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Democrats Can Dump President Joe Biden. Here’s How | Opinion


Since his disastrous debate performance two weeks ago, President Joe Biden has done little to reassure political allies and voters that he is still capable of running a vigorous and successful campaign for president. His televised sit-down with George Stephanopoulos was a mixed bag that included too many non-sequiturs and too much garbled nonsense for comfort, and his campaign was subsequently caught coordinating questions with his radio interviewers. And even if the past 10 days had gone far better than they did, it is probably too late anyway. Voters cannot unsee what they witnessed during the CNN debate, and they shouldn’t be asked to.

Meanwhile most elected Democrats—who are visibly and justifiably panicked about getting dragged to the ocean floor by the wake of Biden’s sinking ship—seem to be giving him an extended chance to exit the race with dignity, hoping that he will come to the decision on his own terms, like grown children who want pop-pop to stop driving but don’t want to have to take away his car keys. That’s understandable, but Democrats need to get on with the ugly business of forcing Biden from this race before his egomaniacal refusal to face reality leads the party to a generation-defining defeat in November.

For one thing, the polls are getting worse by the day. Trump’s narrow lead has ballooned in polling averages since the debate, standing now at 2.2 points according to 538 and nearly 5 points at RealClearPolitics. The spin from the White House about how their internal polls show a better situation than what’s in the voluminous public polling is pure delusion. The longer the party waits to replace Biden at the top of the ticket, the less time everyone will have to smooth over ruffled feathers and contain any fallout from what will be a highly unusual and possibly contentious process.

President Joe Biden greets supporters and volunteers during a campaign stop at a Biden-Harris campaign office in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on July 7.

SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

Even with a young, vigorous nominee capable of advancing a compelling vision for Democrats, erasing a lead this late in the cycle would be a challenge. With Biden, it is close to impossible. That’s because his chief liability—not his age per se but rather this inability to consistently look and sound like he is cognitively fit to wield the awesome powers of the presidency—is on display every time he speaks in public. It cannot be put in the past because the issue is fundamentally not in the past.

That means that all the elected Democrats who are grousing to reporters on background about how Biden needs to get lost must join the few who have shown the courage to publicly call for a new nominee. Salty, anonymous quotes in Politico articles are not going to put Biden over 270 electoral votes, and anguish expressed “in private” will be unable to halt the certification of Trump’s victory in January. The more Democrats are willing to band together to send an unmistakable message to the president, the harder it will be for the White House to pretend that this situation is salvageable.

But public pressure may not be enough. Not even every Democrat in Congress working together and screaming for a new nominee would be nearly sufficient to prevent Biden’s nomination in August. That’s because the president won more than 87 percent of the available delegates and it is those delegates who would need to be persuaded to revolt.

And please, spare me the pearl-clutching about how “anti-democratic” this would be. Most Democrats never wanted Biden to run again in the first place and had almost no way to express that desire. Members of the Democratic bench, including governors like California’s Gavin Newsom and Colorado’s Jared Polis, chose not to run and therefore deprived primary voters of any meaningful input into the party’s choice of standard bearer this year. And as has become clear in the days since the debate, the president’s decline has been an open secret for at least a year, one that was kept from both voters and potential big-name challengers.

The Democrats who are leading the charge to push Biden aside need to start working two sets of phones at once. With one hand, they need to be dialing their colleagues in Congress and bringing them into the fold. They need to be reassured that they won’t be caught out on their own and won’t be jeopardizing their future in the party by speaking out. With the other, they need to start the difficult process of trying to turn Biden’s own delegates against him if the president refuses to step aside. The party’s rules require only that delegates vote for the candidate they are pledged to “in good conscience” Get their phone numbers and start trying to convince them that their conscience requires a new nominee. Today.

The mere threat of a delegate revolt might be enough to force his hand. Facing not just a rebellion among elected Democrats but also the real possibility of an historic humiliation on the convention floor, Biden would almost certainly choose to preserve what is left of his dignity and at long last get out of the way.

The sooner that happens, the sooner Democrats can put the focus of their campaign where it belongs: on the extraordinary threat of a second Trump term—to cherished rights that the GOP is promising to eliminate, to the American democracy that he will dismantle, and to the very possibility of repairing the civic and cultural damage that he will exacerbate with four (or more) years to remake the country in his chaotic, dystopian image.

David Faris is an associate professor of political science at Roosevelt University and the author of It’s Time to Fight Dirty: How Democrats Can Build a Lasting Majority in American Politics. His writing has appeared in The Week, The Washington Post, The New Republic, Washington Monthly and more. You can find him on Twitter @davidmfaris.

The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.