Should Joe Biden quit while he's ahead?
Even if he's re-elected, his second term will almost certainly be a disaster.
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Simon says…start reading.
I’m using “ahead” in the most expansive sense of the term here, with Biden’s approval ratings below 40% and falling fast. Matt Millen’s approval rating in Detroit might be higher.
But Bill Scher makes a pretty good argument that Presidential second terms almost always suck:
There have been literally no good presidential second terms. (Abraham Lincoln’s started strong, but it got cut short.) Why subject yourself to four more years of misery when you could be spending time at Rehoboth Beach and basking in nostalgic accolades?
If you want examples–and have a strong stomach–go down the list of twice-elected presidents over the past 100 years.
Obama never regained Democratic control of Congress. His legislative agenda was either filibustered in the Senate or bottled up by the Republican-led House. Judges struck down his executive order legalizing the status of more than four million undocumented immigrants and nixed his Environmental Protection Agency program to cut carbon emissions from power plants. Both parties scuttled his Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. He stood impotent as Senate Republicans refused to let him fill Antonin Scalia’s vacant Supreme Court seat.
George W. Bush, despite having a Republican Congress as he began his second term, learned the hard way that his reelection wasn’t a mandate to privatize Social Security. “Mission Accomplished” became a quagmire. Hurricane Katrina showed us that 43 and Brownie were doing “a heckuva job.” Republicans lost Congress after the 2006 midterms. By the end, the banking industry imploded and caused a global economic meltdown. W. wasn’t even invited to address the 2008 Republican National Convention in person.
Clinton created his own second-term problems by having an extramarital affair in his first term that led to his impeachment. But even if he had remained faithful, his second term would have been made miserable by the Republicans who controlled both houses of Congress.
Reagan’s second term was marred by Iran-Contra, Nixon was forced into resigning not long after winning re-election in a landslide, and even Eisenhower and FDR had to contend with economic downturns and oversaw their parties losing serious ground in the mid-term elections.
Scher says Biden should declare victory and leave, especially if Democrats lose control of Congress this fall:
Go out big. You defeated Donald Trump, saving democracy. You managed a once-in-a-century pandemic. You kept unemployment low. You broke the long-standing gridlock on infrastructure and gun safety. You named the first Black woman to the Supreme Court and delivered the first Black, South Asian, and female vice president. You maintained NATO unity in the face of Russian aggression.
You’ve done good, Mr. President. The choice of what to do next is yours alone. But I can say with full confidence: You will enjoy retirement much more than you will enjoy a second term.
I’m sure Biden will, but what about his party?
People say the Democrats have a weak bench. I don’t know if I’d go that far - if Trump is the Republican nominee in 2024, or if he loses the nomination and decides to suicide-bomb the party for no longer giving him its undivided loyalty, any high-profile Democrat has a chance of winning.
The flip side is that there doesn’t seem to be anyone like the Barack Obama of 2008, who can actually inspire not just the Democratic Party as a whole, but even non-aligned voters. Certain Democrats have an extremely dedicated constituency within the party, especially on the progressive side, but even more Dems wish they’d just go away.
Trump is certainly beatable - the number of Americans who will not vote for him under any circumstances is much larger than the number of ride-or-die MAGAbots - but 2016 proved that he can still win, especially if the votes are distributed properly.
Of course, anything can happen in the next two years. If John Fetterman, Raphael Warnock or Tim Ryan buck the national trend and win their Senate races in purple or GOP-leaning states this fall, they’ll definitely generate some Presidential buzz.
If none of these Senate challengers make it, the guy who already beat Trump once might be the only viable option next time around. And here’s some much-needed hopium for you: neither Reagan, Clinton nor Obama looked likely to be re-elected at this point in their first terms, either.
The Eisenhower second-term recession got me thinking about one of its most infamous casualties:
There are many reasons the Edsel failed spectacularly, not the least of which involved its extremely polarizing looks. But this new mid-market car coming out just in time for the 1957-58 recession - and cannibalizing sales from other Ford divisions, instead of poaching buyers from GM - really sealed its fate:
Even by 1950s standards, GM’s lineup appeared bloated in 1958, but so did Ford’s development of the Edsel. Though it already boasted the well-established brands of Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln, FoMoCo had just formed the Continental brand for the ultra-luxurious Mark II in 1956. The powers-that-be at Dearborn thought there was more opportunity. Enter Edsel.
While hemming and hawing about what to call its new automotive brand, Ford hired a noted poet to draft several suggestions. “Utopian Turtletop” was one candidate, which somehow makes the uninspiring name of “Edsel” less awkward. Unfortunately, its tortuous birth foreshadowed Edsel’s disastrous fate.
Edsel came out with four models: the Ranger, the Pacer, the Corsair, and the Citation. The first two rode on a 118-inch wheelbase shared with the Ford Fairlane. The latter two relied on a 124-inch platform shared with mid-tier Mercurys (wagons used Ford’s 116-inch unit). Herein lies one of the Edsel’s biggest tragedies: despite all the market research that Ford put into it, the marketing hype spelled Edsel’s doom.
True, the best research couldn’t foresee the extent of the 1958 recession. However, Ford priced the four Edsel series overlapping the Ford Fairlane 500 and three of the four Mercury models, and this strategy proved to be pure cannibalization.
Edsel cut down its model range to the Ranger (now available with a six-cylinder) and the Corsair for 1959. Both Edsels used a 120-inch wheelbase (wagons an 118-inch). The Mercury-based segment of the series was discontinued. Ford also trimmed the gimmickry of the 1958 models, and the Edsel basically became a Ford with different styling. The “horse collar” grille carried on, but headlights floating in the flanking grille extensions gave it a more contemporary look. The unique “MEL” engine, standard on high-line Edsels in 1958, was no longer available.
For 1960, the Edsel series was reduced to the Ranger series. The design closely followed Ford’s, with the vertical grille relegated to the rubbish bin. Sometime in November 1959, Ford opted to pull the plug on Edsel. So it goes.
That wasn’t even the only American car brand brought down by the recession: Chrysler’s venerable DeSoto marque staggered on for a few more years before it was euthanized in 1961.
I still have a soft spot for the Edsel. At least Ford swung for the fences with it, and I’d argue that the more understated 1959 and 1960 models are legitimately good-looking cars for that era.
Besides, even the much-maligned ‘58 model certainly looked no worse than some of its competitors: