Underestimate Biden at your own political peril

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Let’s face it, when Fox News gives Democrat a B+, you know they really delivered an exceptional performance. That was the grade the rabidly right-wing media network gave President Biden on his State of the Union address.

As someone who usually doesn’t watch these annual speeches to the nation, I did buck my previous trend and decided to tune in for this one. Admittedly, I harbored some degree of apprehension wondering if Biden would be up to the task. If they were forced to be honest, I’d imagine most Democrats harbored similar concerns.

As the speech progressed, I witnessed a president superb at conveying his signature characteristics of hopefulness and affability. He was at the top of his game, and engaged in a masterful “bait and switch” with Republicans, playing them like a fiddle. Republicans yelled and complained, but in the end Biden brilliantly had them standing and applauding in support of Medicare and Social Security.

What the State of the Union revealed was the contrasting style of the president and his adversaries. The Republicans, with their reactionary combativeness, are unwittingly solidifying their image as unhinged guerrilla warriors. Meanwhile, they’re helping Biden present himself as a level-headed and congenial counterpuncher.

It’s an open question why the president’s political opponents are creating such stark contrasts in temperament that plays right into Biden’s hands. Research shows most Americans prefer politics that lean more toward civility as opposed to rancorous. By keeping the hostility factor high, the GOP is in danger of facing the same fate they did in 2020, the election Biden described as battle for the “soul of the nation.” Some of his opponents have failed to learn this lesson.

Political savvy aside, the fact is Biden’s age is the monkey on his back and a source of serious concern among many Democrats. There is a sizable perception the president is simply too old to seek reelection. Party leaders and donors are undoubtedly concerned voters will be loath to cast a ballot for someone who will be 86 at the end of his second term. Indeed, a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that within his own party and among Democratic-leaning voters, Biden’s support is tepid at best.

Which is why it doesn’t come as much of a surprise seeing Biden aggressively emphasize his vitality, an obvious attempt to reassure voters there is more than enough vigor left in his octogenarian body and soul. However, the intense campaigning during a presidential election – regardless of age – can be a grueling process that takes its toll on the body.

It is almost certain Republicans will attempt to employ Biden’s age and perceived fitness for office as an issue to weaponize during the 2024 campaign. However, if the GOP nominee is Donald Trump, which is likely, who will also be a man in his 80s, (coupled with additional baggage) then such an argument will render moot.

The truth is Biden is a politician of remarkable career resiliency. Despite enduring tragic, potentially life-altering circumstances, he has managed to rebound and persevere. Whether it is the universe guiding him, personal grit or perhaps, divine intervention or fate, he has weathered more numerous storms that would have likely demoralized if not outright broken many other people.

Something to keep in mind for those underestimating our current commander-in -chief.

Copyright 2023 Elwood Watson, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate

Elwood Watson is a professor of history, Black studies, and gender and sexuality studies at East Tennessee State University. He is also an author and public speaker.