OPINION: Biden’s 2020 voters still ridin’ with Biden in Georgia

Older, greyer and slower than he used to be, President Joe Biden has said American voters don’t need to choose between him and “the Almighty” in the 2024 presidential contest. They just need to decide between him and the Alternative, meaning former President Donald Trump.

That’s a pretty good line for a president facing slumping approval ratings, an impeachment inquiry in the Republican-led House, and a looming family scandal with his son, Hunter, having recently been indicted on felony gun and tax charges. But is it really enough just to tell Georgians, “Hey, it could be worse?”

To find out, I reached out to 10 Georgians polled by the AJC in September of 2020 who told us then that they planned to vote Biden. Now three years into the Biden administration, some of those Georgians have been thrilled with the Biden years, while others are ambivalent or deeply disappointed. But to my surprise, all 10 said they plan to vote for Biden again in 2024.

My interviews didn’t comport with a recent Wall Street Journal poll, that showed three-fourths of American voters think Biden is too old to run for another term, nor the Journal editorial that followed describing the collective Democratic “freak out” happening in Washington. But that’s why it’s important to remember that polls don’t vote for president, people do.

“I think he’s doing a great job, on the economy with the Inflation Reduction Act and the Insulin cap at $35, helping out Ukraine, not bowing down to Putin and all the other dictators in the world,” said Twila Dhabolt, a truck driver from Bethlehem, Ga.

Dhabolt said she’s voted for Democrats and Republicans in the past, “But when Trump was running, it opened my eyes.” When Trump was president, she said he eliminated a tax break for truckers’ per diem expenses, which increased her tax bill by thousands and only made her like him less.

While Dhabolt listed even more reasons she likes Biden, Marvens Chalumeau of McDonough, Ga. said he voted for Biden in 2020 because he was “the lesser of two evils and there’s no way I would ever vote for Trump.”

“And now it’s almost like deja vu,” Chalumeau said of the potential Biden-Trump rematch in 2024.

The 40-year-old father said he considers himself a “Working Families Party” progressive, and said Biden has turned out to be a major disappointment on issues from social justice to student loan forgiveness to immigration reform, spending billions to fight the war in Ukraine, and failing to pass a major tax overhaul for the wealthy.

Could he imagine not voting at all? “No, no, no. Not to vote? That’s not even an option,” he said. “I’m an immigrant from Haiti and I know how it is to have corruption,” he said of Trump.

The idea of Trump on the ballot is a driving force behind marketing executive A.J. McGroon’s plan to vote for Biden again, too.

“Things probably could have been better,” he said. “But the big thing for me is he’s better than the alternative.”

“Trump is a terrible person and I’d like for him to go away and get locked up,” he said.

On the question of Biden’s age, McGroon said the president, who is 80, is just part of an aging and aged system, along with 77-year-old Trump.

“It would be great to have someone younger, but we’re dealing with a whole bunch of old people who, in general, all need to go away,” he said.

Gloria Ricks, an environmental justice nonprofit leader in Augusta, said major policy changes like the overhauls Biden has attempted take time to work through the system, but that she is “a patient person.”

She understands the talk about the president’s age, she said, but she believes in what he’s doing and hasn’t seen a reason not to support him.

“He is surrounded by advisers and consultants who are there to keep him lifted, where his age may cause him to stumble a little bit,” she said. “Will I vote for him again? When I think of the alternative….”

The alternative, again, is Trump, whom Ricks called “a mean, vindictive person who has absolutely no idea…and I’m not going to even address the indictments.”

Pam Belinger, a retired school teacher in Woodstock, said Biden has been “phenomenal, but he doesn’t get the credit.” And like Gloria Ricks, she also doesn’t want to see Trump get elected again.

“I do not understand how anybody with a working brain cell would vote for Trump,” she said. Biden, she added, does have working brain cells.

“If you are going to say one person has Alzheimer’s, you’d pick Trump.”

The Trump factor for the Georgians who plan to support Biden does not surprise DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond, who said he’s not seeing much enthusiasm for the president right now, but he also doesn’t expect to, since increased interest rates and basic costs are still hurting family budgets.

But he said Biden has a strength that most candidates don’t.

“Biden’s asset is Trump,” Thurmond said. “Trump will turn out the Democratic base. Trump will coalesce opposition to him around Biden.”

Other suburban Atlanta leaders like as Democratic state Rep. Teri Anulewicz said voters seem “resigned” to Biden, but that’s not all bad.

“They also seem comfortable with Biden and they feel like Biden is not going to do anything harmful in the way they think Trump will do something harmful,” Anulewicz said. That sentiment is especially strong among suburban women, moms, and teachers she talks to.

The slogan, “It could be worse,” isn’t exactly Reagan’s “Morning in America” or Obama’s “Hope and change.” But it does fit on a bumper sticker. And for Biden’s 2020 voters in Georgia, it’s working so far.