Five Ways the Democrats Can Replace Biden
From conventional political strategy to House of Cards-like gambits.
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In December 2021, politicos were abuzz over what the Democrats should do with Joe Biden, given his flagging approval numbers and intention to run for re-election. I wrote about why it was far too early to offer any meaningful analysis of the 2024 election, much less make any predictions. I rattled off 25 things that might happen between then and November 2024 which could individually change the dynamics of the election. Six months later, the landscape is already changing:
“6. Big economic changes from where we are now — positive or negative.” (Worsening inflation)
“9. New foreign policy or national security issues.” (The war in Ukraine)
“12. A new political star (or stars) meteorically rising in either party.” (Ron DeSantis)
“15. Landmark Supreme Court rulings that change something important in society, or settle a previously contested issue.” (The overturning of Roe v. Wade)
But none more so than:
“1. Joe Biden (79 years old) experiences serious health problems, or passes away.”
Watching Joe Biden cast about for thoughts through synapses that no longer exist in his brain, while Jimmy Kimmel encouragingly manages him like a small child, stands out among a long career of gaffes, stutters, mix-ups, and goofs as the official end of Joe Biden. Whatever he does or doesn’t do from this point forward, it’s not him anymore. Joe Biden is gone. He has, as John Cleese might say in his falsetto, ceased to be.
For the subset of folks who regard MSNBC as actual news, and in whose minds Donald Trump continues to live rent-free even years into his exile from politics and social media, these words will seem a heresy. But they must be said. Pundits were panicking about Biden’s approval numbers six months ago. In the time since, they have slipped even further, and the other public opinion indicators such as “economic satisfaction” and “U.S. satisfaction” portend a midterm skull-fucking. The Democrats are in serious trouble. Even with the boost that overturning Roe will provide as a rallying cry, 2022 may be unsalvageable. If the Dems want to turn things around for ‘24, they must, at the very least, ensure that Biden doesn’t run for re-election. Ideally, they should find a way to remove him even sooner.
Biden sailed to the Democratic nomination in 2019-20 on the winds of name recognition, the Obama afterglow, and a pivotal endorsement from Representative James Clyburn in exchange for the promise to put a black woman on the Supreme Court. It was common knowledge, even then, that the former Vice President had lost several steps. Biden was not a heavy campaigner, but on the trail, when he wasn’t meandering off in bouts of verbal dozing, he would end up jabbing fingers into voters’ chests, calling them “liars”, “full of shit”, and “dog-faced pony soldiers”, or even challenging them to push-up contests. Biden spent the 2020 general election hiding in his basement for the most part, but he got it together when it mattered, demonstrating enough timely bursts of clarity in his speeches, appearances, and debates to persuade a majority of the voters to cast their ballot for him. In 2022, that is no longer an attainable feat for Mr. Biden. By 2024, it will most assuredly be an impossible one.
How can you run a guy who cannot debate, who can’t string together sentences, who cannot ever be allowed in front of a camera or a mic again? It doesn’t matter how terrible you think Trump or the Republicans are. I happily voted for Biden. I’d have voted for a sack of potatoes over Donald Trump. And if Biden runs again, that’s literally what I’ll be doing — but it’s delusional to suppose that a majority of the electorate would join me. Even if the economy rebounds, prices fall, and the stock market bounces back; even if Ukraine prevails in a way that the Biden Administration can take credit for — the public is left with the reality of a leader without a mind. Not a moron, like Bush. Not an egomaniacal clown, like Trump. An echo. An after image. Weekend at Biden’s. The While House Vegetable Garden. President Terri Schiavo.
True, Reagan got away with severe cognitive decline in his second term, but it wasn’t widely known at the time. That was before the internet, social media, and the 24-hour news cycle. You could no more disguise the abject senility of a president today than you could their polio-induced paraplegia. I feel for Biden. I do. But he cannot be allowed to run again. If need be, his team should lock him in the presidential residence with a month’s supply of Cream of Wheat while they figure out what to do. The question is, what should be done?
Strategy One: The 2024 Democratic Primary
The likeliest and most conventional scenario involves his team, and other leadership figures in the Democratic Party, convincing Joe Biden not to run again in 2024, then allowing another primary race to play itself out, as in 2020. The risk with this plan is twofold. For the better part of two years, Dem candidates will be fighting each other, while on the other side of the aisle, Trump, health permitting, may be running functionally unopposed and gathering strength. Won’t any other Republicans run? Sure. Never-Trumpers will produce a candidate that Donald will effortlessly shake off as a bear does a bumble bee, and another masochist or two may throw their doomed hats in the ring. Only Florida Governor Ron DeSantis stands a chance.
Ronald Dion DeSantis has made a name for himself as a right-wing culture warrior, going after critical race theory, masks, LGBT education, and corporations he deems too woke. If he chooses to run, which is far from certain, his selling point will be “I’m Trump, but sane.” But the on-paper DeSantis one reads about in headlines and on social media is rather different from the in-person version, who sounds like a dweeby accountant two martinis deep testing his hand at open mic night. He does not have markedly more charisma or machismo than Ted Cruz — and there’s no reason to expect him to fare any better in a head-to-head matchup against Trump, especially in a debate. But I digress.
The Democratic primary process played out in 2020, though, with Trump unopposed on the other side, and the Dems won. How would 2024 be any different? This brings us to the other uncertainty: it’s anyone’s game this time. There is no heir apparent, no prohibitive front-runner, no singularly well-qualified and popular contender. Nobody has any clear idea of who would run, much less win. A new figure could very well burst onto the scene and catapult into the nomination. But will this nominee be someone who can win a general election? Primary elections naturally draw on the most extreme wing of the base, and the Trump era, COVID-19, the murder of George Floyd, and the intensifying culture wars have not been kind to the left’s sanity. The Democratic primary base is primed to be perhaps the most woke and far-left-friendly in history. And while an anarcho-syndicalist black pansexual trans two-spirit Muslim woman in an iron lung may cause four-hour erections in coastal cities and college towns, it’s not exactly a recipe for electoral success.
