Incumbent presidents with remaining eligibility generally run for reelection. It’s just understood to be what presidents do. The only modern exception is Lyndon B. Johnson, who was embroiled in Vietnam and whose health was failing. But otherwise, presidents run for reelection.
So, when Biden declared last month that he was indeed seeking a second term, we all accepted the announcement as the statistical probability that it was.
Schwartz walks through the likely reasons Biden is running again.
Joe Biden: Agenda unfinished
“Despite campaign promises in both 2020 and 2022 to codify the federal abortion access ultimately struck down by the Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson, Biden has thus far been unable to deliver legislative action to ensure reproductive healthcare,” Schwart wrote, implying that codifying abortion would be a second-term priority.
A cynic might argue that Biden (a Catholic) isn’t especially concerned with codifying abortion, and that rather he prefers leaving abortion unprotected, where it can serve as the rope by which Republicans hang themselves.
Similarly, Schwartz suggests Biden has unfinished business with respect to immigration and education reform. But immigration is unlikely to be solved in one more term. And by Biden’s own admission, “I don’t know of any major change in American public policy that’s occurred by a single piece of legislation.”
“One of the strongest things Biden has going for his 2024 reelection campaign is his relatively open path to the nomination,” Schwartz wrote. This is true – but incumbents rarely face a viable challenge. The last time anything resembling a coherent challenge against an incumbent occurred was when Ted Kennedy took a run at Jimmy Carter. That was almost half a century ago and the bid failed; Carter secured the nomination. And while another Kennedy (RFK, Jr.) is running against Biden, the Democratic Party has long since congealed around Biden.
The point is that Biden having an easy path to the nomination is not some special circumstance that serves to justify why he should run for reelection. Incumbents earn the nomination when they want to earn the nomination.
Age not an issue
Schwarts argues that Biden is inverting criticism about his age into a selling point for his reelection.
“I have acquired a hell of a lot of wisdom and know more people than the vast majority of people,” Biden said recently. “I’m more experienced than anybody that’s ever run for office.” That may be true, but it doesn’t address the fact that Biden is visibly sundowning. Biden isn’t withdrawing from the race because of his age – but his age/wisdom is not why he is running for reelection.
Why is Biden running?
I appreciate Schwartz asking the question of why is Joe Biden running for reelection. But I’m not satisfied with Schwartz’s proposed answers. I don’t believe Biden 2024 is about abortion or immigration or education, or about an easy path to the nomination. Rather, my sense is that Biden’s reelection bid has a much simpler motivation based on pure political calculus: Biden and the Democrats believe Biden is the best chance to thwart a Trump victory in 2024.
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Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.