and Trump, with his, rejecting Biden because of his age would not be the sound choice. Another four years of Biden may be rather uninspiring, but it doesn’t instill alarm. It hardly threatens to capsize American democracy in the way that another Trump presidency undoubtedly would.