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Replacing Joe Biden and Donald Trump

Yes, there are signs that Barack Obama, Chuck Schumer, and Nancy Pelosi are inching toward an attempt to push Joe Biden out as the Democratic Party’s 2024 presidential nominee. But there’s little reason to think that an epically stubborn 81-and-a-half-year-old man, backed by an enabling, Vogue-cover-model wife and a convicted-felon son, will heed their advice. No, if Democrats want to replace their nominee, they’ve got to be ready to have a nasty fight at the convention in Chicago. Read on.

The Floor-Fight Scenario

The only way Joe Biden is not the 2024 Democratic presidential nominee is if anti-Biden Democrats win a delegate fight. I suppose Biden might have a stroke or a heart attack between now and the convention, which would make it all moot.

But don’t count on Democratic Party leaders going to Biden and convincing him he just can’t win.

We’ve found signs that high-level Democrats do think they’re doomed, or close to it, if Biden is the nominee. Former House speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Morning Joe, “It’s up to the president to decide if he is going to run,” effectively ignoring Biden’s insistence that he’s not leaving the race.

Axios reported Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer “is privately signaling to donors that he’s open to a Democratic presidential ticket that isn’t led by President Biden.” And Politico reports that Barack Obama signed off on George Clooney’s New York Times op-ed declaring, “We are not going to win in November with this president. On top of that, we won’t win the House, and we’re going to lose the Senate.”

But as we’ve seen over the past two weeks, Biden isn’t heeding any subtle hints. We haven’t seen anybody stubbornly refuse to go like this since Marvin K. Mooney.

If Obama, Pelosi, and Schumer head to the White House and try to stage an intervention, and tell the president, “Joe, it’s time to hang it up,” who do you think Joe Biden will listen to? These longtime colleagues? Or Jill and Hunter Biden?

The Biden family wants — or needs — Biden to stay in office as long as possible.

Has anything in the past two weeks indicated to you that Joe Biden will willingly give up the presidency? In his interview with George Stephanopoulos, Biden not-so-subtly implied that Kamala Harris cannot perform the duties of the presidency as well as he can, even at age 82 and beyond:

Who’s gonna be able to hold NATO together like me? Who’s gonna be able to be in a position where I’m able to keep the Pacific Basin in a position where we’re — we’re at least checkmating China now? Who’s gonna — who’s gonna do that? Who has that reach? Who has — who knows all these pe. . . ?

If Biden allows himself to be cajoled into not seeking another term, it’s an admission that his critics were right, that he is not only too old for another term, but that he was also probably too old for this term. (Signs that Biden couldn’t perform his duties and communicate to the public like a normal president were clear since the Afghanistan withdrawl, if not the “basement campaign” of 2020.) It means that his 57 percent disapproval rating is well-earned, and it’s not just Fox News and the media not being fair to him. Bad presidents lose their reelection campaigns. Really bad presidents realize that they shouldn’t even run for reelection.

Democrats should abandon their hopes that some cadre of party elders will visit the White House and persuade Biden not to run for another term. If that sort of intervention were going to happen, it probably would have happened by now. I think Obama, Pelosi, Schumer, and the rest recognize that as bad as things are now for the Democrats, if they attempted to stage an intervention and Biden refused to heed their advice/demands and withdraw, the party would fall through the basement floor into Moria or the Morlock Tunnels.

The only way Biden won’t be the nominee is if 1,968 Democratic convention delegates can be persuaded to nominate someone else.

Apparently, the Biden campaign realizes this, according to Jonathan Martin over at Politico:

Fearing a floor revolt against his nomination, President Biden’s aides are telephoning individual delegates to next month’s Democratic convention to gauge their loyalty to the president, according to three delegates who received a call this week. . . .

Most of the delegate slates are full of Biden loyalists, or at least were before the debate. Fearing disruptions from pro-Palestinian activists angry over the president’s Israel policy, Biden’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee had worked assiduously for months to ensure each state and territory sent trusted delegates to Chicago.

However, one Democratic official familiar with the delegate slates estimated that at least a quarter of those pledged to the president are now wavering. This official portrayed the calls as only “a temperature check,” noting ruefully it would not be wise right now to have a full whip count because if it leaked it would underscore how precarious Biden’s grip on his party is at the moment.

Under the Democratic National Committee’s rules, “All delegates to the National Convention pledged to a presidential candidate shall in all good conscience reflect the sentiments of those who elected them.” Democratic delegates can, in good conscience, conclude that those who elected them no longer want Biden as the nominee.

