Biden and Harris can enable the Democrats to win in November

Biden and Harris must place the interests of their party and nation first.

Biden clings to the classic belief that only he can save the world. He declared to a meeting with Democratic governors, “No one’s pushing me out. I’m not leaving.” He followed up in an interview with George Stephanopoulos, saying only “the Lord Almighty” could drive him from the race.

Biden and Harris can allow the Democrats to win in November by relinquishing their candidate mantels and campaign funds. Importantly, they must take leadership in organizing their party to avoid internal discord. In doing so, they can guarantee their supporters that the principles they pursued in office will continue under the new Democratic presidential administration since they will help choose those candidates and consider retaining Harris.

They have worked well as a team. Their mission is to avoid the Democrats stumbling into a brokered convention. They have the prestige, the ground support, and the discipline to lift the Democrats out of their befuddlement about how to win the presidency, given Biden’s health and poor polling.

Biden’s debate performance shook the ground under the Democrats.

To understand why this scenario is the best solution for the Democrats, it is necessary to know how Biden’s terrible debate performance altered the Democratic party’s election plans. The debate exposed the weaknesses of both candidates.

The Democrats can now unite around a new candidate, while the Republicans are stuck with a very beatable Trump, particularly if he is running against someone other than Biden.

In the recent NYT poll, the response to the question: How well do you think Joe Biden and Donald Trump did in the presidential debate? Biden got trounced by Trump. A whopping 57% thought Biden did “not well at all,” while only 27% had that same impression of Trump.

Meanwhile, 53% of respondents agreed that Joe Biden is just too old to be an effective president, while only 22% would agree with that assessment for Trump.

Biden narrowly won 2020 against Trump when 36% of voters thought he was too old. Just before the debate, that opinion jumped to 69%. After the debate, which Biden’s advisors pushed as a means to reverse this trend, it climbed to 74%, double from four years ago.

Now, here’s the thing: although being old may slow one’s movements, it does not necessarily hinder one’s ability to think clearly. However, viewers witnessed a confused and muddled Biden. His staff attributed his condition to fatigue from a couple of long world trips filled with meetings just prior to the debate.

A possible severe medical condition has not been addressed.

There is one excuse for Biden that may be real and even provable. It could account for why New York Times’ reporters heard from interviews with “current and former officials and others who encountered him behind closed doors” that they “noticed that he appeared confused or listless, or would lose the thread of conversations,” over the last couple of months.

Biden could be suffering from a series of mini-strokes, aka TIA (transient ischemic attacks), occurring in middle-aged and older adults brought about by higher levels of stress. The results of such strokes are the type of behavior reported to the reporters.

A person can suffer multiple TIAs and never know it. They do not last long, and while they do not immediately result in any permanent damage, over time, there can be cumulative effects on the brain’s health and physical and mental abilities.

These attacks are not full-out strokes like the one that sent John Fetterman to the hospital. Fetterman recovered and won his election, but then again, he is 25 years younger than Biden.

TIAs can be detected after the fact through an MRI, which is often done after a significant stroke. Unfortunately, according to the Mayo Clinic, about 1 in 3 people who had a TIA will eventually have a stroke, with about half occurring within a year after its occurrence.

This possibility might loom on the horizon if Biden had a TIA, which I assume his physician has checked, given his behavior. If he had one or more, Trump supporters could use the news to attack Biden’s ability to serve as president.

However, if Trump found out before the Democratic convention, he might not release that information, fearing that he could face a stronger alternative candidate chosen by a united convention.

Regardless of Biden’s specific medical concerns, the public perceives him as unfit to continue as president. The debate helped to bolster that view, according to a national poll taken of registered voters by the NYT/Siena shortly after the debate.

The public and Democrats are rejecting Biden.

Despite the Biden campaign investing $50 million in advertising the month before the debate, a CNN poll conducted by SSRS found that three-quarters of all US voters say the Democratic Party would have a better chance of winning the 2024 presidential election with someone other than President Joe Biden.

The CNN poll also showed that most Democrats and Democratic-leaning registered voters (56%) say the party has a better shot at the presidency with someone other than Biden, while 43% say the party stands a better chance with him.

These findings reflect the reality that if Trump won every state where he leads right now, he would receive enough electoral votes to win. This is not a recent trend. Trump has led the national polling averages almost every single day this year. He also beats Biden in the swing states Biden took to win the presidency.

