Is it time for America to finally say, “OK, Boomer” when it comes to Joe Biden? And for that matter, Donald Trump? CNN’s senior political analyst David Gergen points to himself and notes just how senior he’s become, and told John Berman and Brianna Keilar yesterday that he would have no business running for office. That’s doubly true for the current incumbent in the White House, Gergen declared, but doesn’t stop at that end of Pennsylvania Avenue:
KEILAR: So to be clear here, David, you’re saying that neither Trump nor Biden should run again, even Biden, the incumbent?
GERGEN: I believe it would be in the best interest of the country, for someone in their 80s to step back, when regardless of party. I just don’t think that that’s — the presidency is not only the most powerful office in the world, it’s also one of the most complex, it requires every day person in the presidency, making really hard judgment calls, you’ve got to — you have to dip in, you’ve got to get into the data, you’ve got to get into the evidence, you got to deal with all sorts of multiple parties.
You know, and someone in the 80s, you can’t assume that a person is going to be healthy, and mentally all there through the early 80s, you just can’t assume that. The chances are, you’re more vulnerable, and things are going to go the other way. And then what do we do, two years in if some — if there’s some attack, so I think both parties should be looking at Generation X for the next leaders, but they also want to be looking to — the generations below that, the millennials, and the Generation Z, because they’re the ones who have the young people and can forge a new culture in our country, so that leaders can actually get things done. We can’t go on, we’re on an unsustainable path right now, you know, is if we’re driving in a car on the side of a cliff, in the middle of the night, with rain pouring down and no head life, you know, it’s just dangerous to do that. And you may get through it, but the chances are pretty high, that something bad will happen. So I just, I think it’s time to reassess. And yes, I do believe that President Biden and Donald Trump should both consider stepping aside and letting new people emerge, new leaders emerge.
Gergen would spread that advice to all three branches of government, if anyone would listen:
BERMAN: You know, look, it’s not just the presidency.
GERGEN: Yes, yes.
BERMAN: — right now, you have a Speaker of the House, you have, you know, Senate Minority Leader, I mean, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, what about Supreme Court? I mean, do you think that this applies broadly to all the senior positions?
GERGEN: I do. And I think that what we’ve just seen with court with the leakage and the explosions that are occurring around the court, I’m really worried about the reputation of the court, and gravitas of the court. And the circumstances and we ought to be looking at something like, you know, rotating off after a certain number of years, especially when you hit your late 70s, early 80s. I do think that this, after all, is what Franklin Roosevelt considered way back when he was president, when he had a court that was that was packed against him.
The federal judiciary really is a separate matter, especially these days when “reform” packages are really nothing more than political manipulations intended to corrupt the judicial process. Once the Supreme Court gets the federal judiciary out of the legislating business — and Alito’s draft in Dobbs is a good start — then perhaps a rotation system might be considered that limits the impact of any one president on the court. Of course, if the Supreme Court succeeds in getting the judiciary out of the legislating business and returning policy to Congress and the states, the impetus for such “reform” will likely dissipate as well.
Both parties would be well advised to heed Gergen’s advice, although neither party seems inclined to do so. Republicans have the most room to look to their future, especially given Joe Biden’s fumbling, bumbling, and at times non compos mentis performance in office. A younger candidate with vigor and energy would make a dramatic contrast with an elderly incumbent who was never terribly coherent (or honest) even in his prime, and has grown so obviously short of the task at hand that’s it’s embarrassing to mention it. Politically speaking, it’s always better to look forward than to look behind, a lesson Democrats should have learned with Hillary Clinton in 2016, and one the GOP may have to learn the hard way in 2024 with a 78-year-old Trump wanting a return match. Ron DeSantis makes a lot more sense as the leading contender from Florida, but primary voters may well be too wedded to the Trump brand to see it.
Democrats are in a tougher spot. If Kamala Harris had proven capable, it might have been relatively easy to have Biden retire while endorsing his running mate as a continuity campaign. That has two major problems: the first is that Harris is even more inept than Biden on the campaign trail, and the second is that the status quo is awful. Democrats really need a fresh candidate from outside the leadership caste that produced economic disaster and policy incoherence, but they’re short on bench candidates in large part because Boomers won’t get out of the way. Kentucky governor Andy Beshear might make for a good candidate, but Democrats are so focused on the Beltway and their resident gerontocracy there that relative outsiders may not get a second look.
One last point to consider, too, when mulling Gergen’s advice. The Boomers continue to make up a considerable chunk of the US population, with the 65+ demo growing by a third over the last decade or so to 34.2% of the population. Now, though, that leaves almost two-thirds of Americans younger than this generation, and they may be getting very, very tired of Boomer governance and want access to leadership positions to represent a broader slice of the electorate. The first party that recognizes that will eventually profit from it — if not in the immediate cycle, then certainly by 2024.