Voters who went to the polls on Tuesday already dread what comes next.
A potential rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump on Election Day 2024—just 362 sleeps away, it’ll be here before you know it—is becoming depressingly more inevitable with each passing day. It’s also a damning indictment of the two major parties, which can’t manage to throw up any candidates capable of wresting power away from the pair of decrepit has-beens currently threatening the country with reliving the often-unwatchable 2020 campaign.
By now it’s hardly news that both Trump and Biden are widely despised by most of the voting public, but an exit poll from yesterday’s elections in Ohio might set the bar at a new record low. As CNN details: “Only about a quarter of voters said they think Biden should be running for president again. But former President Donald Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican nomination, fares little better: Only about a third of this electorate in Ohio thinks he should be running to retake the White House.”
Trump won Ohio by about 8 points in both 2016 and 2020, and he’ll almost certainly be the favorite there again in 2024—thank you, negative partisanship. But that’s really saying something, given how few of the state’s voters want him to be pursuing another White House bid.
If we were hurtling towards a rematch between an unpopular incumbent and an utterly unfit former incumbent, it would be bad enough. But this is also shaping up to be an election between the two oldest presidential candidates in history. If Trump wins, he’ll take back the crown of being the oldest person ever inaugurated—which currently belongs to Biden, who took it from… Trump.
Both candidates have demonstrated ample evidence of mental decline over the past few years, and given their ages there is no reason to believe that trend will reverse itself.
For that matter, there’s an increasing likelihood that one or both could be medically incapacitated—or worse—in the middle of the campaign. The best way to deal with that possibility would be for both to exit the race now or to be removed from it by their respective primary voters.
Since that seems unlikely, everyone might benefit from brushing up on the contingency plans that the Democratic and Republican parties have in place to deal with that possibility. As Liz Mair notes at Real Clear Politics, both parties have the authority to fill vacancies created by the death or incapacity of presidential nominees. In practice, that means somewhere between 160 and 200 people will get to hand-pick the Democratic or Republican nominee.
The silver lining to that outcome: Whoever gets picked would likely be less disliked than Trump and Biden are.
But that’s an ugly outcome for American democracy. Then again, so is the current situation. Voters keep telling pollsters that they want someone—anyone, please—else to be running for president next year. They still have time to make that happen, but with Election Day 2023 in the rearview mirror, the clock is starting to run out.