On Tuesday, President Joe Biden started a reelection campaign unlike any other, urging Americans to vote for him again to safeguard democracy, less than three years after his defeat of Donald Trump was intended to restore normalcy and unity in the country.
Biden’s bid for a second term will take place in what would typically be extremely unfavorable circumstances, with his support rating in the low 40s and the country fatigued by consecutive crises after pandemic isolation gave way to a war with skyrocketing inflation. According to polls, a majority of voters, including a majority of Democrats, do not want him to run again. And the country appears to be against a rematch between Biden and the 45th president, who is currently the frontrunner in the Republican primary contest.
However, Trump’s strength inside the Republican Party is the driving force behind Biden’s campaign. The incumbent believes he has the best chance Democrats have of preventing his predecessor from earning a second term that will almost certainly be even more wild than the first.
After a lifetime in politics, Biden is starting his final campaign from a familiar place of low expectations. But, by positioning himself as the antidote to Republican radicalism, he has repeatedly defied conventional political wisdom and connected with swing voters. Even though much of his party appears to want an alternative, Biden appears to be strong enough to stave off any substantial primary challengers.
On Tuesday, the president launched his reelection campaign with the release of a campaign video, four years to the day after commencing what was then viewed as a long-shot quest to fulfill a White House dream sparked by an unsuccessful race for the Democratic nomination in 1988.
“When I ran for president four years ago, I said we were fighting for America’s soul.” And we are still,” he stated in the film, which began with visuals of January 6, 2021, insurgency and abortion rights activists marching at the United States Supreme Court.
Biden’s video makes it apparent that he will run against Republican “MAGA extremism,” which he sees as a significant threat to democracy and abortion rights, rather than his record in office. The film depicted Trump and his arguably most dangerous Republican primary opponent, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, as twin leaders in Republican radicalism. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a far-right Georgia Republican, was also featured. Biden committed to fighting for American democratic and personal freedoms, as well as Social Security retirement benefits, in the future.
“That’s been the work of my first term – to fight for our democracy,” Biden added, cautioning that now was not the time to relax.
In response, the Republican National Committee released its film, depicting a futuristic image of a globe and a nation in disorder during Biden’s second term, afflicted by war, a border crisis, rampant crime, and domestic financial collapse. “Who’s in charge here?” the video concluded. “It appears that the train is about to derail.”
Surprisingly, the same impulse that drove Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign – Trump’s challenge to US democratic institutions and ideals – will serve as the cornerstone of his reelection campaign. Amid an unannounced 2024 run, Biden has railed against “MAGA extremism” and anchored a stunning Democratic showing in the 2022 midterms on the same platform.
Reasons why the United States might not want Biden or Trump
It will be months before the first votes in the Republican primary are cast. And the next president of the United States will be chosen in more than 18 months. Events that have yet to occur in the United States and abroad have the potential to alter the race. Unexpected developments in the lives and careers of Biden and Trump, as well as the handful of other contenders competing for the Republican candidacy, might change everything. And recent elections have demonstrated that punditry and polling do not always catch unexpected outcomes.
Nonetheless, circumstances are creating a one-of-a-kind presidential contest that reflects the country’s polarized, unsettled mood and will certainly test democratic institutions and American unity once more.
This is a country that frequently uses elections to empower a new generation. However, it is now considering a race between an incumbent who will be 86 by the conclusion of his second term and a challenger who will be 82 at the same time. The oldest combined battle in US presidential history would likely be welcomed by Biden, as the optics of a matchup against a younger candidate, such as Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has yet to declare a primary run, may change the tone of the election.
In an even more extraordinary twist, Trump is attempting to repeat a feat accomplished just once in US history – by Grover Cleveland, who served nonconsecutive terms after re-election in 1892.
In 2024, Trump’s political endurance is another outlier.
Presidents who are defeated after only one term usually retire and do not return to challenge their vanquisher. However, Trump remains the most powerful person in the Republican Party that he has ripped from its corporate foundations and transformed into a populist conduit for conservative cultural warfare. Even more astonishing, Trump is attempting a comeback despite leaving office in disgrace after being impeached twice for misusing power. To retain power in 2020, he refused to accept the will of the voters and incited an insurgency.
