Not Who, How

Saturday morning, Washington Post political reporter Aaron Blake ranked 10 potential replacements if Joe Biden chooses to step aside.  I found Blake’s analysis to be quite compelling.  When it came to Vice-president Kamala Harris, he rightly pointed out the backlash from the Black community if she was passed over for someone else, giving Donald Trump more ammo to convince Black voters they are being used by the Democrats.  I also appreciated his including Michelle Obama on his list, calling her “everyone’s dream candidate.”  However, he was quick to acknowledge it would not happen because the former first lady has no interest in the job.

The rest of the list was replete with the usual suspects.  Governors Gavin Newsom (CA), Gretchen Witmer (MI), Jared Polis (CO), Andy Beshear (KY) and Josh Shapiro (PA).  Senators Amy Klobuchar (MN) and Raphael Warnock (GA).  Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.  The problem is that a final decision is needed before the Democratic National Convention begins on August 19, leaving little time for the usual winnowing down that leads to a consensus candidate.

At all costs, Democrats must avoid a contentious nomination process with little chance for healing before the general election.  So the question is not so much who should head the ticket, but how that person is selected.   Fortunately, there is a model for just such a situation.  In 1999, 30 Republican governors convened a meeting to determine who would challenge Al Gore, the likely Democratic nominee for president.  Each promised not to support any other candidate.  And we know what happened.  George W. Bush, with the full backing of 29 of his fellow state chief executives, won a narrow victory in the electoral college.

I am not recommending that Joe Biden call it a day.  That is best left to him, his family and close associates.  However, if he chooses that path, I suggest he do so on one condition.  Everyone interested in becoming the Democratic standard bearer must join him for a meeting in the White House cabinet room, at which time, he informs the attendees:

I have decided to withdraw as a candidate for president and to release my pledged delegates, if and only if, before we leave this room, we all agree on who will be the presidential and vice-presidential nominees.  You will then join me on the White House lawn to announce that decision and to offer your full support of the ticket.   

Now I know several of you had your eye on 2028.  That is where the two nominees have to give a little.  Even if he or she wins in 2024, they must agree they are not guaranteed re-nomination in 2028.   They will have to earn it.  If any of you think we need a change, go for it

That’s the deal, Jack. 

What’s more, this could be another chance for Democrats to again demonstrate the difference within their ranks and the cultists who dominate the MAGA party.  If Donald Trump had as bad a night as Biden, does anyone honestly believe he would have admitted it?  Or he would be sitting down this morning with his wife and children this morning (assuming he could find them) to discuss his future.  But it is not just about Joe.  The above scenario also requires that all but two aspirants to the presidency and vice-presidency put aside their personal ambitions for the national interest.  Such a gesture would further solidify the dichotomy that the leaders of one party are willing to put country before self and one that worships a man who was hijacked his party for personal gratification.

The election with a new ticket could be waged  much like Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 campaign, a tribute to a “fallen” president and a call to finish the mission he started.  On women’s rights.  On climate change.  On income and wealth inequality.  On gun safety.  On the need for a Supreme Court the founding fathers envisioned.  On global democracy.  Joe was never good at touting his own accomplishments.  But his successor can both remind voters of what has been accomplished and honor Biden by call the party platform his “unfinished” agenda.

Nor does Biden now have the oratorical skills to prosecute the case against Donald Trump’s lies.  Imagine a national convention dedicated to dismantling Trump’s version of American in which speaker after speaker across the party’s spectrum parses the fire hose of lies presented during the July MAGA convention.  The stage is framed by a banner which simply says, “The Honest Truth.”  A convention which begins with a film that answers the question, “Are better off today than you were four years ago?”  Images that remind voters of what America looked like on January 19, 2021 and how our country is now the envy of the free world.  After which, the convention chair introduces the outgoing president, giving delegates a chance to thank him for his service and what he has accomplished in just four years.

Even if Biden stays in the race, the opportunity is the same.  With just two and a half months between the convention and election day, Democrats will have the national spotlight for three days.  All they need to do is make the most of it.

For what it’s worth.

4 thoughts on “Not Who, How

  1. The best of your essays. If you don’t mind, going to share this. And hope for the best. Your neighbor – Bob Warner

  2. Just bringing up the subject of replacing Biden undermines his chances of re-election. Now that the subject is out there, people are going to lose faith in his ability to continue for another four years. He was our only chance to beat the former. Now I’m worried.

  3. This is “how” we do it and I believe we must do it. Hoping the powers to be in the party understand we must do this. Our democracy, the Supreme Court, women’s rights, and all Joe Biden accomplished these last 3-1/2 years will disappear if Trump wins the White House. You are so right Dr. ESP.

  4. As usual, Doc, you make your case beautifully and solidly.

    Alas, you and those of us who follow you closely, can recognize the rationale and rationalITY of your arguments.

    But in my opinion, and it brings me no great pleasure to say this, the general electorate, especially those who do not follow politics and the public discourse in any consistent or “scholarly” way are not viewing and accessing the relative merits of the candidates at hand with their rational minds. I further believe that the slow and continued watering down of the universal public education considered essential to a functional democracy over the past 40 years is the major factor explaining this “retreat of reason”.

    In this age of sound bites, “reality tv” (ugh, what an oxymoron), extreme communal shortsightedness, the ever-more prevalent expectation of instant gratification without any effort, pain, sacrifice or compromise, “we, the people” appear to be letting our “feelings” be our guide. Given human nature, was such a backlash to the promise of the Enlightenment thinkers who so influenced the actions of our Founding Fathers inevitable? It certainly “feels” like a regression into an “age of UNreason”.

    Between social media, the decline in a healthy fourth estate, where we all receive at least a modicum of relevant information from common and perfunctorily trusted sources, our public discourse seems to be presented and rated as entertainment! The “advances” of the digital/information revolution, by the specific nature of the technology, in combination with a market-based economy, has led to virtually every shred of information being monetized, with fewer and fewer societal strictures imposed to provide for and protect the general welfare.

    In the short run, let alone the very, very short run until the next election, I do NOT see this scenario swinging back toward the middle anytime soon. I wish had better answers other than my own magical thinking that many more of my neighbors will start employing moRE “right-brained” thinking.

    Well, that’s my story; though I could be wrong.😉

    P.S. Given that time is fleeting, on a more practical note regarding whether President Biden should bow out based on how he “trended” on one of his worst days, I refer you to commentary from several sources with an alternative explanation as to why Biden was at a particular disadvantage in this latest match with Trump.

Comments are closed.