Presidential aspirants illustrate dearth of emerging US leadership talent

Presidential aspirants illustrate dearth of emerging US leadership talent


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With Joe Biden confirming that he is seeking a second term as US president and Donald Trump’s main Republican competitor, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, struggling to build support at a national level, it appears a repeat of the 2020 US presidential contest is the most likely scenario.

For many Americans, it seems beggars can’t be choosers. A recent poll found that 60 per cent believe Trump should stay out of the race, while 70 per cent think Biden should also step aside. There are sound arguments for both candidates to forgo another run.

US President Joe Biden launches his campaign for re-election in 2024 on YouTube.Credit:

While there is little evidence that Biden’s age is currently impeding his ability to carry out his presidential duties, a second term would break his own record as the oldest person to be sworn in as president aged 78. If he were to secure another four years, Biden would be well into his 80s by the time he handed over the nuclear codes.

When you cast your mind back to the previous two Democrat presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, not to mention John F. Kennedy, they all took office in their mid-40s. Youth may not be the defining measure of political acumen, but it’s surely legitimate to ask whether Biden’s advancing years would hamper his ability to campaign and continue carrying out his presidential duties. It also begs the question why there is such a dearth of new leadership talent within the Democrat party, allowing Biden to seek a second term uncontested.

On the Trump side, the list of alleged misdeeds appears to grow by the week.

He is the first former president facing criminal charges over hush payments related to an alleged sexual tryst with a porn star, is currently defending himself in court over accusations of raping a woman in the mid-1990s, is being investigated for his handling of sensitive government documents after he left office and his attempts to interfere with the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia, and New York’s attorney-general is accusing him of fraudulently overvaluing his assets by billions of dollars. And then, let’s not forget, his role in the January 6 riots on the Capitol building.

For any normal candidate, any one of those accusations or actions would have forced them out of contention. As it should.

But Trump continues to defy the usual rules of politics. As only Trump can do, he is fending off the multiple investigations and accusations by turning them into fundraising opportunities, allowing him to build an election war chest and solidifying his position as the leading Republican candidate.

Every period in history has its challenges, but the next decade appears particularly burdensome. The existential crisis brought on by our warming planet, the rapidly growing geopolitical tensions triggered by China’s rise as a major global power, and Russia’s willingness to use brute force in a bid to quash a neighbouring country’s national sovereignty are all crises that will have devastating global consequences if not managed in an effective and peaceful manner.

Whoever sits in the White House in coming years will have a considerable say in how these issues are resolved. The world needs American leadership to buttress a world order that respects democracy and national sovereignty, promotes economic cooperation and plays an active role in reducing carbon emissions.

It would be difficult to argue that Trump could offer such leadership. His past actions, and present-day pronouncements, would have us believe quite the opposite. While Biden has shown himself adept at salvaging America’s reputation abroad, it is still a nation deeply divided at home. A rerun of the acrimonious presidential election of 2020 would not seem an ideal means of offering the country a way forward.

Patrick Elligett sends an exclusive newsletter to subscribers each week. Sign up to receive his Note from the Editor.

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