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US election 2024: Joe Biden is why Donald Trump may return as President 

By Spenser Walsh, Exchange Student from Tufts University, USA

The list of scandalous things Donald Trump has done is too numerous to list. From bragging about committing sexual assault to denying his 2020 loss, he remains an incredibly divisive figure. Yet, he is also an incredibly consistent figure. Trump will almost certainly be the 2024 Republican Party (GOP) nominee and has led in all polling since late last year. However, as someone who has averaged a 36 to 44% approval rating almost completely since 2015, he is the closest thing to a dependent variable we have in American politics. Most either love or hate him and are unlikely to change their minds. To look at why someone as unpopular as him maybe let back in the White House, we must look at the slow disintegration of Joe Biden. 

“The crises that seemed inherent to Trump’s governance have been just as present under Biden.”

At 77 years old, Joe Biden won the 2020 election, promising to defeat Donald Trump and “restore the soul of the nation” and a sense of calm in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the pandemic. Since then, cases of COVID have soared, inflation has increased and then slowly come down, a substantial safety net, including a child tax credit that cut child poverty in half, was created and destroyed within two years, and Russia has invaded Ukraine, leading to prolonged Ukrainian suffering and eye-watering sums of taxpayer money being sent to the country. In other words, the crises that seemed inherent to Trump’s governance have been just as present under Biden. 

What’s more, and this deserves its own paragraph, he’s old. Biden will be 82 years old at the end of his second term, a hard truth that, in the wake of his repeated insistence that he’s recently met with long-dead world leaders, is becoming harder for even Biden diehards to ignore. Sure, Trump says crazy things regularly, but everyone who supports him knows he’s not the brightest bulb. For Biden, who runs on competence, a clearly aged mind is a worrying problem. A stunning 86% of Americans think their current president is too old for a second term.

This dynamic is the competency drain on Biden’s popularity, which is most likely to hurt him with the newest additions to the Democratic coalition: white people in suburbs that were Republican until the Trump area. This includes areas outside the cities of Atlanta, Philadelphia, Detroit, Milwaukee, Phoenix, and Las Vegas. All these places swung to Biden due to the rightward shift of Trump’s GOP, but many voted for Trump in 2016. They don’t like him, but would the aforementioned factors cause these voters to hold their noses and vote for Trump? Polls certainly suggest it. 

Biden is facing a 20-point deficit in handling the economy, one of the most important issues. 75% of voters have concerns about the mental/physical health of the president, while 61% have concerns about Trump’s myriad legal troubles, putting in perspective two of the candidate’s biggest respective handicaps. 

Honestly, if Biden only had this to contend with, he very well could pull through. Many Americans really do despise Trump. But October 7th 2023, changed everything. The terror attacks followed by what the ICJ calls a plausible genocide rocked American politics, as it did the world. Biden’s utter refusal to use America’s status as the chief funder of Israel’s slaughter in Gaza to stop it disgusted his base at several key levels, making the odds of his return to the White House go from challenging to downright perilous. 

Two-thirds of American voters, including 77% of Democrats and 69% of the vaunted independent voters, support a ceasefire in Gaza, and this number grows every day as the killing of civilians continues. This dissatisfaction is spreading to some of the most important parts of the Democratic base. Sure, swing voters are important (although they are also souring on Biden for the aforementioned reasons), but they are nothing if you don’t have your base, which Biden is watching erode around him in real time.

A remarkable New York Times story about black church leaders pressuring Biden to call for a ceasefire highlighted the dissatisfaction of one of Biden’s most loyal and important constituencies, elderly black people. Polling has shown black people sympathise highly with Gaza, a factor that may be behind Biden’s stark approval drop with black voters. Democrats can’t win without black voters. In 2020, Biden received 92% of the black vote; by November, it was 63%, a 16% drop from August 2023. 

Michigan’s recent primary election provides the clearest electoral example of trouble. In Michigan, a critical marginal state with a high Arab Muslim population, Democrats had the option to support their incumbent president or support activists’ call to vote ‘uncommitted’ as a protest vote against Biden’s handling of Gaza. More than 101,000 people voted ‘uncommitted’, nearly five times the number received in normal uncontested primaries, with the highest percentages coming from predominantly younger, black, and Muslim areas alike. This puts Biden’s status in the state in serious doubt this November. 

From fears of weakness and incompetence borne of age concerns and increasing crises to revulsion from the Democratic base to the cruelty in Gaza, an unchanging Biden seems increasingly likely to bring back Trump later this year. 

Photo caption: President Joe Biden gives remarks to NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium 24 March, 2022

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