Gerontocracy dilemma highlights the decline of US hegemony
Published: Jul 01, 2024 05:40 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

The first 2024 presidential debate between US presidential candidates Joe Biden and Donald Trump garnered global attention. This debate marked a significant event in American political history, shedding light on the current political challenges facing the US. The moments of the debate left American voters feeling embarrassed. The two candidates, with a combined age nearing 160 years, failed to meet the expectations of American voters for a presidential candidate, raising concerns about the future of the US on the global stage.

The US media outlets evaluated Biden's performance in the debate as "incoherent" and "losing his train of thought," making it difficult for him to clearly articulate his policy positions. During the debate, Biden was unable to remember key facts or make effective impromptu remarks. He often went off topic when discussing the abortion issue. Trump, on the other hand, remains strong as always, using aggressive language to attack his opponent while continuously making unverified statements in an attempt to win voter support through emotional manipulation. This debate not only disappointed the American people but also raised doubts about American leadership in the international community. After the debate, even the US' European allies openly discussed the possibility of the Democratic Party replacing Biden. It is clear that doubts and anxieties about America's leadership have reached a very serious level.

The current phenomenon in the US can be seen as a typical example of gerontocracy dilemma. The emergence of this dilemma is not accidental but rather the inevitable result of the solidification of political interest groups within the US. In recent years, American politics has gradually been controlled by a few interest groups, who ensure their power and influence through complex interest mechanisms. This structure of interests makes it difficult for more energetic and capable young and middle-aged political figures to make their mark on the political stage.

While young and middle-aged politicians may bring fresh ideas and energy, they struggle to build political support networks and accumulate enough political capital. As a result, it is often difficult for them to compete in elections against older, more experienced politicians with extensive connections. This situation not only hinders innovation and dynamism in the US political system, but also results in an overrepresentation of older politicians who prioritize maintaining the status quo over enacting meaningful change. 

Numerous American media personalities and pundits are frustrated and have complained that the latest debate highlights that the US is "in trouble." They question whether America has any young, healthy, and capable individuals with high moral standards. This situation proves that there is a lack of democracy in America, with elections being manipulated by a few wealthy individuals who cannot elect true leaders. This is a sad state of affairs for Americans and is causing incalculable damage to the world.

The contest between Biden and Trump is not just a battle between two elderly individuals, but it also represents the political dilemma facing the US. The US, as a global leader, needs a leader who can navigate complex international situations and promote domestic reform. However, even observers within the US believe Biden and Trump are seen as lacking the qualification for this responsibility, with their cognitive abilities and integrity being called into question. This has not only disappointed American voters, but has also caused allies to question US leadership.

American voters are frustrated, allies are anxious. While declining in its governance ability, the US has not lost its ambition to maintain dominance. This version of the US is increasingly becoming a clear threat and challenge to the world.

The US is in desperate need of a significant political change, and requires more young and promising political figures to emerge and lead the country out of its predicament. However, under the existing political structure, such a change seems difficult to achieve. The hegemony of the US, as demonstrated in this debate, is on the decline. Only by breaking the monopoly of interest groups can space be made for new political forces to reshape American leadership and global influence.

The author is director of the Research Institution for Global Cyberspace Governance at Fudan University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn