The Democrats are playing with fire…

10 minute read

July 8, 2024, 9:08 AM

On the first debate between president Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump during the 2024 election cycle, the biggest takeaway that I suspect most people got out of it was that Biden’s performance wasn’t what many people had expected from a sitting president.  That then led to many calls for Biden to step down and be replaced as the Democratic nominee with some other Democrat that is presumably more youthful than Biden.  All I know is that by having this kind of discussion, Democrats are playing with fire, and if they continue to go down that path, I guarantee you that it’s not going to end well for them.

First of all, I’m willing to forgive Biden for a lackluster performance at the debate.  Every other performance of his that I’ve seen has been okay.  Thus I’m willing to take Biden at his word that his poor performace was fatigue-related due to a lot of international travel, and move on.  After all, no one is perfect.  It sounds like he overbooked himself, i.e. he had been presidenting really hard, and the debate was where things broke down.  It doesn’t mean that he’s declining in physical or mental capacity, or otherwise incompetent, and it certainly shouldn’t be taken to define him.  Looking at my own job performance, one could conceivably look at the occasions where I’ve flubbed announcements on the train, and use it to paint an unflattering picture of my competence as a train operator that may not be completely fair.  For the record, yes, I am a very competent operator.  I know every inch of the system.  Among other things, I have operated over every mile of revenue track, I have serviced every single station, I know the order of all of the stations backwards and forwards, I know all of the alphanumeric codes for the stations and yards, and I know where all of the interlockings are.  But some trips, especially after I’ve been up and down the same line several times that day, I just can’t get my announcements straight, occasionally calling out the wrong next station or the wrong direction of travel.  I usually catch myself when I do that, but all the same, some riders might use that as a way to unfairly characterize me as an idiot.  Same thing goes for the president.  I’m willing to forgive a poor performance if everything else is where it needs to be.

That said, I believe that Democrats are playing with fire with all of their talk about replacing Biden as their presidential nominee.  Democrats have demonstrated time and time again that they are quite skilled at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and all of this talk about dumping Biden is really not going to help anyone on the Democratic side.  It smacks of desperation that I don’t believe is justified, and also once again lays bare a longstanding problem with the Democratic Party in general.  And the whole thing plays right into the GOP’s hands.

First of all, the desperation argument.  I feel like Democrats are sounding the alarm for a single poor debate performance and calling for Biden to get tossed when that’s not at all necessary.  It really reminds me of what a number of people advocated for in 2016 after Trump won the election over Hillary Clinton.  In that case, some Democrats advocated in favor of faithless electors, and voting not for Trump or Clinton, but instead voting for a compromise candidate from the GOP like Mitt Romney or John Kasich.  To me, that just smacked of desperation and looked super pathetic.  They accepted that Hillary Clinton lost, but it felt like a Hail Mary last-ditch effort to keep Trump out of the White House.  It was a laughable effort, because why would any Trump elector turn against their (winning) candidate and go rogue?  There ended up being a few faithless electors, but with the exception of two, they were all on the Democratic side, where their defection wouldn’t matter anyway.  About the only thing that came out of it of note was that a lot of people, myself included, now know who Faith Spotted Eagle is who wouldn’t otherwise have ever had any reason to know who she is.  But the optics of the entire stunt were terrible.  For as awful of a candidate as Trump was, having done so many things that would have felled any other candidate’s campaign on the spot (grab them by the what?), he did get the requisite amount of support in the right areas in order to pull out a victory.  Would Hillary Clinton have been a better president?  Absolutely, without question.  But her support was too concentrated, which didn’t give her enough electoral votes to pull out a win.  But one thing that differentiates our country from many others is a peaceful transition between leaders.  We accept the results, and we move on.  We do our duty and we see the transition through.  Of course, the Trump side has no room to talk when it comes to accepting election results (which, as an aside, made for a very interesting day at work), but just because Republican-aligned groups did worse after the 2020 election doesn’t make the Democrats’ efforts any less shameful.  It was still an attempt to overturn an election, borne out of desperation to flip the result after the matter had largely been settled.  The current discussion seems like an effort to overturn the primary process, which easily renominated Biden, and undermine the will of the voters, who largely voted for Biden.  It’s that little way of saying that primary voters came to the wrong conclusion, and now the grownups are going to fix it for them.  If you’re not insulted by this whole replace-Biden discussion, you’re not paying attention.

