USAmerica Letter

Joe Biden hints he will fight next election with warnings of US democracy still being at risk

President spends a number of days in New York for United Nations gathering, but domestic politics are never far away

New York in mid-September. Dozens of world leaders arrive in the city to speak with and meet their counterparts at the annual high-level week at the United Nations.

Joe Biden joked this week that the worst sentence in the English language probably was “the president is coming”.

“It means about 6,000 other people show up beforehand,” he said.

In my experience, most of these seem to be security personnel.


In New York during UN week, streets and even some pavements are sealed off while others have rolling closures.

Convoys of black SUVs and police escort political leaders from hotels to restaurants to meetings, exacerbating the tailbacks and traffic snarls that beset the city at the best of times.

The famous cacophony of car horns, which is a feature of the city, seems louder.

UN week is all about foreign policy. The president had significant meetings with both the Israeli and Brazilian leaders, and met many others at a reception he hosted.

But domestic politics was never far away.

Last Sunday night, Biden went to dinner at an Italian restaurant with his wife and other family members.

As he left at about 9.30pm, other diners in the restaurant stood up from their tables and applauded.

Reportedly some people cheered from apartment buildings.

It must be remembered that this was New York, a Democratic city. There might not be as enthusiastic or spontaneous a show of support, for example in Texas or other Republican strongholds.

Nationally, Biden’s polling numbers are under water.

A CNN poll earlier this month found that the president had an overall approval rating of 39 per cent. Just under 58 per cent said his policies had made economic conditions in the US worse.

But given the deep divisions among Americans on politics, the days of any Democratic or Republican president appealing across the divide to secure overall approval in the high 50s or even 60sappear to be over, for the present at least.

One issue of concern for Democrat strategists will be the apparent growing strength of support for the likely Republican candidate Donald Trump among black and Hispanic voters.

But the big issue overall in relation to Biden, which has gained a lot of traction among US media and political pundits, is the question of his age. If Biden is re-elected, he will be 86 when his term ends.

The concerns over this issue would appear to be breaking through to the public.

The CNN poll suggested that about three quarters of Americans were worried that Biden’s age could affect his physical and mental competence.

The president’s visit to New York was not just about the United Nations, it was also about filling up his war chest for the election with the help of a number of fundraising events.

At such fundraisers, he president tends to speak more freely and off the cuff than at formal White House engagements.

Remember, for instance, his remarks at a fundraising event in New York in May – shortly after his return from Ireland – that he had gone to Belfast to ensure “the Brits didn’t screw around and Northern Ireland didn’t walk away from their commitments”.

This week in Manhattan, Biden sought to embrace the issue of his age, sometimes with humour.

“A lot of people seem focused on my age. I get it, believe me, I know it more than anyone.” He spoke about being more optimistic at this stage than in the 800 years he had been in public life.

Let there be no question: Donald Trump and his Maga Republicans are determined to destroy American democracy

—  Joe Biden

But at the fundraisers, Biden also gave a hint that next year he will try to repeat the same campaign message that proved successful when his Democratic Party held off an anticipated Republican “red wave” in the midterm elections last November.

He suggested that while progress had been made since the January 6th attack on the US Capitol almost three years ago, American democracy remains at risk.

But Biden is again seeking to paint Trump and his allies as a danger to American democracy.

“I will not side with dictators like Putin. Maybe Trump and his Maga friends can bow down and praise him, but I won’t.

“I’m running because democracy is at stake. Because [in] 2024 democracy is on the ballot once again. And let there be no question: Donald Trump and his Maga Republicans are determined to destroy American democracy.”

Not too much more than a year from now, the first votes will be cast in the presidential election. At present Americans are not feeling happy about the economy. Biden is under pressure for sure. But this week we got a glimpse perhaps of the message that he believes can return him to the White House.