“Elect me, I’m in the 20th century.” If you had to take a guess, you would think this is a quote from a presidential candidate from a year starting with 19. Well, you’d be incorrect, this was a quote from our 46th President Joe Biden in the year 2024.  

As we continue to wade deeper into this presidential election cycle, let’s take a look at the landscape. Both major party candidates were born during or in the immediate aftermath of World War II. Joe Biden was born a year and a half before the invasion of Normandy and Donald Trump was born in the middle of Harry Truman’s first term. These are not new observations; voters are aware and concerned about the advanced ages of the candidates for the 2024 election.   

But what isn’t discussed enough is the standard to which Americans hold their candidates for the presidency. In what is seemingly becoming a daily occurrence, President Biden will commit some sort of flub. Look as recently as this past Easter Sunday, which President Biden declared as the Trans Day of Visibility. Christians across the nation protested this declaration and, in response, Biden said “I didn’t do that,” despite numerous tweets from his account and the official declaration being on the White House website. This is just the most recent example, there are numerous instances of the president either outwardly lying, like when President Biden claimed his son Beau died in Iraq, or just being completely wrong, like when he said that he remembered riding the train on the Francis Scott Key bridge despite the fact it never had train tracks.   

Joe Biden is not alone in this. On top of the federal indictments and other legal issues, President Trump said during the Republican primary that Nikki Haley was in charge of the security at the Capitol on January 6, that would have been Nancy Pelosi. He also recently confused President Biden and President Obama at a rally in Ohio.   

Our standards for presidential behavior have really slipped. In 1988, Michael Dukakis took a picture in an M1 Abrams Tank with a helmet on, he then proceeded to lose the Electoral College vote 426-111.  In 1992, Vice President Dan Quayle misspelled the word potato, which ended any hope he had for a presidential run. In 2004, Howard Dean excitedly yelled into a microphone at a rally and his quest for the Democratic nomination screeched to a halt. Governor Rick Perry briefly forgot the Department of Energy during a debate and his 2012 quest for the Republican nomination died. Can you imagine if the biggest issue with one of the major presidential candidates was that he yelled in a microphone in an excited manner?   

Americans used to hold their leaders to a higher standard. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Americans turned to their president and George W. Bush stood on the rubble of the World Trade Center and declared that our attackers would hear from us very soon. In that moment, that was our leader doing what we all envision our president doing, leading us in a time of darkness. We vote for the president as the leader of our nation and that person should be, at least in theory, the best of us.  We don’t want perfection, no human being is perfect, but can we settle on a leader who knows what years he was Vice President or can remember who the president of Mexico is? Is that an idyllic, “West Wing” way to view things? Maybe, but a little optimism never hurt.