Like so much in the through-the-looking-glass world of modern politics, the conversation the Democratic Party is having with President Biden was previewed almost verbatim more than 150 years ago by Lewis Carrol
A year and a half into his term, leading Democrats have suddenly discovered that the man they nominated two years ago, when he was 77, is old. We are solemnly informed by supposedly reputable news organizations that this realization has come as an unwelcome shock.
It’s true that politics can be full of surprises. Adversity is almost always the result of unpredictable events. If you’re in a charitable mood, you might even say that the cascading woes the Democrats have put us through in the past year or more were not all that easily foreseen.
The surge in inflation to a 40-year high certainly wasn’t predicted by everyone, even many so-called experts. Nor could every observer apparently see that the way the administration withdrew from Afghanistan would result in catastrophe. Perhaps someone didn’t realize that more or less opening the southern border would result in a massive influx of illegal immigrants. And some hopeful souls must have expected Vice President Kamala Harris to be an articulate, thoughtful, effective addition to the government rather than the gibbering, deer-in-the-headlights, platitude-generating hogwash machine she turned out to be.
But one thing that shouldn’t come as a surprise is the passage of time. You can predict with 100%, stone-cold certainty that a 77-year-old man will be 81 if he lives four more years. All that propaganda we were sold two years ago about how sharp Mr. Biden was and how he was mentally and physically robust enough for two full terms can’t simply be deemed no longer operative because we have realized he is two years further down the mortal chain.
Democrats aren’t suddenly alarmed by the discovery of unexpected evidence that the president is too old for the job. They are alarmed by the discovery of entirely predictable evidence that he is too inept for the job. It’s not his advanced age that has Democrats worried, it’s his advancing unpopularity. You can guarantee that if Mr. Biden had an approval rating that was closer to his years of age (79) than his months in office (18), we’d be hearing endless stories of his physical fitness and mental acuity.
The unfortunate reality—for the rest of us as well as fo Democrats—is that at nearly 80, Mr. Biden is as fit now to be president as he has ever been. Like the old man in Carroll’s fantasy Mr. Biden hasn’t lost his capacities. He never had them.
His long political career before the presidency was remarkable for its unremarkability. It is a pretty good indicator of the quality of your political judgment when most of the memorable things you did in your career you have subsequently repudiated—pro-life votes in the 1970s and later, the 1991 Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill showdown, the 1994 crime bill, the 1996 welfare reform, support for the Iraq war in 2002.
His previous, abortive presidential campaigns were fittingly forgettable way stations on this long march to mediocrity. First in 1988, in youthful middle age, then in 2008, when he was old enough for Medicare, his party soundly rejected him.
Yet fate gave him one last chance at success, one priceless opportunity to get it all right. In 2020, events conspired in unlikely ways to produce probably the only circumstance in which Mr. Biden might prevail.
After four years of politics on the verge of a nervous breakdown, the country was plunged into a public-health and economic crisis of almost unprecedented severity. Then far-left activists seized an opportunity to bring chaos and disorder to American cities, and the Democratic Party, embracing the moment, swung hard to the left.
Mr. Biden suddenly, for the first time in his career, was the answer to the most important political question of the moment. All he had to do was renounce the extremism of his party and offer a hyperventilating nation a chance to breathe normally.
But he couldn’t do it. He had spent a lifetime following where his party leads, and that wasn’t going to change. Now, like that old man in the poem, there he is, he is standing on his head, the inverse of what he promised to be, of everything the country needs.