The Alabamafication of Joe Biden (2024)

This is an opinion column.

According to the national press, including none other than Carl Bernstein, the president’s family and closest advisers have sheltered the president for months, if not years, limiting access and downplaying episodes of confusion and distress.

Who does Joe Biden think he is? Kay Ivey?

As a political strategy, there’s some precedent for this. Alabama’s governor and her staff have been doing something similar for years, and she regularly polls among the nation’s most popular governors.

Not having much to do with her constituents or the media has done wonders for Ivey. And until Thursday night, it seemed to work well enough for Biden, too.

Unfortunately, this strategy has limits.

Every year in Alabama, it’s a topic of state house gossip: Will Ivey get through her State of the State address without stumbling?

Whether the governor can stand and read for an extended time is a regular question without a certain answer — at least until she’s actually through it.

In between election years, Ivey’s health has been in question, too. But don’t expect straight answers. Her staff has attempted to cover up two health scaresincluding cancer — until they couldn’t anymore.

And if it’s an election year, there’s the big one — will she debate?

Who am I kidding? Kay Ivey has never debated while running for governor, neither in the general election nor the primary. And she wasn’t the first to refuse. We haven’t had a real gubernatorial debate in Alabama since 2010.

And Thursday night, the president showed us all why. There’s much at stake in a gerontocracy.

What if the candidate loses a train of thought? What if they forget where they are? Or what year it is? Or the difference between a million and a billion and a trillion?

What if they fall?

What if they can’t get back up?

Biden left the stage on his own two feet but he failed the Kay Ivey test.

After the debate last week, I saw many of the president’s supporters questioning why his staff let him debate at all. As Ivey herself can attest, the best way to pass the Kay Ivey test is to not take it.

When she first ran — for the office she assumed after Robert Bentley’s embarrassing old-age downfall — Ivey refused to debate a field of Republican primary opponents, much less her general election opponent, Walt Maddox.

Four years later, Ivey didn’t have any such real opponents in the primary, nor anyone worthwhile to debate in the general. She didn’t debate them, either.

Meanwhile, she limited her sit-down interviews to only those who’d serve her home-cookin’.

This isn’t to say such silence doesn’t have consequences.

When Bentley tried the silent treatment, voters learned after election day he was planning a massive tax increase to fill a hole in the state’s general fund.

When Ivey sailed to victory, she threw her support behind a gas tax hike and blamed the president when Alabamians felt the pinch at the pump.

Allowing politicians to skate by without answering questions during election season costs taxpayers money.

Am I being ageist? Absolutely, but the U.S. Constitution is ageist, too — only in the other direction. The Founders considered anyone younger than 35 too young and inexperienced to be president. A mandatory retirement age didn’t seem that important to them. Short of a constitutional amendment, that job’s on us, the voters, to decide.

After his stumble last Thursday, Biden gave a more lively speech in North Carolina the following afternoon.

“I know, like millions of Americans know, when you get knocked down you get back up,” Biden said.

His supporters split ranks, with half asking where that Biden had been the night before, and the other half pointing to the speech as proof Biden was OK.

All it proved was that Biden could stand and read — not that he could think on his feet.

Maybe if this reelection campaign doesn’t work out, he can run for governor of Alabama.

The Alabamafication of Joe Biden (1)

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The Alabamafication of Joe Biden (2024)
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