The elephant in the room

Published July 4, 2024

By Lib Campbell

Everybody who watched the presidential debate last Thursday saw Joe Biden stumble and mumble. He looked like he had the flu or worse. His performance was dismal. We Democrats cringed while the Republicans gloated. But his poor debate performance does not change the fact that Donald Trump, the liar we saw on the debate stage, is an existential threat to our country. One television pundit said, “it’s either Hell no or Oh no.” 
As Democrats, we need to own it. We cannot spin or sugar coat it. Joe Biden is old. But he knows what truth is. And he knows and respects the rule of law. I will vote for that every time. Biden, or whoever ends up on the Democratic ticket, is all we have standing between us and autocracy. I am floored constantly by the number of people who deny that fact.
Editorials across the spectrum are strongly encouraging President Biden to step down and give somebody younger the blessing to run for the presidency. His own decision to step aside would be a great gift to the country. He could campaign with and for them.
What has befallen Joe Biden is what will come to all of us. Old age and diminishing capabilities. But we humans, in our fear of becoming irrelevant, stay on the stage too long. Passing the torch is hard when you have successfully done good work in the limelight for years. 
I call this the Perry Como Syndrome. In his last Christmas Concert on television, he forgot lyrics and seemed to stumble through the songs he had sung for fifty years. I remember the sadness I felt for him, that nobody around him had suggested that he pass on another show. 
Age is not something easily hidden. We all live variations of the theme of age. Some of us lose physical abilities. Others of us lose mental acuity. Some things are easier to hide than others. But most of us do not display ourselves on a television camera with 51 million pairs of eyes watching us.
The Senators of the 118th Congress have an average age of 64. Chuck Grassley is 90. That’s young if you consider Strom Thurmond, who was 100 when he left the congress. We have a geriatric Congress. Biden is only 81, Mitch McConnell is 83! Pelosi and Bernie fit right in. Trump himself is 78. Asking how we cultivate new leaders is laughable, since it doesn’t seem to be going on. 
Pundits and editorialists across the spectrum are encouraging Biden to step down. From the Wall Street Journal to the Washington Post, the alarm is being sounded. They all say it’s time for Joe to go. One might think Doctor Jill Biden or other close advisors would be strategizing an exit plan. The only problem might be the blood bath that would take place between candidates vying for the nomination. We might not survive a slug fest. Nor do we need to stir further chaos into the mix.
The question must be asked – on either side of the aisle – who is making decisions in the best interest of the country? From the cheap seats, it appears that everybody is acting in their own self-interest. Ignoring the problems that exist with both presidential candidates bodes poorly for the future of this country.
On July Fourth, we celebrated our 248th year of independence. There were parades and fireworks, hot dogs and watermelon. And there was rising angst, further fueled by the Supreme Court decision on immunity.
This is a is a time for bold, selfless leadership, for clear headed thinking. It is time to put away petty grievances and vile accusations. Unless we want our 248th year to be the last of our democracy, we need good options in candidates up and down the ticket. 
We don’t need flame throwers. We don’t need liars and deniers and conspiracy spreaders. We need people of good character who believe in the constitution and the rule of law. We need people whose lives have been lived in serving others. What do you know…. That sounds a lot like Joe Biden.
Democracy itself is on the ballot. If Biden remains on the ticket, or if Kamala or any other Democrat is nominated, I will vote Democratic again and again. And if Joe remains the nominee, I will vote for him. He is all that stands between us and a collapse into autocracy. I will pray a longer life for him to get the job finished. Regardless of what happened in the debate, we cannot afford to turn our backs on Democracy. 
Lib Campbell is a retired Methodist pastor, retreat leader, columnist and host of the blogsite She can be contacted at