Another consideration is the primary state order. Primary elections are held state-by-state, and stupidly, they take place over a period of months, instead of on the same day. The order in which the states vote ends up granting early states with an outsized influence. This time, there is a real possibility that the Democrats institute a much-needed shakeup of the primary state order, which would supplant rural Pasty McMayo states like Iowa and Vermont, longstanding holders of these coveted early spots, with more populous and/or demographically diverse states. And while this is a slightly more (small d) democratic way to go (the most democratic of all would be abolishing party primaries altogether and mandating ranked-choice voting in general elections), it further decreases the chance of a moderate candidate.
Strategy Two — Kamala 2024
What the Party bosses can do — what they in fact often do — instead of letting the primary process play itself out, is to put their finger on the scale for someone they like. The problem is, there is no Party favorite right now. Traditionally, a sitting vice president would fit the bill, but Kamala Harris is spectacularly unpopular. In the 2020 primaries, her floundering campaign ended months before the voting even began, while candidates whom no one had heard of a year prior passed her. Kamala’s approval numbers are even deeper in the toilet than Biden’s. For Harris to be a viable racehorse worth backing, her numbers would need to improve drastically. Which brings us to the next option.
Strategy Three — President Kamala Harris
Joe Biden is, to use the words of the 25th Amendment, “Unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” He should, if we’re being honest, resign. The only president who has ever resigned was Richard Nixon, making it an infamous act on a short list no one wants to be on. The positive spin that might be presented to Biden is that facing the hard truth and putting country over career is an extraordinarily courageous and patriotic deed — one that almost no one ever pulls off. History showcases the victories and defeats. Details, nuance, and context fade into the mists of time where only the learned care to tread. Biden will not be remembered more fondly if he resigns — less, if anything. But it would be the right thing to do. A greater sacrifice is hardly imaginable of a politician, and Biden, a religious man, could conceivably be appealed to on such grounds.
If he refuses, his cabinet and vice president could have him removed with the 25th Amendment due to his incapacity. Presented as the “easy way” and the “hard way”, Biden could, if the team around him has the backbone for it, be checkmated into long-overdo retirement.
This would, in turn, give us President Kamala Harris. This can potentially benefit the Democrats in several ways. First, Harris would get presidential experience. John Adams, the nation’s first vice president, described the vice presidency as “The most insignificant office that ever the Invention of man contrived or his Imagination conceived.” I very much doubt that the average citizen, who can hardly name the three branches of government, knows the degree to which the VP is just a backup meatbag in the event that the president dies, but it is universally acknowledged that whatever experience one gains from being vice president doesn’t hold a candle to being president.
Second, this would position Kamala to take all the credit if and when the economy improves. If a year after she assumes the presidency, inflation is down and the stock market is up, even though no head of state is truly responsible for such macro forces, she would get the credit, just as Biden is taking the blame. When 2024 rolls around, if everything shakes out favorably, Harris would be able to run as an incumbent, obviating the need for a messy primary. Even so, this plan is a precarious roll of the dice. As long as we’re entertaining these schemes, what if the Dems adopted the “In for a penny, in for a pound” philosophy?
Strategy Four — The Double Reverse
This gambit would first involve Vice President Harris resigning. Kamala will never go willingly, but there’s no doubt that the Party could produce the necessary carrots and sticks to strong-arm her into signing on the dotted line. As per the 25th Amendment, her replacement would have to be confirmed by a majority of both Houses of Congress. Considering the near-certain shellacking the Dems are going to take in the 2022 midterms, in which Republicans will likely take over at least one of the Houses, whomever this mystery veep turns out to be, they must be, by definition, someone that can get bipartisan support. This is key. Shortly after being sworn in, President Biden would then himself resign, elevating this new bipartisan-approved person to the presidency, where they would, in all likelihood, be a formidable incumbent in 2024. This sounds like a plotline from House of Cards, and while it’s more involved than strategy three, it is, in my estimation, a higher percentage play.
Strategy Five — This is Just Getting Silly Now
I would be remiss if I didn’t include this hilarious scheme sketched by comedian Bill Maher in a January 2022 episode of Real Time with Bill Maher, titled “First Lady Barack Obama.” Using the GOP’s pervasive norm-breaking as a precedent the Democrats would be suckers not to reciprocate, Maher argues, tongue-in-cheek, that Joe Biden and Barack Obama should divorce their wives, and marry each other. This move would make Obama the First Man, technically circumventing the restriction on serving more than two terms as president by putting him back in the White House. Once executed, Obama would be all but running the show with Biden as a mere figurehead. Hey, there’s no rule saying they can’t do it!
I stand by what I wrote six months ago. That so much has already changed in the time since only underscores how much can still change. Barring a revolutionary breakthrough in medicine, however, one thing that isn’t going to change is the cognitive ability of Joe Biden in any positive direction. Biden did his job: he defeated Trump. It’s time now for him to retire.
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I make this case toward the end of this piece.
Or Kamala has sex change and DNA analysis to declare self "white" or at least "half-white." Then she's an electable white male! Or since Jan 6th commission already annointed Pence Republican nominee, have them annoint a Democrat nominee. Who? Can't think of anyone? Then figure out why Kamala did something wonderfully patriotic about Jan 6th to testify about or make something up. But seriously, Jamie, who do you nominate for democratic nominee in 2024? Are we actually ready to elect a woman president (I know we'd LIKE to be ready, but democracy is at stake. Also, Jamie, pow about your political strategies for 2022?