A Captive To Our Political System

I have been ruminating a bit about a headline I read a few weeks ago by columnist Chris Churchill which described the upcoming 2024 Presidential election as: “Sleepwalking toward a Trump vs. Biden nightmare.” This was followed by a byline: “A 2020 presidential rematch is not the election America needs or wants. Why is it the election we are likely to get?”

It seems to me that the most logical answer to that question is that there is tremendous power in incumbency in our Presidential elections. Most Presidents who seek re-election are, most often, almost automatically rewarded with the opportunity to run again.

Think back to 2020. Donald Trump was President and the Republican Party gave him their endorsement for reelection almost by acclamation. It was the Democrats in that year who had the wide-open primary election battles.

In 2024, it is presumed that the Democrats will run the incumbent, Joe Biden, for reelection–so far, no one of note, other than Bobby Kennedy Jr., has raised their voice in opposition. (Kennedy is not exactly a “chip off the old block” when it comes to the prior Kennedys who ran for or held that office, and appears to have little chance of succeeding.) It seems that Joe Biden can have the nomination if he wants it.

The Republicans this year are having a primary election contest of sorts, but the incumbent former President seems way ahead, and it looks like the nomination is Donald Trump’s to lose. Chris Churchill may be right. Whether we like it or not, it seems likely that we could have another polarizing Trump vs. Biden battle for the Presidency.

I am not sure of all of the reasons we capitulate to our Presidential incumbents in this country, but some of it has to deal with the control they have over the process and the cost of such a campaign, as well as the complexity of getting on the ballot in all 50 states. Apparently, for the political parties, the easiest thing to do is to go with the guy who last held the office.

I believe that both political parties would be better off by running a new “fresh” face in next year’s election. Both leading candidates are too old. (I can allege this because I am over 80 and know a bit about what old age means.) It is time for the country to move on to a new generation of leadership. Is there a way for that to happen?

Churchill laid out one scenario whereby Biden would agree to pardon Trump on the condition that both would agree to discontinue their political campaigns for the Presidency–an intriguing idea indeed.

If Biden did that, says Churchill, he “would go down in history as a hero who saved America from the looming darkness. The move would be an inspiring act of self-sacrifice, a stunning offer made for the good of the country, a glorious sublimation of Presidential ego. It would be…yes, it’s a pipe dream.”

In the meantime, we continue to stumble along, seemingly captive to a political system where the incumbents call most of the shots.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.


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