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Biden is setting the wrong example for America — and Latin America

Statesman Standards: President Joe Biden speaks with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, right, in Mexico City on Jan. 8, 2023.
Andrew Harnik
Statesman Standards: President Joe Biden speaks with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, right, in Mexico City on Jan. 8, 2023.

COMMENTARY By not stepping aside, President Biden risks displaying the egotism he rightly condemns in Trump — and which American leaders supposedly warn Latin American leaders against.

I know this is a longshot — but if Joe Biden won’t drop his age-addled re-election bid for the good of America, he might consider stepping aside for the good of … Latin America.

I say this as a citizen of Latin America’s capital — Miami.

I say this as someone who cares about the positive political example America still sets for the Americas. (Yes, since you ask, I did type that last sentence with a straight face.)

And I say this on the 4th of July — a day when American leaders like Biden ought to be especially aware of that example.

An example that rests on one premise more than any other: No one person is more important than the nation. No one person is indispensable to the nation.

I don’t expect a sociopathic narcissist liar like former President Donald Trump to understand that. But I do expect an honorable statesman like President Biden to get it.

READ MORE: In America, like Latin America, is gerontocracy a 'recipe for disaster'?

I expect it not just because America’s two-and-a-half-century-old democracy depends on it right now — when, after the 81-year-old Biden’s painfully foggy debate performance last week, it’s painfully probable the sociopathic narcissist liar will win November’s presidential election. And when the Supreme Court just told the sociopath that if he wins, he’s got virtual license to be Orange Caligula.

I also expect it because the last thing Latin America’s decades-old democracies need at this moment is to see America’s honorable statesman-in-chief succumb to the “indispensable man” delusion. Even if Biden does insist he’s resorting to it for the honorable statesman reason of keeping Trump, who has delusionally proclaimed himself an indispensable man, out of the White House.

For Biden to selfishly persist as his party’s candidate after a major post-debate poll shows almost three-fourths of the electorate feels he’s too old for a second term? That smacks not only of the sort of egotism he rightly warns would run amok if Trump is elected again — something, ironically, Biden’s all but ensuring will happen. It’s also reminiscent of the sort of stubborn self-importance that so often rears its head inside presidential palaces south of America’s border.

By pridefully digging in — by not admirably bowing out — Biden risks signaling the U.S. isn't serious about its nation-before-the-man principles.

In fact, since Biden is President of the United States, it has the potential effect of validating Latin America’s populist proclivities.

Look around the region.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, aka AMLO, has restored what we once called Mexico’s imperial presidency. And although he adhered (surprisingly) to his country’s ban on re-election this summer, his uber-victorious National Regeneration Movement, or Morena, is restoring Mexico’s imperial one-party rule — with AMLO as the indispensable emeritus running the works.

Toxic shadow

In El Salvador, indispensable President Nayib Bukele had no compunction whatsoever this year about trashing his country’s prohibition on re-election to consecutive terms, and he’s set up his own imperial reign.

Then President Donald Trump (left) and then Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro at Mar-a-Lago in Florida in 2020/
Alex Brandon
Then President Donald Trump (left) and then Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro at Mar-a-Lago in Florida in 2020/

In Nicaragua, we’ve got indispensable dictator and geriatric thug Daniel Ortega. In Venezuela, indispensable dictator and middle-aged thug Nicolás Maduro, who’ll no doubt in the coming days cancel the July 28 presidential election he’s sure to lose.

In Brazil, there's the toxic shadow of indispensable former President and Trump amigo Jair Bolsonaro, who encouraged his followers — like Trump — to try to violently overturn the presidential election he lost in 2022. And in Argentina, wannabe — and unhinged — indispensable man, President Javier Milei.

I’m certainly not comparing Biden to those autocratic jerks. He’s a good man and a good president.

My point instead is this: By pridefully digging in and doing what’s best for him — by not admirably bowing out and doing what everyone publicly or privately has now concluded is best for the country — Biden risks sending a signal to Latin America and the rest of the world that America really isn’t all that serious about the nation-before-the-man principles it claims to exalt.

That claim will ring doubly hollow if Biden stays in the race and loses to Trump — the man-before-the-nation candidate.

However: if Biden lets a younger, more viable replacement face Trump — and if that contender defeats Trump — then America’s political ethos will be doubly affirmed.

Biden’s loyalists will ask: What if he stays and wins? I’d reply: Granted, another Trump presidency would be worse — but given Biden’s cognitive decline, is a second Biden term really the best thing for America?

Or, for that matter, Latin America?

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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