Spare Us a Trump-Biden Rematch

From a Wall Street Journal column by Peggy Noonan headlined “Spare Us a Trump-Biden Rematch”:

There is a sense in which November’s election can be seen as America trying to return itself to its previous settings. The outcome was inherently moderate, and those who seemed extreme didn’t prosper.

One way the country could return to normalcy is not to have a repeat of Biden vs. Trump in 2024. It’s a race that would depress the whole country. There’s so much hunger to turn the page, begin a new era.

It is certain that Donald Trump will never again be president. The American people won’t have it. This was demonstrated in November: Independents and moderate Republicans rejected GOP candidates who supported him, not trusting them to be responsible in power. It is possible Mr. Trump will get the presidential nomination, but it’s no longer likely.

He’s on the kind of losing strain that shows we’re at the ending of the story. Next summer it will be eight years since he went down the escalator. Time moves—what was crisp and new becomes frayed and soft. His polls continue their downward drift. He is under intense legal pressures. This week the Jan. 6 committee put more daggers in: Only the willfully blind see him as guiltless in the Capitol riot. He will be 78 in 2024 and is surrounded by naïfs, suck-ups, grifters and operators. That was always true but now they are fourth-rate, not second- or third-rate.

He has lost his touch. Remember when you couldn’t not watch him in 2015 and 2016? Now you hear his voice and give it a second before lowering the volume. At his occasional rallies supporters wait for him to pause so they can cheer; they aren’t really listening to the words. Video of the crowd that gathered at Mar-a-Lago to hear him announce showed them trying to leave before he’d finished. There are streaks and slumps in politics as in life, but Mr. Trump’s slump won’t end, because it’s not a slump; it’s a losing season.

The party he’s left on the ground seems to be trying to regain its equipoise. November’s results will speed the process. The GOP in Congress is a mixed bag. There are more than a handful in the House who try to out-Trump Mr. Trump, and they will no doubt continue to batter the party’s reputation. In the Senate only two members really try to out-Trump Mr. Trump, Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz. The top-ranking Republican in Washington, Mitch McConnell, on Jan. 3 surpasses Mike Mansfield as the longest-running Senate party leader. (Mansfield, a Montana Democrat, was majority leader for 16 years, 1961-77; Mr. McConnell has been minority or majority leader since 2007.) On Jan. 6, 2021, he went at Mr. Trump sharply and publicly. He has since demonstrated that you can survive Mr. Trump’s verbal assaults and be understood to stand against him, without letting the subject dominate the daily conversation.

We’re watching the Trump story end before our eyes and can hardly believe it because we thought it was ending before and it wasn’t. But it is now.

As for Joe Biden, all indications are he will run for re-election. He likes being president, thinks he’s good at it, and apparently doesn’t think he’s slipping with age.

But the brilliant move would be to surprise the world and not run again. Second terms are always worse, fraught and full of pain; even your own party starts jockeying to take your place. He’s showing age and it will only get worse, and he will become more ridiculous, when he’s deeper into his 80s.

He’s freezing his party in a way that will likely hurt it. When Democrats were sure Mr. Trump would get the Republican nomination, it justified a Biden run, no matter how frustrated they were. He had beaten Mr. Trump before and would do it again. But a great many Democrats believe that if Mr. Trump isn’t the Republican nominee—and they are starting to think he won’t be—then that nominee will go forward without Mr. Trump’s deficits, and may even be a normal Republican, which will mean he or she will squish the eternally underwater Mr. Biden like a peanut.

They want him to step aside.

A trusted Biden intimate with an eye on the party’s fortunes would be wise to urge the boss to rethink things dramatically:

Mr. President, you have a perfect opening to cement a stunning legacy. You kept every promise you made to the party in 2020. You got rid of Donald Trump. You got us out of Afghanistan. You passed huge FDR-level bills that transformed the social safety net. History threw you a curve with Ukraine, but you warned it would happen, defined the struggle, built the coalition, and defended the rule of international law.

Boss, what a triumph! You did your job in history. You fulfilled your role.

And now you should go out an inspiration. Don’t stick around, it will never be this good again. Do the brave, hard thing and relinquish power. Tell the party, “I always said I would be a bridge. And friends, the past four years we built that bridge. It is big, strong and can carry all traffic. Now, with complete faith in my party, I am declaring the bridge open. The past year I’ve come to have faith that my Republican friends won’t nominate that bad and unpatriotic man. And I’ll be frank, I will turn 82 in 2024, and though I can still take you in arm-wrestling, that is, I admit, an advanced age. We need the leadership of minds forged and matured in the 21st century. So I will not run for re-election. Nor will I put myself behind any one candidate. Let the party decide. We have a good bench. I will watch this process with confidence.”

My God, what people would say. “What a great man.” Your reputation will be raised high forever—you actually walked away from the limelight in order to ensure that power stay in the party that stands for the better things. What a legacy.

Could he do this? Yes. Should he? Yes. Will he? Well. He likes being president. He likes the whole thing, the house, the salutes, the state dinners, the centrality to all events, the cynosure of all eyes, being taken seriously after a career of being considered a cornball glad-handing pol, a guy who wasn’t that bright but had a huge ego . . .

People tend not to leave what they like. And it’s hard to imagine a Biden intimate telling him his age is a factor and he should leave. They surely saw that aging in 2019 and 2020. But they too wanted the White House. They wanted power, they wanted the glamour and importance. They thought they could make it work, while saving the party from Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

All signs are Mr. Biden will stay and run again.

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