So, Donald Trump is running for president again. Where’s the long Vaudeville stage hook when you need one?
A week after disappointing midterm elections for Republicans, Trump announced Tuesday he’ll run for president a fourth time in 2024. He still does not accept that he lost the last time.
Meanwhile, President Biden has for some time indicated his “intention” to run for reelection; no doubt emboldened by a purported red wave that turned into a red trickle. It would also be his fourth campaign for the presidency.
Trump has been the most polarizing presidential candidate since George Wallace. His continued denial that he lost the election two years ago, even after his own attorney general said there was no evidence of his claimed widespread voter fraud, has caused many to lose faith in American democracy, and that’s a travesty.
What’s also a travesty is what he is doing to the Republican Party. In this past election, he supported or hand-picked far-right candidates who also refused to accept the results of the 2020 election. Many won their party’s nomination only to be defeated in the general election — even in states that usually vote Republican.
To survive, the Republican Party needs to get behind another candidate — a candidate who did not encourage the takeover of the Capitol on Jan. 6, and who does not feed on people’s biases and hate.
Closer to home, if Republicans want New Mexico to return to some semblance of a two-party state, they are going to have to cut ties with Trump and make that separation crystal clear with younger voters.
Biden, meanwhile, long known for public gaffes, is showing an increasing frequency for misstatements and confusing rhetoric.
Neither Trump, 76, nor Biden, 79, offers anything fresh. And they hardly reflect the growing bloc of younger voters. Biden already is the oldest president to hold the office. And Trump, if elected, would start that term as the second-oldest president.
Millennials have overtaken Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation and it’s transforming our elections. Exit polls found 1 in 8 midterm voters were under 30. Millennials, who are ages 26-41, and Generation Z, who are 10 to 25, are poised to become the largest voting bloc in the electorate, but you wouldn’t know that from the recent leadership of the Democratic and Republican parties.
Fresh leadership is needed.
Perhaps, in 2024, it should again be time for the torch to be passed to a new generation of Americans, as John F. Kennedy described in his 1961 inaugural speech.
And that may help quell the local infighting we’ve seen lately in both parties. Witness the ugly fight by the Bernallillo County Commission to replace retired Democrat Sen. Jacob Candelaria. And the Republicans are again in a hotly contested battle over the state chairmanship. If the last one is any indication, get ready for some nasty name-calling.
While several factors have contributed to the degradation of civil discourse between and within the parties, our essentially closed primary system in New Mexico is partly to blame. The system disenfranchises more than 300,000 New Mexico voters and favors the fringes of both parties. Allowing independents to cast ballots in primaries could produce more moderate nominees, which more closely would represent all voters.
According to the most recent voter registration data, 22.6% of New Mexico’s 1.3 million registered voters were independents who declined to state a party affiliation. That’s more than 307,000 registered voters who are disenfranchised during primary elections.
Legislation passed in 2020 allows independent voters and voters registered with certain minor political parties to change their registrations to one of the major parties during early voting or on Election Day in order to vote in either the Democratic, Republican or Libertarian primary.
The result was a joke. Only 2,111 of the state’s 304,000 independents at that time chose to affiliate themselves with a major party in this year’s primary election.
Independents, who tend to be younger and/or people of color, made up just 8% of the state’s registered voters in 1990. Now, they’re approaching a fourth of the electorate. They deserve to be heard in the crucial primary contests.
But it all starts at the top, where we face a possible Biden-Trump rematch. That’s a show New Mexicans shouldn’t want to see again.
We can only hope that stronger candidates who can unite the populace with proposals to bring about a prosperous and inclusive future for all Americans emerge in the next two years. It’s time for new standard bearers to lead the parties, and the nation.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.