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America Running Two Presidential Elections

Trump Biden campaigning - side by pic
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By: Christian Schneider – nationalreview.com

One question is who will win in 2024, Biden or Trump. But the other is who’s going to be president in 2026.

Alexei Navalny dies in a Russian prison. Donald Trump takes a break from campaigning and court dates to sell golden basketball shoes. Joe Biden mistakes the normal-sized, female Angela Merkel for the hulking, male (and dead) Helmut Kohl and thinks Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is the president of Mexico.

Every day, the American public is pummeled with stunning, often unprecedented news stories. Like Lucille Ball trying to sort conveyor-belt chocolates, the rapid appearance of these events overwhelms us all. Regular Americans are busy raising their kids, holding down jobs, and solving murders from their home computers — hardly anyone has the time to sit down to thoughtfully reflect on what is about to happen to our country over the next nine months.

Specifically, most of the news we hear is framed in terms of how it affects the November election. Horse-race coverage is the easiest for busy people to take in, so it dominates cable-news discussions.

But the most important question isn’t who is going to be elected president in 2024. Instead, the key issue is:

Who is going to be president in 2026?

The question gets marginally less provocative every day. Anyone gaming out the election knows that neither Biden nor Trump has the political capital to remain in office long past Inauguration Day 2025. For both parties, this year’s election is like one of those car-dealer ads that promises you a good trade-in price for any vehicle you can push, pull, or drag to the dealership. Both Republicans and Democrats need to lug their candidates’ political cadavers over the November finish line, then figure it out from there.

Democrats, while not entirely nonplussed at their dire situation, nonetheless have to be far from plussed. More Americans have gone to a theater to see Madame Web than believe Joe Biden is of plausible presidenting age. A recent poll found that 86 percent of Americans thought that, at 81 years old, Biden was too old to serve a second term — and that included 77 percent of Democrats. But if he wins, after a couple of 2025 press conferences where Biden forgets to put on pants and can’t name the current president, Google will be inundated with cabinet secretaries searching “how do u 25th amendment a president.”

Conversely, if he makes it back to the White House, Trump is even less likely to serve as long as Biden would. Perhaps if he is successful in delaying his trials past Election Day, he could either make some of his 91 felony counts go away or pardon himself if convicted while in office. But he still faces charges in New York and Georgia state courts, which he cannot simply wave away.

And the federal prosecutors accusing him of trying to overturn the election and hiding classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort know full well they have to complete their work before the election if any justice is to be served; otherwise, all their time will have been lost. America simply can’t go to the polls not knowing whether the man they are picking is facing jail time.

Make no mistake: It is very likely that either before or after the election, Trump will be a convicted felon. In order to dodge that black mark, Trump has to be right 91 times; the prosecutors have to be right only once. Further, we have seen in recent weeks that Trump’s boisterous behavior not only doesn’t help him in courtrooms, it can actually work against him — and when the Department of Justice sinks its teeth into you, it rarely loses.

Would America elect a freshly minted felon to the presidency? If it did, it would officially be the nation giving up. We might as well change the national symbol to a bald eagle wearing sweatpants.

These convictions won’t be the result of some youthful Trumpian indiscretion — they will result from trying to overturn an American election while serving as president. Electing a felon would be the humiliation heard ’round the world.

All that while Grocery Store Czar Tucker Carlson begins the process of changing all produce signage to Russian.

(To be fair to Biden, Trump also has age problems, with 62 percent of Americans believing that, at 77, he is too old to serve. And, of course, most of the rantings emanating from his mouth make Biden sound like Benjamin Disraeli.)

So imagine the very real possibility that neither man could serve deep into his second term. What happens then?

Obviously, if Biden were to win on the same ticket as before, his place would be taken by Vice President Kamala Harris, who would ascend to the presidency after earning the approval of roughly 3 percent of Democrats during the 2020 presidential primaries. Harris’s current approval rating sits at 36.4 percent, even lower than Biden’s abysmal 39.2 percent.

The Trump case is trickier. If legal troubles forced him to bow out of the race before the election, the party would have to decide how to pick his replacement — it couldn’t simply sub in his VP pick, as not a single person would have voted for him or her in a primary election. If the party decided to choose a nominee on its own, without the input of voters or delegates, the selection process would be bedlam.

So what happens then? Assuming the national convention has already wrapped up, does the party re-convene the delegates? Do Republicans hold a one-day national primary? Do previously vanquished nutjobs like Vivek Ramaswamy get to jump back in the race? Can people like Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin, who never ran in the first round of primary elections, jump in, because . . . why the hell not?

Let’s say Trump is somehow able to stay in the race. A handful of his most shameless sycophants are currently vying to be his VP pick. So what if Trump actually wins? All of them likely think they’ll be close enough to smell the presidency as if it were a freshly baked loaf of bread. They have discovered a White House cheat code: If you suck up to Trump by denying the 2020 election results, you are one Jack Smith conviction away from being president without ever having to do any of that yucky campaigning.

America would end up with a president whose only qualification was that he or she provided Donald Trump with a sufficient number of verbal backrubs. Someone like Kari Lake, Elise Stefanik, J. D. Vance, or Tim Scott could be rewarded with America’s ultimate prize because they showed the most effusive cowardice, expecting people to believe they will stand up to dictators who murder their political opponents when they couldn’t even stand up to a guy who sells imaginary steaks.

Of course, Republicans could avoid all the chaos by choosing Trump challenger Nikki Haley, but she is far too electable to win a GOP primary. Too many people are invested both financially and emotionally in the chaos wrought by Trump. (Clearly, that Trump cologne isn’t going to sell itself.) On the campaign trail, Haley has made a big issue of the possibility of a President Kamala Harris, without touching on the fact that Trump may appoint a running mate even less qualified for the top job.

Thus America is effectively running two presidential campaigns at once. There is the campaign everyone pays attention to, and there is the shadow campaign to be the next next president.

But two campaigns running on concurrent tracks simply gives voters more unpalatable options. It is reminiscent of a future envisioned by Woody Allen: “More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”

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Source: America’s Two Elections: Who Will Be President in 2024 and 2026 | National Review