Biden in ’24!

I never write anything I don’t believe — at least at the time I wrote it. But sometimes I like to go against the grain, to be contrary not just for the joy of being obstinate (though there is considerable fun in that), but as a way to think through a situation. Sometimes it’s helpful not to take the conventional view and see how the reverse argument comes out.

One thing I truly detest is opinion writers who just pander to their base and never miss a chance to validate the common wisdom in their tribe, those who see a parade and run to catch up and lead it. When I see a parade, I go the other way. It’s less crowded and more peaceful over there. You can hear yourself think.

So, now with his favorability ratings at an all time low, with the number of Americans who think we’re headed in the right direction able to meet in a phone booth (if they could find one or, for that matter, knew what one was) and two-thirds of even Democrats saying they don’t want him to run again, let me rush to the defense of Joe Biden.

Let’s start with his accomplishments, which are significant.

As I wrote the other day in defending another wildly popular Democrat, Joe Manchin, the country has made great progress in the last 18 months. We’ve finally passed a huge infrastructure repair bill after a decade or more of trying. This will make our roads safer, our whole transportation network more efficient (and with it our economy), our broadband broader and faster and it will put a lot of Americans to work in well-paying, family-supporting jobs. It’s especially good for blue collar workers without a college degree, people who have been ignored for too long.

Another big package was the American Rescue Plan. I can quibble that it was bigger than needed and probably contributed some (but not much) to our current inflationary pressures, but it did a lot of good stuff. The best thing, in my view, was the refundable child tax credit, which made direct monthly payments to parents. It was projected to reduce child poverty by about half. Yes, it went away at the end of last year, but it served as proof of concept. Even some Republicans, like Mitt Romney, liked it. It’ll be back.

Next, there’s restoring balance to our courts. As of last fall, Biden had had more federal judges confirmed than any president since Richard Nixon through the first several months of his term.

Speaking of judges, Biden appointed the first Black woman to the Supreme Court. Ketanji Brown Jackson is only 51-years old. She could serve for three decades.

Those are some of the specifics, but the less tangible stuff is even more important. Biden observes norms. He speaks like a president. He doesn’t Tweet out sophomoric, barely literate insults and nonsense. He observes decorum and the informal, but vital, rules of the game. He’s trying to bolster our institutions, not undermine them. He’s as much of a gentleman as any pol can be. We — even Democrats — are taking this for granted. Don’t. Remember what it was like to have a lying, corrupt buffoon in the White House.

And Biden has restored our credibility abroad. America once again speaks the language of classic liberalism, not the quasi-fascism we had for four years. This is another thing too many of us are just taking for granted.

Biden’s numbers are bad now because of two categories of things — those he can’t control and those he can, and it’s the things out of his reach that are costing him the most support. Aside from the relatively minor effects of the American Rescue Plan, inflation is raging mostly because of pent up demand, supply chain issues and Putin’s war in the Ukraine. Crime started back up again under Trump and has been exasperated by the social effects of COVID.

As for his mistakes, he’s made about as many as any president through this part of his term. Things started going south for him with the withdrawal from Afghanistan. I agree with the majority of Americans who think that his administration botched the withdrawal and I’m in a tiny minority who think we should not have left in the first place.

But his main problem was a fundamental miscalculation about domestic issues. He swung for the fences and struck out when he should have been playing small ball and taking the bases that were given him.

As one moderate Dem House member famously said, “he was elected to be normal.” But he tried to be FDR and LBJ rolled into one. With no room to spare he tried to squeeze through a huge spending package called Build Back Better and spent enormous political capital on a voting rights bill. In retrospect neither had much of a chance from the start because only one senator could derail anything. That senator was Manchin though Kirsten Sinema joined in sometimes and it’s possible there were others hiding behind them.

I think I understand why Biden thought he had to do this. He’s straddling the divide between progressive (I would say “hard-left”) Democrats and moderate Democrats, like me. But even I liked most of what was in Build Back Better and the voting rights bill. These were things that I thought would unite Democrats and, when in place, be popular with the public as a whole. But what Biden should have appreciated, with all his service in DC, was that he wasn’t going to get every vote in the Senate. He was promising things he couldn’t deliver.

And the costs of failure were high. Instead of focussing on the big accomplishments I’ve listed above, the narrative of his presidency became that of what didn’t get done. Progressives are frustrated that they didn’t get things they had no realistic chance of ever getting and they’re blaming Biden.

The desire to hold the coalition together also forced him into doing unwise things. For example, on the eve of the voting rights bill being voted down, he went to Georgia to make an over-the-top speech intended to show progressives that he was fighting as hard as he could. But that only made the inevitable failure that much worse. Most politicians don’t want to be anywhere near failure, but Biden rushed into the burning building.

So, like Bill Clinton in 1994, Biden needs to reset. Make no more grand proposals. Get what you can before Democrats lose their House majority for sure, and probably their Senate majority as well, in January. Manchin has said he’s still open to something on prescription drug costs and Obamacare subsidies. Good. Take that and add it to the list of accomplishments. And just spend the rest of the term acting decent and normal and dignified and see what happens.

Big picture, here’s my theory of the race in ’24. Inflation will let up and the strong employment economy will continue. Some peace agreement will take hold in Ukraine. Because his party will no longer control Congress, there will be no pressure from the left to do anything dramatic. Meanwhile, Trump will keep being Trump. Voters will have daily reminders of what it was like to have him in the White House. Biden’s approval ratings will improve very slowly but also steadily.