Then there’s the longstanding problem with Democratic politics that we’ve seen over and over again.  Democrats are quick to turn on and devour their own people at the slightest hint of impropriety or if someone is otherwise momentarily not performing at 100%.  They’re quick to just throw their people away and demand a replacement.  They demanded Bill Clinton’s resignation when the Lewinsky scandal broke.  Clinton refused to resign, was acquitted during his impeachment trial, and finished out his term (and the country has largely forgiven him since).  They also demanded then-senator Al Franken‘s resignation after allegations of some questionable behavior came to light.  Franken capitulated to the demands, and resigned from the Senate.  Then there was Virginia governor Ralph Northam, where people demanded his resignation following the resurfacing of old yearbook photos that showed people on a page about him wearing some very questionable costumes.  Northam did not resign, and finished out his term.  In the case of Clinton and Northam, they were both subject to term limits, and were constitutionally barred from running for another term.  They had nothing to lose by remaining in office.  Franken was about two-thirds of the way through a second term, and would have been eligible to run for another term, as senators are not subject to term limits.  I would have preferred that Franken remain in office to the end of his term, and then either choose not to run again, or stand for reelection and let the voters decide whether or not his indiscretions make him worth keeping around or not, and if he doesn’t survive a primary challenge, so be it, because it would have been the voters who decided his fate.  I was really disappointed when he capitulated to the demands for resignation, because it overturned an election, and lent credence to the idea that when politicians have scandals, it clearly means that the voters chose incorrectly, and therefore the grownups are going to go in and choose the right person for them.  That’s not how this is supposed to work.  Of course, the Democrats tend to have an innate distrust of their electorate – note the presence of superdelegates in their nominating conventions, who are essentially the grownups who will decide for everyone who the nominee will be in the event that the voters choose the “wrong” candidate.

And now the Democratic machine is ready to devour Biden for a poor debate performance.  The election is on November 5, less than four months away.  The Democratic nomination process was settled by the middle of March.  Not long after that, Trump became the Republican nominee, setting the stage for the general election.  With the matchup set, we’ve been fully focused on the general election, i.e. Biden vs. Trump, for almost four months now.  A major change on the Democratic side at this stage in the game would cause significant chaos all around, invalidating the entire primary process and ignoring the voters completely, and that is exactly what we don’t want.  As left-wing pundit Randi Rhodes has said before, the Republicans want chaos, because in chaos, they can steal.

And then there’s the other question: who would you even run in Biden’s place that would have a realistic chance of beating Donald Trump?  What Democrat has significant enough name recognition to jump into a presidential race at a very late stage in the game and actually have a realistic chance of succeeding?  If you’re sitting there scratching your head over that question, you’re not the only one.  I’ve heard Vice President Kamala Harris‘ name tossed around a bit as a potential replacement, but I don’t believe that she could carry it herself, as my understanding is that she’s not particularly popular on her own.  Let’s admit it: historically, the vice presidency is kind of a political dead end.  It’s rare that a sitting vice president wins election to the presidency in their own right.  Since the ratification of the 12th Amendment in 1804, it’s only happened twice: in 1836 with Martin Van Buren, and in 1988 with George Bush.  For the vast majority of vice presidents, unless their boss dies or resigns, the vice presidency is the end of the line for them.  Then for the many other names that I’ve seen thrown out as a replacement, I can’t see any of them standing on their own to be able to take on Donald Trump and win.  And this is no time for foolishness.  If you want to keep Trump from returning to office, Biden is the way to that, in part because you have the power of incumbency, and the experience that comes with it.  The only thing that this discussion by Democrats about replacing Biden accomplishes is to undermine their own guy and play right into the hands of the GOP.  The idea is that if the party elite has no confidence in their own candidate, why should anyone else vote for them?  It becomes quite justifiable to either stay home or vote for someone else in such a case, which would hand the election directly to Donald Trump and the GOP, as if to say, “I’m sorry, Mr. Trump, but we just can’t get our affairs in order this cycle.  So here’s the presidency, with our compliments.”

