Dr. Robert Rupp

Rupp OpEd: The stalled torch of American politics

This opinion piece was submitted by local political analyst and longtime West Virginia Wesleyan College professor Robert Rupp, whose columns are published statewide.

One has to wonder how the most powerful democracy on the planet ends up offering two old men as presidential candidates — a proposition that 70% of Americans do not want.

When John F. Kenndy declared at his inauguration on that cold day in Washington, D.C., “Let the word go forth … that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans,” I am sure he did not expect that the torch would travel so little over the next seven decades.

Now our current political circus takes a strange turn as the possibility looms that one of the 2024 candidates — an incumbent president — will bow out.

There are two reasons why President Joe Biden will step aside, leaving the path open for someone who is at least a generation removed.

First, if the election is as important as Biden maintains, then won’t that be reason enough? To not imperil the outcome by staying on a sinking campaign after his debate debacle?

At this time in the campaign calendar of the 2020 election, Biden was leading in all but one of the battleground states. In 2024, he is behind in all the battleground states but one.  

The second reason is that his current plans to change his campaign tactics will be too little, too late. Plans to do an interview, speak without a teleprompter and hold a press conference should have been part of his re-election campaign earlier.

Biden’s poor debate performance prompted the search for an explanation — he had a cold, jet lag, etc. At first, one speculated that, like Ronald Reagan in his first 1984 debate, Biden was over-prepared. But a look at Biden’s five days of prep at Camp David suggests a different explanation. He allegedly did not start until 11 a.m., and his afternoons supposedly included a nap.

Biden’s expected withdrawal would represent one more example of political dysfunction of American politics this decade. So fasten your seatbelts as we witness one more example of our historic times — and the possibility that the torch may pass again.

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