And, frankly folks, who else you got? Kamala Harris and Gavin Newsom would lose badly, while Biden, for all his troubles, still beats Trump 44%-41% in a head-to-head matchup. Right now I don’t see another horse any prettier than the one I’ve got.

Get me a bumper sticker. Joe in ’24!

And on another matter… Every few years somebody proposes that the Madison City Council should be reduced in size and go full time. The only other “professional” council in Wisconsin is in Milwaukee. The Journal Sentinel reports that in the last two decades alone — and most recently just this week — no fewer then six Milwaukee alders have been convicted and removed from office on various corruption charges. Really think you’d get better representation from full time alders?


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

15 thoughts on “Biden in ’24!

  1. I think you’re pros/cons list is a bit short on the cons side Dave.

    Biden supported the riots of summer 2020.

    He continued the lockdown of the nation for a virus that was and is known to be as lethal as a bad flu. The continuing lockdown set back child education by years and many thousands of businesses have been shuttered. The CDC under his watch has become a laughingstock for all but Big Pharma. The FDA is not much better.

    On the international stage, Biden is seen for what he is – a buffoon. He can’t get through a teleprompter feed without screwing up and has to be man-handled off the stage. He is obviously incompetent. His decision to throw >$50B to Ukraine, with congressional support, is an obscene gesture to everyone but the military industrial complex and Zelenskyi. He flirts with nuclear war. That by itself is an immediate disqualifier in my book.

    He is shutting down oil exploration at a time when it is most needed. He is begging Saudi Arabia for gas. When he took over the country, we were an oil-exporter.

    He is in full support of ‘Build Back Better’ which is a term, concept and marching orders from the World Economic Forum. He appears to be in full support of the WHO’s attempt to takeover decision making authority for health issues from the US and every other nation. A clear violation of the constitution.

    It is possible he is one of the most corrupt politicians in US history. His personal and family involvement in Ukraine needs investigation.

    I don’t have more time to get into more details, but I find it concerning that you support someone who is likely to go down in history as one of the worst presidents we have ever had.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “He continued the lockdown of the nation for a virus that was and is known to be as lethal as a bad flu.”

      Wow, you’ve completely undercut the credibility of your comment with a comment that false and ignorant. The most flu deaths we’ve had in the past decade was 61,000 in 2017. And that was without lockdowns (with lockdowns that number would obviously have been substantially lower).

      There have been over 350,000 COVID deaths in the US in both 2020 and 2021 despite massive lockdowns and other unprecedented interventions (and for direct comparison, due to the lockdowns in 2020 we incidentally crushed the flu seeing only 700 deaths from it that year).


      1. @yeegads – The time frame I’m referring to is recorded medical history in the world. The Infection Fatality rate from coronavirus is 0.06-0.12%, which is about the same as the flus of 1957 and 1968. This number is not controversial. The vast majority of deaths were in people who were past their statistical lifespan. I do not say this to take away from any death that occurred. But when decisions to lock down society are being made, it is crucial to look at the data dispassionately. If we don’t, and we didn’t, we make the situation far worse than it would have been.

        For more information than you likely want to hear, here’s a link to a discussion led by Dr. John Ioannidis MD,PhD, an internationally famous epidemiologist from Stanford. He is the most cited professional in his field. He also thinks for himself and is willing to go against the standard narrative when the facts don’t match the story. It’s a 1.5 hour discussion. You can skip to the 15 minute point to get the specific cite.


      2. @Michael Leger

        “The vast majority of deaths were in people who were past their statistical lifespan.” If that were true they would no longer have been alive. To mention nothing of the fact that over half a million of those deaths have occurred in the US among people under age 65.

        “it is crucial to look at the data dispassionately.” I agree, and looking at it dispassionately we have a direct comparison of how lethal COVID is relative to the flu. As described in my previous comment: in 2020 as a result of hard lockdowns and other major interventions, flu deaths plummeted to 700, while COVID deaths were astronomically higher in the hundreds of thousands.


  2. I’m reminded of NFL coach Jim Mora’s infamous press conference after his haplesx Colts lost another game in spectacular fashion. A reporter asked if he thought the team could still make the playoffs. Mora replied:

    “Playoffs? Don’t talk about?playoffs?! You kidding me? Playoffs?! I just hope we can win a game! Another game!”

    24? Really? 24? The country is hoping Biden can get through the next press conference! The man is senile and the whole world knows it! The only saving grace is he’s so out of it the Fed can do whatever it wants to fix inflation and he won’t interfere.

    I think there is only 30% chance he finishes the current term at the rate he is deteriorating. And then we have a much bigger problem.


  3. Generally well said. As for who else might be out there for 2024? He doesn’t have a huge national profile, but one name I’d throw into the ring is North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper. He’s pragmatic, doesn’t delve into the culture wars, and is a spring chicken compared to Biden at 65.


      1. Well, yeah, that was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but I really do think there are practical things that Biden could do to simply move better. May sound trivial, but he does in fact come off like the 79-year old guy he is and then some while I know people close to his age (and yeah most of them do yoga) who look ten years younger. I remember when Reagan was running for reelection his camp got him a story in Parade Magazine with a cover picture of him doing arm curls. Created an image of vigor. Nobody seems to be paying attention to this on the Biden team.


      2. That’s why they put him on the bicycle, to look younger, but his brain can’t function well enough to ride safely or even stop safely. It is elder abuse at this point. He has aged twenty years in two. A Place For Mom is calling him.


      3. Unfortunately he went the easy route and got a facelift. I thought Hillary would get in shape for the 2016 campaign…nope. It seems that a lot of people that go into politics are not into healthy living; our own William Proxmire being a notable exception.


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