Joe Biden and Donald Trump: Please do the country a service and don’t run for president in 2024. America is in gridlock over the both of you, and it’s time to let the country progress and find a unifying force that can lead it into the next decade.
According to a Nov. 10-14 Morning Consult poll, 65% of Americans don’t want Biden to run again, and 65% say the same of Trump. Both of you have served this country, yet both of you have flaws and problems that stand in the way of a successful second term.
Mr. Trump, you did some great things as president. You presided over the strongest economy in decades, lifted millions out of poverty, brokered the Abraham Accords and saved millions of lives by making a deal with the pharmaceutical companies that sped up the development of COVID vaccines.
But your failure to act the moment you heard there was violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was a breach of your oath and presidential responsibility. Your insistence that you won the 2020 election undermined our institutions and degraded your ability to unite and lead the country. In this year’s election you damaged your party by encouraging it to nominate many candidates who couldn’t win in key swing states while you held onto money you raised rather than spend it on helping Republican candidates.
You were unfairly investigated by federal and state prosecutors who identified their targets before they identified a crime. The fake dossier, the surveillance of Carter Page and the Mueller investigation were wrong. But Bill Clinton faced similar problems with nonsensical investigations of a Whitewater land deal and was impeached over a personal relationship — yet he nevertheless stayed within constitutional boundaries as he beat back the attempts to oust him.
The way to preserve your legacy is to let the torch pass to those who can win and bring the country closer together. The Republican Party has a new generation of leaders ready to step forward and continue advancing your best ideas while leaving behind the baggage you have accumulated. You can run, but given what happened in the midterms, you will likely face a humiliating defeat, either in the primaries or in November 2024. Many of your strongest supporters are moving on.
Mr. Biden, you have served this country for half a century, but now is the time to pull back and let others come onto the stage. You are about to turn 80 and would be 86 by the end of a second term. Already you are shaking hands with people who aren’t there, toasting “President Harris,” calling out to dead congresswomen and confusing Cambodia with Colombia. We all have to recognize our limits, and you are at the practical limit of someone who may be called on to make split-second decisions involving the armed forces and even nuclear weapons.
You came to the aid of those who were in need during the pandemic; you got a massive infrastructure bill passed and finally achieved more competition in drug pricing. You made a down payment on climate change. Whether we agree with your policies or not, you have been a consequential president.
You also have been allowed since the 2020 campaign to avoid answering tough questions related to your son Hunter, your brother Jim and the family enterprise built to monetize your influence. You got away with calling Hunter’s laptop a fabrication when it wasn’t, and your story that you knew nothing about your son’s business dealings when he was right there with you on Air Force Two will never hold up to serious questioning.
If you pledge not to run, the Republicans should drop the investigation into your son and move on. The country needs help to heal rather than more investigations.
Only 40% of Democratic voters support you for re-election, a record low for a sitting president. Don’t become another Jimmy Carter. You might be able to beat Mr. Trump again, but if he doesn’t get through the primaries, you will be up against someone from the next generation of Republicans, such as Ron DeSantis or Glenn Youngkin, and the race won’t be close. There is no clear successor in the Democratic Party. By choking off a primary process, you will set the Democrats back a decade in looking for a new leader when they have dozens of governors, senators and other officials who could run.
America wants new choices. In a recent Harvard CAPS/Harris poll, we asked respondents if they would consider voting for a moderate independent if the party nominees were Messrs. Biden and Trump. Sixty percent said yes. Walking away from the presidency is like giving up the car keys because you’re too old to drive safely. It’s difficult, but it’s the right thing to do for each of you — for your legacy, your party and the country.
Mark Penn, an adviser to Bill and Hillary Clinton, is chairman of the Harris Poll and CEO of Stagwell Inc. Andrew Stein, a Democrat, was a New York City Council president. Adapted from The Wall Street Journal.