The bottom line is that other than Biden’s 2024 opponent, former President Donald Trump, no incumbent has trailed this far behind in the polls since Jimmy Carter’s reelection bid 44 years ago, in which he was stomped by Ronald Reagan.

A brokered democratic convention could be fatally divisive.

Carter was smart and levelheaded, like Biden. He also had the Democrats’ last contested nominating convention, which occurs when the convention opens without one candidate having captured a majority of delegates.

Although Biden is a hair short of a majority, if his delegates begin to drop away, a fight begins to choose the presidential candidate, which is a brokered convention. The last Democratic brokered convention was won by Adlai Stevenson in 1952, and he lost to Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Biden can avoid a brokered convention by shifting his focus from being the presidential candidate to being the ultimate negotiator who successfully brings people together.

Rep. Jamie Raskin’s comments to MSNBC significantly recognized that Biden’s future role is not tied to being the presidential candidate when he said: “One thing I can tell you is that regardless of what President Biden decides, our party is going to be unified . . . He will be the figure that we rally around to move forward.”

V.P. Kamala Harris is the most critical player in the Democratic Convention.

Raskin signaled that Biden must initiate the decision not to run again to avoid a brokered convention. Biden needs V.P. Kamala Harris, the only politician with the influence, to work with him in accepting the withdrawal and formulating a smooth succession.

She has been Biden’s chief surrogate on the campaign trail and the co-owner of their two-million-dollar campaign fund. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) and no other candidate cannot use it.

To convince Biden to choose another candidate, Harris would have to join Biden in allowing a whole new ticket to be formed. She would not have to reject being on it, but she could enable party leaders to help choose the Vice Presidential and the presidential candidates.

Her gesture would magnify the fact that Democrats winning the presidency comes before any one individual’s political interests. Senior sources at the Biden campaign, the White House, and the DNC have told Reuters that the vice president was the top alternative to be their presidential candidate.

A CNN poll found in a matchup against Trump, Harris received 45% to Trump’s 47%, whereas Biden got 43% and Trump 49%. Harris’s gain was partly due to broader support from women and independents.

However, only two to three percentages behind Harris in a matchup with Trump were California Gov. Gavin Newsom (48% Trump to 43% Newsom), Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (47% Trump to 43% Buttigieg), and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (47% Trump to 42% Whitmer). They are all within the error margin. In other words, unless there is a unified agreement on the ticket, divisions among delegates could surface on the convention floor.

Roughly half of the public has no opinion on Buttigieg and Newsom, with about two-thirds offering no opinion of Whitmer. This is good news because it allows their campaigns to present a new image rather than trying to defend an old one.

The clock is ticking to implement a succession plan.

The DNC moved up its formal nomination process to a “virtual roll call” scheduled for August 7 to meet Ohio’s deadline to get the Democratic nominee on the ballot for November’s election. However, on the day of the DNC’s vote, Ohio Gov. DeWine signed a bill giving the DNC until September 1 to register their candidates’ names, which is after their August 19-22 convention.

This change allows the Democrats an additional three weeks to agree on new candidates to secure the majority of delegates votes on the first balloting. Biden could request that the virtual vote be dropped to allow this additional time to unify the party around a new ticket.

The biggest hurdle in choosing new candidates is convincing a majority of delegates that their favorite candidate and their community are respected and their interests addressed. That is why Biden and Harris, as the President and Vice President, must take the lead in organizing their party to promote the best ticket possible to defeat Trump.

Trump can be defeated. Most of the attention on the debate focused on Biden’s poor performance. However, if one reads the debate transcript, one will see that Trump comes across as more rambling than Biden.

Also, when registered voters polled by the NYT last spring were asked in electing Biden or Trump for president who is a safe or risky choice for the country, they registered within one percent of each other as being risky.

When asked this July, 56% thought Trump was more risky, and 63% thought Biden was. A new Democratic candidate must convince the majority of voters that they would be less risky to the country than Trump. Convention delegates should ask themselves, which new candidate can meet that threshold? My guess is that any of them could.


NOTE: The information for this piece was gathered from reviewing 32 articles and websites, some of which are linked above.

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Nick Licata is the author of Becoming A Citizen Activist and Student Power, Democracy and Revolution in the SixtiesHe is the founding board chair of Local Progress, a national network of over 1,300 progressive municipal officials.

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