Also, for all of the discussion about Biden’s ability to be the president, I find it interesting that no one has seriously discussed invoking the 25th Amendment in order to declare Biden incapable of performing as president.  If it was truly as significant of a deal as all of these pundits have made it out to be, and Biden’s mental capacity has reached a critical point, then it would be perfectly reasonable for the vice president and the cabinet to invoke Section 4 of the 25th Amendment and declare him incapacitated, with Vice President Harris serving as acting president.  But that is something that absolutely should not be taken lightly.  In order to invoke Section 4 like that and still do right in the eyes of the public, Biden’s condition would have to be 100% indisputable.  In other words, no reasonable person should be able to deny that it is the case if it is truly a necessity.  Anything short of that would be tantamount to a coup d’état.  You want to talk about creating chaos, invoke Section 4 of the 25th Amendment when there’s not widespread agreement about it, and watch what happens.  There is a reason that we don’t invoke Section 4 for token reasons, like with Trump after the attack on the Capitol.  Then-VP Mike Pence and the Trump cabinet were right to rebuff Speaker Pelosi’s demands to invoke Section 4 after January 6.

For what it’s worth, Section 4 has never been invoked in the past, even in situations where it would potentially be justified, such as in the immediate aftermath of the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan.  Discussions were had about it at the time, but no action was ultimately taken.  To date, the only invocations of the 25th Amendment for purposes of presidential disability were self-invocations under Section 3, done by Reagan, George W. Bush, and Biden, all of them ahead of sedation for a colonoscopy.

My point, though, is that if Biden has allegedly declined to the point that he needs to be off of the ticket because he no longer has the mental capacity to be president, then there should be an invocation of Section 4 of the 25th Amendment along with it to sideline him immediately for the good of the nation.  If that can’t be justified, then removing him from the ticket for a poor debate performance is not justifiable, either, because clearly, he’s in good enough mental shape to continue being president in the immediate term, so no reason for him not to stand for reelection and potentially go on to a second term.

Fortunately for all involved, this discussion is all academic, because Biden has indicated that he has no intention of stepping aside.  Good.  Don’t let the Democrats destroy their own party from within if you can help it.  Democrats need to learn how to rally behind and support their candidates once they are there, and help get them through any problems, rather than throwing them away like yesterday’s trash as soon as anything undesirable happens.  In 2016, Trump said and did a lot of stuff that, if he were a Democrat, would have gotten him tossed a long time ago.  But the Republicans may have winced a little bit over the various revelations, but they ultimately rallied around him, and at the end of the day, he won the election.  Think about that for a moment.  They supported their candidate through thick and thin, and let the voters decide his fate.  And at the end of the day, the GOP got the White House.  Democrats should consider doing the same, and support their candidates, even if they are imperfect, and let the voters decide.  Don’t drop your people like a bad habit as soon as any kind of imperfections show.  That’s a good way to lose an election.  And just know that if Trump ends up winning in November, I am blaming the Democrats for it, and I will specifically cite this whole episode where the party tried to dump Biden as the reason why.  Democrats need to learn how to fight like Republicans.  It’s like what I said back in 2019: “Stuff like this is why Democrats always seem to lose.  Being the party of integrity doesn’t win elections when the other side will utilize whatever it can to get what it wants.  The Democrats play nice, and nice guys often finish last.”

Right now, Democrats would be best served to simply forgive Biden for the poor debate performance, chalking it up to a bad night, and move on.  The more that they harp on this, the more that they undermine their own candidate, and hand the advantage to the GOP.  The primary is over, after all.  Biden is the nominee.  The time to fall in love is over.  Once the focus turns towards the general election, it’s time to fall in line, and rally behind and support your nominee in order to help them win the election.  If they are able to forgive Biden and rally behind him, they have a pretty good chance of winning in November.  If they can’t, then they will once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and the country will be worse off for it.

Categories: National politics