What Will President Biden and the Democrats Do?

Speculation is being whispered in respect of whether it’s logical, given the polls, for the Democrats to go ahead and nominate President Biden for a second term.

AP/Alex Brandon
President Biden, left, at a dinner for the Detroit chapter of the Naacp, May 19, 2024, at Detroit. AP/Alex Brandon

Unless the position of the administration deteriorates so severely in the next three months that the powers that be in the Democratic Party force the president and vice president not to seek reelection and parachute in as replacements personalities untainted by the succession of debacles of this administration …’ 

—Conrad Black, The New York Sun, May 14, 2024

That thought, which last week struck the capacious brain of our columnist Conrad Black, comes as we’re starting to hear stirrings among our Democratic friends in respect of a radical démarche — substituting a new ticket for the November election. What we hear is pure conjecture, or mere wishful thinking, among our Democratic friends who think the country ought to come ahead of deference to the incumbent. 

The latest polling certainly can’t be encouraging for the Democrats. President Trump is leading Mr. Biden in many swing state polls. Plus, despite an energetic State of the Union, the president’s recent stumbles have prompted a new round of fretting over his health and mental acuity. In remarks at Detroit on Sunday, Mr. Biden perplexed listeners with an anecdote about his doings as vice president — “during the pandemic.” 

We don’t want to make too much of such gaffes. Nor do we want to discount reports like the one this morning by Nate Cohn in the Times. He warns that the optimism in the Trump camp is based on shaky polling in which “disengaged voters” are driving the polling results. Yet we still hear fearful talk — mere talk, again —  that once the nominating race is done and delegates selected the party one will wake up to the prospect that it’s running a loser.

What could the Democrats do then? It’s possible that Mr. Biden, or his advisors, would see the writing on the wall and bow out, as Politico suggested was a possibility after the release of Robert Hur’s report. There are no shortage of calls for him to do just that, including from the American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner and USA Today’s Jeremy Mayer. Barring that, though, is where the speculation — again, at this point, only that — gets interesting. 

Could, say, party panjandrums try to ease out Mr. Biden in favor of a more viable candidate? Could they even cancel their convention to help facilitate a switch? The Democrats’ party rules suggest that such a move is at the least possible. The party’s top organ, the Democratic National Committee, is given the power, in the party’s charter, of “filling vacancies in the nominations for the office of President and Vice President.” 

True, the party’s charter does require Democrats to “assemble in National Convention in each year in which an election for office of President of the United States is held.” It’s also true, though, that the charter itself “may also be amended by a vote of two-thirds of the entire membership of the Democratic National Committee.” In short, the Democrats would appear to have wiggle room should the party’s leadership get cold feet about Mr. Biden’s candidacy.

Leaving the choice up to the national committee — a body of hundreds — would have the advantage of letting Mr. Biden step aside with some dignity. As for whom to pick, choosing, say, a candidate from California would offer an additional plus — making it hard to run from the same state candidates for president and vice president. That 12th Amendment could, one can imagine, become known as the Vice President Harris clause.

It’s not our intention here to endorse the idea of Mr. Biden withdrawing from the race. He is, after all, the incumbent. It’s no small thing, though, that Gallup pegs his approval rating at 38 percent, a historic low. Strategists “seem to believe that abandoning their president this late in the game would be a disaster for the party,” historian Edward Achorn has cautioned, by “shaking public confidence in the Democrats’ competence.” We’re not so sure.

The New York Sun

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