In his inaugural address two weeks after Trump’s mob stormed Congress, Biden told Americans, “We have learned again that democracy is precious, democracy is fragile, and at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”
However, the fact that Biden is running for reelection again, warning that democracy is under attack, underscores the reality of a society embroiled in an existential conflict over its institutions, still suffering from the influence of the most volatile presidency – and ex-presidency – in history.
Trump’s threat to democracy has only grown, which will be an issue in Biden’s campaign. He promises to purge Washington’s professional civil service and to dismantle the Justice Department, which he alleges is subjecting him to political persecution.
Trump declared during his first campaign event in Waco, Texas, last month, “Either the deep state destroys America, or we destroy the deep state.”
He vowed to rid the legal system of “thugs and criminals,” adding chillingly, “I am your warrior.” “I am your judge.”
Under several indictments, Biden might face a challenger
Trump’s anti-democratic rhetoric highlights another remarkable aspect of the 2024 election, which Biden is likely to officially enter on Tuesday.
The former president’s assertions of political persecution are based on the numerous legal threats that distinguish his campaign from all others. Trump is facing criminal charges for attempting to steal the 2020 election and, separately, for hoarding secret materials at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
Fani Willis, the district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia, announced on Monday that she will announce this summer whether she would charge Trump and friends in connection with their attempt to overturn his loss in the Peach State in 2020. Already, Trump has been charged criminally in Manhattan in connection with a hush money payment to an adult film actor before the 2016 election. In New York, Trump has pled not guilty and insists that he has done nothing illegal in any of the allegations against him.
While Trump appears to have benefited politically in the short term from the Manhattan indictment, there is no precedent for a presidential candidate facing multiple and concurrent criminal investigations, and such a scenario could play into the hands of a candidate like DeSantis, who is promising to implement a Trump-style agenda without the unhinged distractions that typically surround the ex-president.
At this point, though, no potential GOP competitor has managed or dared to use Trump’s legal problems for political gain, which contributes to many Democrats’ assumption that he will win the GOP nomination.
Biden cannot rely solely on the fact that he is not Trump
Biden framed his 2020 campaign, presidency, and run-up to reelection by who he is not: Trump. When discussing his political endeavors, he frequently says, “Don’t compare me to the Almighty, compare me to the alternative.” However, this will not suffice as he pursues a second term. In the aftermath of Trump’s resignation, Biden will have to defend his administration and persuade Americans that they are better off than when he took office.
He will never be able to avoid questions about his age. Republicans would argue that if he shows signs of shakiness or exhaustion, he should be retired. Younger men have been beaten by serving as president while running for president. And this race is expected to be more difficult than the previous one he contested when the Covid-19 outbreak effectively halted routine campaigning.
But Biden’s belief in the power of comparisons could work in his favor. After all, Trump would age 80 during his second term. And the president will argue that Americans cannot afford the instability that ruled during Trump’s previous presidency. He can point to a massive bipartisan infrastructure measure, which the White House claims is sparking an industrial renaissance in the Midwest. While Biden has been in office, unemployment has continually been at record lows, even though the highest inflation in 40 years – which has now significantly slowed but which the president has minimized – convinced many Americans that they were in a lengthy economic crisis. Last year’s high gas prices had a similar effect. And any collapse next year may be terrible for the president’s expectations, feeding Trump’s selective claims that the country was in a golden age while he was in charge.
As he claims to have fought democracy at home, Biden will very doubt contrast his resurrected Western alliance in support of Ukraine with Trump’s ongoing hero worship of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Democrats will also try to capitalize on the rejection of the constitutional right to abortion by a conservative Supreme Court majority led by Trump, as well as the continued conservative push to outlaw the procedure. Some moderate Republicans are worried that Biden would hit a gold mine on the issue, which has already mobilized voters in races since Roe v. Wade was overturned last summer.
Finally, the president understands that his fate will be decided by the same swing states that voted him into office by razor-thin margins, including Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona, and Pennsylvania. Democrats will rely on facts from the previous three national elections, which demonstrated that the ex-president was devastating for GOP chances in many of the most competitive states.
So, while Biden will have to run on his record like any other incumbent, he will almost certainly center his campaign on Trump.
Biden invoked MAGA – his derogatory code phrase for Trump Republicans – more than 20 times in a speech this month in Maryland.
It was an obvious indication. Even if Trump does not become the Republican nominee, Biden intends to run against him.