Donald Trump, Joe Biden, campaigning
Donald Trump (left) and Joe Biden campaigning. Photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED) and Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

It is a sad testament to US politics that Americans have to choose between Donald Trump and Joe Biden… neither of whom they like. How come?

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— Opinion —

Here is a sentence you won’t hear again today: Joe Biden got the job done!

Sadly for Democrats, that job was evicting a sociopath from the White House in 2020. Keeping him out this year is another matter altogether, and last night’s debate (and really a lot that has happened this year) has shown that the past-aging president is clearly not up to it.

We’re not going to pile on and say that Biden should drop out. Everybody is going to do that… as did we last year, when we said that Hunter Biden’s persecution at the hands of the GOP would be an ideal opportunity for the president to say, “I did what I had to do when my country needed me. Now it is my troubled son who needs me, and I’ll be there for him, too.”

What a graceful exit and storybook ending that would have been: First, he put country over family, and then he put family above all else to protect his son.

Biden missed that exit ramp, and mumbling his way through a debate and making it clear to even die-hard Democrats that Grandpa Joe is washed up is not a storybook ending at all.

As things stand right now, he is going to either lose in November or bow out in the coming weeks. That seems a bit unfair to a man who did, after all, vanquish Trump and had some nice accomplishments while in office, but all of that is going to be overshadowed by what comes next.

How is it possible that, out of a population of at least 150 million Americans who meet the minimum criteria to become president, Biden and Trump are the “best” the parties can come up with?

However, we won’t talk about that since everybody else will. It is the low-hanging fruit of hot post-debate takes, and, in this case, that fruit is a watermelon that is hitting everybody over the head.

What we want to talk about instead is how we got here.

How is it possible that, out of a population of at least 150 million Americans who meet the minimum criteria to become president, Biden and Trump are the “best” the parties can come up with?

There is something really wrong with a system in which the only viable options for voters (as it stands at the moment) are a convicted felon (and serial crook) with some really serious personality disorders, and a once-capable career politician who has now lost a step and, in the eyes of many Americans, a few marbles.

Realistically, they should both be in the bottom half of potential candidates… and that is being kind to Biden and extremely kind to Trump.

It’s tough to imagine which jobs they would be suited for at this point. We suppose Trump could lead a criminal outfit, and Biden would make a good figurehead on the Amtrak Board of Directors (if there is such a thing).

But neither should be president for the next four years, so why are they the only choices???

In the case of the GOP, the answer is pretty obvious: Because an angry xenophobe with a messiah complex is actually a good fit for a party of white pseudo-Christians who constantly feel aggrieved about everything.

Now, there are those who like to pretend that Trump changed the GOP, but that’s nonsense. He simply revealed the true nature of tens of millions of Republican voters who, when given the chance, embraced a platform of thinly disguised disdain for “others.”

To put it plainly, they are delighted to have a lying, election-denying racist at the top of their ticket.

In the case of the Democrats, who are not happy with their nominee, things are a bit trickier.

While the MAGA mob has taken over the GOP, Democrats are much more controlled by an “establishment” and “coastal elites” who set the party’s course. Their problem is that this course is often out of touch with what the rest of Americans want.

In recent years, more often than not, the party has chosen someone “whose time has come” as its nominee. The one time in the past three decades in which that didn’t happen was when Barack Obama won the nomination, and a landslide election, because people were genuinely excited about him in 2008.

One could argue that Bill Clinton was somewhat of an outsider as well. However, when he first ran, a lot of establishment candidates shied away from taking on George H.W. Bush because of his high approval ratings following the Persian Gulf War. Back in 1991, the smart money seemed to be on waiting out Bush’s second term and hoping that his vice president, Dan Quayle, would head the ticket in 1996.

Obama’s candidacy had a ripple effect. Because he “skipped the line,” he was indirectly responsible for the party choosing older nominees in subsequent cycles.

In 2016, it was Hillary Clinton’s turn at the top of the ticket. Sure, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) made it a bit of a race, but, apart from Obama, the candidate who generates a lot of enthusiasm rarely wins Democratic primaries.

And, because Clinton had the greatest “claim” to the Democratic nomination, then-Vice President Joe Biden had to wait his turn.

Does it sound complicated? It sure is. But don’t forget that it is not only complicated but also extremely stupid, and disrespectful to voters, to have an out-of-touch party “intelligentsia” effectively choose a nominee.

So what can be done about it?

That’s tricky.

After all, you can’t make parties select good candidates. And keep in mind that even the most competitive independent this year is a weirdo.

One step in the right direction would be to take money out of politics… at least Big Money.

Individual contributions this year are capped at $3,300 for the primary and then again for the general election.

That’s fine.

But, unfortunately, there are plenty of other ways for deep-pocketed donors to funnel unlimited amounts of money to their candidates of choice.

Without those tens of millions of dollars, more people would have a chance, especially because online fundraising would level the playing field if you take out all that corporate and billionaire money.

In that case, it would be easier for non-establishment candidates to run entirely on their messages and generate enthusiasm (and campaign donations) that way.

If you can’t find someone who can beat an unpopular and clearly unqualified opponent like Trump, it’s time to sit down and seriously reevaluate how you pick your nominees.

Say what you want about Trump, but at least his candidacy comes closer to how things should work (apart from the fact that he was able to spend millions of dollars of his own money early in the 2016 cycle to kickstart his campaign).

It’s just unfortunate that he is an awful human being, and that his message is hate.

It will be interesting to see whether the Democrats learn their lesson from the 2016 debacle and the looming 2024 disaster.

If you can’t find someone who can beat an unpopular and clearly unqualified opponent like Trump, it’s time to sit down and seriously reevaluate how you pick your nominees.

There is just one problem: The people doing the sitting down are the same ones who have been choosing establishment candidates, and they won’t want to give up that power.

Then there are the American voters, who are too often uninformed and disengaged. But who can blame them when the nominees are so atrocious?

This year’s race is like a season of American Idol in which neither contestant can carry a tune. One is a past-his-prime performer while the other is just a terrible singer who often interrupts his songs to talk about sharks.

Who will the people tune in to watch?

Obviously the second guy, who would be able to generate ratings because he at least offers entertainment, if not quality.

However, it would be a different story if both were actually really good.

That is what we have to get to in politics.

It stands to reason, or at least we hope so, that a more engaged electorate would also lead to better candidates. But that’s a chicken-and-egg problem.

For now, Americans are saddled with two very bad choices even though most of them are clearly yearning for a better alternative.

In fact, it seems likely that, if either party had to choose a different nominee at this point, that candidate would win in a landslide.

Republicans obviously won’t do this, and it remains to be seen whether Biden will bow out after doing nothing to assuage Americans’ concerns about his ability to lead for another four years… or even until the end of this term.


  • Klaus Marre

    Klaus Marre is a senior editor for Politics and director of the Mentor Apprentice Program at WhoWhatWhy. Follow him on Twitter @KlausMarre.

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