Jack DeVine / August 18, 2022

Time for a Clean Slate

A Trump/Biden rematch would be a real blast — but just think of the four-year hangover to follow!

Trump vs. Biden in 2024! The rematch of the century! Are you ready to rumble?

Actually, no. Elections are not about settling old scores. Elections are about the future.

Every presidential election is important, but the next one looms as pivotal for the nation’s future, and perhaps even for its survival. Right now, we are facing simultaneous crises — a struggling economy; a very real threat of world war among nuclear-armed nations; energy availability, reliability, and cost issues; and climate and other environmental challenges — with few solutions on the horizon.

Going forward, we need long-term leadership with the vision and capability to navigate these treacherous waters and the political acumen to galvanize public support in doing so — and without the hyper-partisanship that stifles all progress. Clearly, neither Donald Trump nor Joe Biden is that leader.

However enticing, the worst possible 2024 election scenario would be a Trump/Biden rematch. Imagine waking up the next morning with a president-elect Trump or Biden — a four-year hangover after the wild party.

But that’s exactly where we are headed. 2024 may seem far away, but it’s not too early — and it may soon be too late — to change that course.

Here’s how the race is shaping up today. Six months ago, a Trump revival seemed unlikely. Now, in large part because of the Democrats’ obsessive effort to demonize him, it seems nearly certain.

Many in the GOP like the idea of a Trump entry in the race, including the combative and perpetually aggrieved (with good reason) Trump himself, along with a significant slice of his support base. They like his policies, they admire his resilience, and they relish the opportunity to turn the tables on their political opponents.

But the most enthusiastic champions of a Trump run in 2024 are the Democrats. Their election strategy is obvious. For all their handwringing about the monumental risk of a Trump presidency, Democrats want the electorate to render that judgment at the polls, both in this year’s midterms and then again in the presidential election.

All of their actions point in that direction, including the endless hype regarding Trump’s role in the January 6 Capitol riot, their financial support of Trump-endorsed midterm candidates (thus keeping private-citizen Trump on every ballot), and then last week’s FBI raid on Trump’s private residence.

The composite effect has been to trigger Trump’s and his supporters’ anger at the opposition, spur their enthusiasm for a rematch, and at the same time leave him badly wounded in the public eye. It’s a risky bet for Democrats but quite possibly their only shot for success in the 2024 election.

Joe Biden’s role in that race is less clear. The Democrats’ political challenges are glaringly obvious: Biden’s dismal performance on the job, his age and evident decline, and his equally unimpressive vice president.

Biden pulled a rabbit out of his hat in 2020, winning the election primarily by being Not Trump and with a massive assist from fawning media, COVID, Zuckerbucks, sweeping “emergency” voting rule changes, and perhaps other shenanigans. But his was a symbolic candidacy, not a policy one — Mr. Nice Guy vs. your crazy uncle — and it worked.

A winning 2024 strategy for the Democrats could be to stick with Biden for as long as possible, featuring him as the candidate deserving their support as he soldiers on, sacrificing his golden years to once again protect the nation from the orange-haired ogre. It might work if the Democrats could also gracefully (somehow) elevate a more suitable surrogate to the VP slot, who could take over when and if Biden falters during or after the presidential run.

But regardless of either side’s success potential, neither Trump nor Biden is right for America’s future. The dead-end march to a Trump/Biden rematch is the product of a myopic political machine more concerned with winning elections than with leading our nation. Imagine instead a 2024 presidential race between the best of the best from both political parties.

The jackpot question is how we get there, how we convince our respective political parties to put country first. To do so, we must make our wishes loud and clear, encouraging and supporting new candidates from within both parties and being open to the possibility of a third-party candidacy. The latter has never worked before, but this may be the right time for firsts.

Both sides must make tough choices to find the right candidates and move ahead without fracturing their memberships. But they — and the electorate — must confront those choices now, lest we find ourselves at the voting booth holding our noses and choosing between the lesser evil.

We need a clean slate.

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