It is tempting, when faced with the question of whether Joe Biden should run in 2024 to consider this question in isolation. Should President Biden run again? But is this even the right question? Over the past several years, I’ve studied the American people in great detail by reading articles about them in this newspaper and several other newspapers. In doing so, I have been forced to worry that we as a nation have lost sight of the facts that really matter.
The stakes are high. And for all Americans, it should be unequivocally clear: United States presidents serve four-year terms.
Four years. That’s more than one. More than two, even. But fewer years than five or six. As the 2024 election looms, we would do well to remember that.
To say an American president serves a four-year term may be cancel-worthy to those on the defiant right and recalcitrant left who blanch at any effort to seek common ground. But to find copious examples of four-year presidential terms, we need look no further than U.S. history. George Washington served a four-year term—two of them, in fact. Abraham Lincoln served a four-year term, and was preparing to serve another one until his assassination in Ford’s Theatre. In the twentieth century alone, 18 different men served as president, and each time one was elected, it was to—you guessed it—a four-year term. That’s something that we as a nation should not lose sight of, even in our darkest hour.
Four years. That’s 208 weeks. We could also call this 35,064 hours. An hour is much less than a year. There are 8,760 hours in a year, in fact. We must, as a nation, keep in mind just how many hours are in a year.
I worry that in these outraged, polarized, 24/7 times, where we believe that Twitter is real life but that taking a long Saturday to paint a fence with your grandfather isn’t, we have forgotten precisely what a year is. The word “year” comes from the Greek word hōra, meaning “season.” We are experiencing such a season in America today: a scabrous, polarizing season. The polarizing right and the equally polarizing left are fighting over the direction in which our country is headed. This polarization threatens to keep us polarized. I worry that if we can’t agree on basic facts, the year will come when we will no longer agree, as a nation, on how many years are in a presidential term.
There are four.
That’s right. Count ’em: One. Two. Three. Four.
Okay, stop there. There aren’t any more years than four in a presidential term. The irony, of course, is that four years is exactly how long a presidential term lasts.
But serving a presidential term is not the only thing a president does. They are also a person before, and often after, they are president. The average American lifespan is much longer than any four-year presidential term, a point that I see very few people these days willing to make. One wonders whether the clarion of cancel culture is having a chilling effect. But the Founding Fathers, in their boundless wisdom, had it right in many ways. One of those ways was Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, which declares the length of a presidential term: four years.
The vice president also serves a four-year term.
So what of Biden? Right now, Biden is in the middle of a four-year term. If he runs again in 2024 and is reelected, he will be signing up to serve for another four years. But this is a bigger question than Biden, or whoever happens to be on the ballot in 2024. It’s the question of who we are as Americans, where we want to go as a nation, and how many years are in a presidential term.
As of now, there are four. And we should all endeavor to count them.