To beat Trump in 2024, Biden needs to become Angry Joe fast

For far too long, Biden has tried – in public – to appear ‘presidential’. That won’t work in 2024.

US President Joe Biden
US President Joe Biden, at a political event in June 2023 [File: Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters]

Like most columnists, I have no experience in helping to run a presidential campaign in any way.

Zilch. Nada. Zippo.

My only brush with campaign politics occurred almost 40 years ago when I was an executive assistant to a retiring member of parliament who enlisted her small staff in Ottawa to get her successor elected.

That’s it.

Yet, as the 2024 United States presidential election approaches, this gaping gap in my resume is not dissuading me from offering advice on what President Joe Biden should do to beat Donald Trump once more.

Such is the arrogance, I suppose, of writers who, like me, are paid to share opinions on all manner of subjects that, truth be told, we are sometimes obliged to feign expertise about.

I was prompted to get a head start on my prescription for how to win a presidential campaign after reading a spate of recent polls pitting Biden in a head-to-head match-up with Trump and a story that revealed that sweet Uncle Joe is prone, in private, to turn, on a hair trigger, into sour Angry Joe.

First, the troubling polls.

It pains me to write the following sentence as much, I suspect, as it will pain enlightened Americans to read it. Despite having already been indicted twice and facing the prospect of more indictments to come, a succession of polls suggests that Trump can prevail in 2024.

In some national polls, Trump is leading Biden by between two to four percentage points; while others show the race at even or Biden holding a one to two percentage points advantage.

Those slim margins are, to put it charitably, more than a little disconcerting.

If reason, tolerance and decency mattered, Trump ought to be trailing Biden by a wide and reassuring margin.

But it is apparent that, like their infuriating leader, millions of Americans abandoned reason, tolerance, and decency long ago.

Combined with his seething anger, Trump has channelled ignorance, intolerance and indecency into a stubborn and potent political force.

Attempts to mollify or cajole Trump’s supporters out of their evangelical stupor – through appeals to reason and decency – have failed. They are beyond reach, consumed by conspiracy theories, wedded to fanaticism, fuelled by grievances, married to bigotry and convinced of their absolute righteousness.

The idea that Biden’s route to victory is through attracting enough independent voters and disenchanted Republicans put off by the “soap-opera” shenanigans of a “wild-card” Trump is foolhardy.

Biden must do a lot more than rely on the comforting illusion that reasonable Americans will opt for stability over volatility in 2024.

The 2016 presidential election was proof that promoting the status quo can blind complacent candidates to a brewing zeitgeist among voters hankering for change – even if it meant electing a profane, “insurgent” huckster like Trump.

Trump understands that there is no “high road” to the White House – and I’m not referring to the cocaine found earlier this month near the Oval Office.

Trump is on the attack – perpetually. The searing, often juvenile, assaults on his Democrat and Republican foes are designed to emasculate his opponents, discredit their motives, and energise his supporters.

However crass and cynical, Trump’s obscene modus operandi works and has him, once again, within conceivable reach of returning as commander-in-chief.

Biden needs to respond in kind. He needs to ditch the obsolete attitude that, as president, decorum and restraint require him to remain “above the fray” until his re-election campaign begins in earnest several months from today.

Biden needs to tap publicly into the anger that is, reportedly, an authentic part of his character, rather than put a leash on it.

Biden needs to skewer Trump with the same blunt, coarse language he uses to curse ill-prepared or smug aides behind closed doors.

Biden needs to be fitted with brass knuckles on both hands to confirm that the 80-year-old president has some ugly fight in him yet.

Biden needs to renew describing Trump as a dangerous demagogue who – as he famously and accurately said in a blistering speech marking the first anniversary of the January 6 insurrection on the Capitol – held a “dagger to the throat of democracy”.

Biden needs to go back to Independence Hall in Philadelphia where, on September 6, 2022, he spoke poignantly about the ongoing “battle for the soul of the nation”.

“I have come [to] this place where it all began to speak as plainly as I can to the nation about the threats we face,” Biden said. “We must be honest with each other and with ourselves. Too much of what’s happening in our country today is not normal. Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.”

Biden needs to talk to voters plainly and honestly. He needs to do it now.

He needs to repeat, again and again, that “MAGA Republicans do not respect the constitution. They do not believe in the rule of law. They do not recognise the will of the people.”

He needs to repeat, again and again, that “MAGA forces are determined to take this country backwards — backwards to an America where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right to marry who you love.”

Since that address last fall, the “MAGA forces” inside and outside Congress have taken America even further backwards to a place where laws to achieve diversity in college admissions were killed, where a policy to forgive onerous student debt was voided, where bigots who refused to serve same-sex couples were emboldened.

And, for the first time, a former president has been charged with a slew of felonies in connection with his hoarding of top-secret documents and a hush-money scheme to keep a mistress silent.

Rather than pounce using plain, honest and blunt language, Biden has demurred, preferring instead to “act presidential”.

Biden’s stupefying reluctance to punch back – quickly and hard – has translated into a sluggish response among the army of small-dollar donors who helped smash fund-raising records during his 2020 presidential campaign.

Money is the oxygen of politics. If Biden hopes to turn that spigot back on, he and his dainty handlers better begin to let Angry Joe come out, come out from wherever you are.

Otherwise, it may be too late.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.