01 Aug Lame Ducks: Donald and Daffy
They are running again. More like waddling.
With apologies to the Walt Disney Company, which created Donald Duck, and competitor Looney Tunes, which featured Daffy Duck, we think those cartoon producers provided a preview of the current leading candidates in the next U.S. presidential election. Former President Donald (Duck!) Trump is dominating the Republican slate so far, and Incumbent President Joe (Daffy) Biden is almost unchallenged for the Democratic nomination.
Both are lame ducks. More precisely, if either wins the 2024 election, he immediately will be a lame duck president – in more ways than one.
That’s Really Lame
In politics, there are multiple forms of lame. Unpopular. Scandal ridden. Mentally unfit. And the traditional shortage of political capital in any final term. Today’s cartoonish figures suffer from all of those struggles.
Let us start with their popularity. Joe Biden, in recent polls, has dropped to all-time low presidential approval ratings. It is worst among young voters, and even Democrats wish he was not running for reelection. Biden has never been a popular candidate for the Oval Office; he won in 2020 simply because he was not Donald Trump. Speaking of Mr. Trump, he won in 2016 only because he promised a drastic change from the Clinton/Bush/Obama era. In 2020, voters loudly made the point that Trump now is the unwanted one. Both Trump and Biden are so unpopular they would be roast duck against anyone but the other.
Scandals. As for Mr. Trump, this blog wrote about some of his missteps recently in The Trump Suits (July 11, 2023). The Afghanistan debacle goes against President Biden’s record, although Mr. Trump started that when he was in office. Hunter Biden has been a persistent problem for his father, too. Economic turmoil (including bank failures), chaos at the southern border, a near-recession, and most notably inflation, also have been considered scandalous by many. With these two presidents, especially in the era of social media and polarization, it is Ducks Unlimited in the scandal swamp.
Both sides, can we just agree that your own top guy does not have the ideal mental capacity to lead our country? It is not just the age issue, as we addressed in our post, Too Old to be President? (June 6, 2023). Yes, Joe Biden and Donald Trump indeed can fit in with Duck, Duck, Grey Duck. But more importantly, they are getting “more like themselves the older they get,” as our post noted. Joe Biden is getting less competent, and Donald Trump is getting more unstable.
The final term of any President automatically confers “lame duck” status. To be sure, Donald Trump and Joe Biden can claim accomplishments from their first four years. Trump and his supporters will point out a strong economy, reduced illegal immigration, lowered taxes, less regulation, America becoming a net oil exporter, the appointment of conservative judges, and the quick development of covid vaccines. But he also has to answer for adding $8 trillion to the federal deficit and setting the stage for inflation through the numerous handouts related to the pandemic.
President Biden can argue that he led the passage of bipartisan bills, supported Ukraine, eventually started better immigration programs, and that jobs bounced back while inflation ultimately eased during his first term. Nevertheless, the Biden Administration raised taxes, added to the deficit through big spending, and did spur lasting inflation.
For either, governing will be even tougher in a second term, as usually is the case in the White House. Current political allies will want to distance themselves from them and their unpopularity. Electoral coattails, which already are frayed, will completely disintegrate in the 2026 midterms. Their “lameness” will be damaging in eyes overseas, as well, particularly given President Trump’s coziness with Russia, his mistreatment of allies, and his criticism of supporting Ukraine, along with foreign concerns about President Biden’s diminished leadership capability.
In his book The Art of the Deal, Donald Trump himself explained another problem that both he and President Biden will face in a second term, after having used up all political power they once had: “You can’t con people, at least not for long. You can create excitement, you can do wonderful promotion and get all kinds of press…. But if you don’t deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on.” With a country as disgruntled as America stands today, being a previous president or incumbent actually serves as a disadvantage.
No, there will be no Duck Dynasty for a political party led by either a weakened Joe Biden or Donald Trump.
Time to DuckDuckGo
The character Donald Duck, known for semi-intelligible speech, was conceived by the Walt Disney Company in 1930s to be a funny addition to its cartoon lineup. Daffy Duck, envisioned by creators Tex Avery and Bob Clampett as a “screwball” character for shows like Looney Tunes, followed shortly thereafter. Both Donald and Daffy have endured, probably in part because they are fictional characters with no natural enemies and no human flaws.
Today’s political Donald, although somewhat a rubber duckie in that bad things tend to bounce off him, nevertheless has been severely weakened since he first ran for office in 2016. Joe Biden, long daffy in his own way, has been defeathered, as well.
They should waddle away – or fly – while they still can.
(Next, we begin a series of posts on candidates not named Biden or Trump.)
Written by Quentin R. Wittrock, founder of Principle Based Politics.
Look for his posts each week, as this blog will explore and promote the idea of principle in politics, both as to individual elected leaders and our federal government as an institution.