The Washington Post

Biden must stay focused on the legacy he’s creating now

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President Biden is faced with polls showing a majority of Americans don’t want to see him run for reelection in 2024 because they think he’s either too old or too unable to advance his bold agenda for the country. Biden should take it all in and continue with what he spelled out he would do in his Jan. 20, 2021, inaugural address.

It’s worth rememberin­g what America was like on that day.

We were gripped, as he noted, by a once-in-a-century virus that had taken as many lives in one year as this country lost in all of World War II. Jobs by the millions had been lost. Businesses by the thousands had closed.

Just two weeks earlier, on the very grounds on which Biden stood, a riotous mob, stoked by the defeated President Donald Trump, tried to crush a foundation stone of U.S. democracy: the peaceful transfer of power.

On that cold January day, Biden took a noontime oath before a nation divided. He pledged to give it his all — to level with the country, to defend our democracy and to do it while “thinking not of power, but of possibilit­ies, not of personal interest, but of the public good.”

Today, we are getting a grip on the pandemic. The House of Representa­tives and the Justice Department are addressing the attack on our democracy and bringing grave truths to light. Job growth continues, formerly rising gas prices are moving in reverse, and the Federal Reserve is taking a strong approach to quelling inflation. It is in that context that Biden must weigh the question of running for a second four-year term, which he would begin at age 82.

The more immediate and, I suggest, mandatory obligation is for present-day Biden to get on with the business of governing: continuing the fight against the virus, dealing with still-painful economic realities of inflation and a looming recession, addressing racial and gender injustices, and stepping up to the moral and fiscal imperative­s of addressing the climate crisis.

Least needed is for Biden to get swallowed up in midterm election maneuvers or the soulnumbin­g details of presidenti­al primaries.

Politics, of course, come with White House territory. But Biden must continue to write this current chapter in American history. His legacy rests on what he does or fails to do now — to help make schools safe and teachable for children today, to rebuild the middle class today, to secure health care for all today. The ugly realities of racism and demonizati­on can’t wait until reelection. Helping to make streets safe and people feel secure in their homes is today’s task. As is repairing alliances and restoring the United States’ role in the world.

Biden told the audience for the 59th presidenti­al inaugurati­on that his “whole soul” was committed to bringing America together, uniting us in righting wrongs, putting people to work in good jobs, making this country “once again the leading force for good in the world.”

Sad to say, he likely will have to continue trying to do those things even as some Democrats dream of taking the job away from him. One-term president Jimmy Carter knows what that’s like. In 1980, the incumbent president had to fend off Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s damaging Democratic primary challenge. It was a time-consuming and costly battle that left Carter too weakened to run a competitiv­e race against an energized, well-funded, united Republican Party led by Ronald Reagan and determined to take back the White House.

The Democratic Party paid a steep price for that failure for years to come. As will today’s party if its disgruntle­d left launches a challenge to Biden and Vice President Harris. Rest assured: Take out Biden and Harris, and the Democratic Party will suffer the consequenc­es. So will the country.

Meanwhile, a new political party called Forward has taken shape, hoping to draw voters from both the Democratic and Republican sides. The GOP might wish the forces of Forward well, since history suggests that Democrats are more susceptibl­e to the allure of change, especially offered in the gauzy words of political reform.

All of which spells distractio­n from the goal of pulling the country together.

But Biden cannot afford to be distracted. First-term, maybe one-term Joe Biden must keep on the path he set in January 2021.

Run in 2024? Tomorrow is not promised. Biden should go all out now.

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