America’s Decline May Be Hard To Avoid

Now that the Republican and Democratic primaries have died down, Joe Biden and Donald Trump will almost certainly represent their parties in the presidential election. Their average age is 79, making them the oldest presidential candidates in history. If Biden is elected, he will be 82 when he takes office, setting not only a record in U.S. presidential history, but making him an extreme rarity among world leaders.

While we should not discriminate based om age, the U.S. president is busy with many things, and every judgment, response and statement he makes has an enormous impact. Biden’s declining memory has been obvious, and 70% of Americans doubt his ability to perform presidential duties. Trump is in slightly better shape, but if he is elected, he will be 82 when he leaves office. Will his mind still be sharp by then?

America has never had to decide between two such elderly candidates — or such unpopular ones. As The Wall Street Journal reported “If there is a presidential debate, people will focus not on the agenda each candidate will bring to the White House, but rather whether they can still convey meaning through slips of the tongue and poor word choice. After all, the cognitive abilities of these two candidates of advanced age have already started to decline.”*

Unfortunately, they are both bogged down by legal cases. The American press frequently reports on the matters; sometimes they do so on a split screen from different venues and courtrooms. Trump is facing 91 felony criminal charges, and some of the evidence is so conclusive that he could go to prison. Moreover, civil judgments threaten to damage his family business.

Biden’s primary problem is how old he is. Everyone questions whether his age and physical condition allow him to continue in office. Moreover, he has to shake off low approval ratings to win another term. Almost three-fourths of American voters believe Biden is too old to run again. On the other hand, Trump needs to convince the American people that the string of criminal charges and civil judgments he faces won’t affect how he executes the office of president once he returns to the White House.

Still, this is not the most important part of the election. Aside from choosing between the candidates’ opposing visions for the country, voters must consider which candidate can convince them he is up to a president’s heavy workload.

A deeper look shows that the parties are sharply opposed and severely divided socially. The two candidates must campaign to a polarized and divided electorate. The universal influence of traditional media has declined, and many people now get their news from social media channels. This has created a cocoon-like effect in which biased information and views are disseminated within a one-sided and closed communication channel. In this ecosystem, the media reinforce their positions and become more extreme, leaving no room to consider the merits and abilities of the candidates.

Trump, who currently leads Biden by approximately five points in the polls, is an outlier in American politics. Traditional political leaders typically unite party supporters and independent voters with a consistent governing philosophy. Trump, however, is more like the leader of a movement that revolves around his personality, passion and strong policy preferences. He has done his best to solidify the loyalty of his supporters and has demonized those who oppose him even in his own party. Within some American political circles, people say, “This is Trump’s era, and we don’t understand much about it.” Currently, the actual situation is that he is the most dominant person in American politics, and everything revolves around him.

Biden is on the defensive, and he is taking a beating everywhere. He has actually scored many domestic and diplomatic achievements. However, he also has many shortcomings, and so disapproval among voters is outweighing approval.

Still, compared to Trump, Biden is at least well-adjusted and sane. He is able to consider policies from multiple angles, he speaks moderately and he is not nearly as selfish as Trump. He might be a reference for Trump and the American people, letting them know what a president who follows the rules and does the right thing looks like. However, he is too old, his approval ratings are too low and his chances of losing the election are high. Americans might usher in a madman for president again. If they do, it will be difficult to prevent the country’s decline.

*Editor’s Note: This quote, though accurately translated, could not be independently verified.

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