Nowadays calling an election with any degree of certainty veers dangerously close to the path of damnation. Copious statistics and technical analysis cannot reliably affirm an outcome in cases where the political Black Swan prevails, and therefore electing to make bold predictions presents a troublesome risk. With that being said, value can still be extracted from pontifications about what specific results might look like.
On this front, let us consider the notion of a Biden Presidency, and how minimally Biden would tend to influence day-by-day machinations. It is abundantly clear that Mr. Robinette has been affected by some form of mental decline. This fact is not advanced to mock him as a person—and indeed sympathy should be called for—but in terms of the office itself, Uncle Joe is bound to be more of a figurehead than any other president beforehand, and perhaps will not even be much apart from a statue to promote the vague sense of national unity.
Such a development is interesting in light of America’s political tradition. Although officially a presidential system, the Executive Branch has vacillated widely in terms of overall power. We have the concept of the Imperial Presidency conceived in the 1970s, and the tenure of Chief of Staff Don Regan, who was popularly seen as “prime minister” over President Reagan’s government. More recently, Dick Cheney usurped great power from George W. Bush while serving as the latter’s vice president, while Donald Trump has reclaimed significant authority for himself in the Oval Office.
But Biden would likely be different. At the tender young age of 78 and with failing memory, he is liable to embody the ceremonial, Head of State-style president visible in most European democracies; typically an elderly man or woman with basic duties to make appointments and appear at events but otherwise divorced from real responsibility and power. Democrats can flash his smile for the cameras, get legislation signed, and then allow the inner chamber doors to shut securely, locking Joey out of the real decision table.
Some will undoubtedly decry the possibility, perhaps appealing to his many years as a senator and champion for transforming bills into law. The same could of course be said for Robert Byrd, who hung on until the very end despite limited abilities towards that junction. Biden’s advantage over others here would be his legacy as a president, not simply another grouchy curmudgeon in the congressional retirement home. That prize is quite substantial for a person not confident of what his own name is.