This morning brings the results of a new Washington Post poll, and the headline is, “56 percent of Democrats say that [Biden] should end his candidacy, while 42 percent say he should continue to seek reelection. Overall, 2 in 3 adults say the president should step aside, including more than 7 in 10 independents.”

The poll also indicates that it’s still a near-tie, with Trump ahead, 47 percent to 46 percent with likely voters, and the candidates tied, 46 percent each, among registered voters in a head-to-head matchup. Throw in the minor candidates, and Trump leads 36 to 35 percent (!) among likely voters, and it’s a 40–40 split among registered voters. The same survey finds Kamala Harris two points ahead of Trump among both registered and likely voters.

Fifty-eight percent of respondents said both Biden and Trump are too old to be president, while 28 percent say only Biden is too old. Just 2 percent said only Trump was too old, and only 11 percent said neither was too old.

On paper, changing the minds of 1,968 Democratic convention delegates is doable. The argument is self-evident. Since the disastrous debate, Biden has done one 22-minute on-camera interview. His radio interviews involved the White House telling the interviewers what questions to ask. (Biden still answered that he’s proud to be “the first vice president, first black woman, to serve with a black president.”)

We will witness Biden’s press conference at the NATO summit today, the first since the debate. Biden is demonstrating, week after week, that he can’t maintain anything close to a normal presidential schedule, and he either can’t communicate or communicates badly. There’s more than a little reason to fear that the president either has Parkinson’s or some other comparable serious, degenerative, and debilitating condition.

NBC News reported that for the Biden campaign’s fundraising, “The money has absolutely shut off.”

Changing the minds of most convention delegates is not Mission: Impossible, nor an impossible heist for the Ocean’s Eleven crew.

But it would require the anti-Biden Democrats to move, quickly and fearlessly. This is not the sort of task you can do half-heartedly or hesitantly. Last night, I read a tweet by the always-excellent Mary Katharine Ham, and it’s stuck with me:

It’s been 2 weeks tomorrow and there’s no plan. An op-Ed from George Clooney is not a plan. Pelosi on Morning Joe and Whitmer on The View are emblematic of the whole party. They’re taking media hits, too comfortable, used to friendly [interviews], and have no idea what to say, so they cause more havoc. They have no idea what to say [because] the truth is Biden’s not really governing and very well may not win, and even if he did, he can’t govern another 4 years. We all kind of know this, but they can’t say it [because] there’s no plan to do something else. They can’t jump off the boat while they’re building a half-assed dinghy. The longer there’s no dinghy, the more likely the Biden boat is the play. Inertia wins if there’s not unanimity on another option.

I suppose it’s theoretically possible that there is a plan, and it’s just exceptionally well-hidden.

If the Democrats nominate Kamala Harris and lose, at least they will have lost with a real candidate, not a walking corpse whom everyone believes is a figurehead president who requires naps, later starts, and earlier bedtimes. At least Harris can campaign, give more than one speech a day, and hold press conferences. And if she loses, the party starts with a blank slate in 2028.

A lot of people on the right perceive the Democratic Party as this ruthless, well-oiled machine, marching in lockstep. And sometimes the Democratic Party can act like that. But not always, and it’s likely that its metaphorical muscles have atrophied in recent years. As we’ve seen for the past few weeks, Democrats are absolutely used to having the mainstream media on their side and amplifying their preferred narrative, and when that suddenly disappears, they flop around haplessly like a caught fish on a boat’s deck. Democrats are used to being able to complain, “You’re helping the Republicans!” and that being sufficient to get the mainstream media singing from the right songbook again.

The Democrats could have, and should have, had the discussion of whether Biden was too old to serve another term, starting in 2023 if not earlier. They should have had a real presidential primary, instead of a pro forma one with the schedule rearranged to maximize Biden’s advantages of incumbency. Florida Democrats should have had a presidential primary, period. Democrats who interacted with Biden and found him doddering, confused, and forgetful should have said so publicly at the time, and not waited until after the debate.

High blood pressure is sometimes nicknamed “the silent killer” because it can go undetected for a long time. Those with it rarely feel any symptoms, even as it worsens. And then one day, that high blood pressure results in something serious, even deadly — heart attack, stroke, brain aneurysm, heart failure, kidney failure, etc.

Biden’s advancing age was like high blood pressure. The Democrats seemed to think that if people just didn’t talk about it, the problem would go away.

What about Donald Trump? The New York Times editorial board argues that the Republican Party should replace Trump as its leader:

It is a national tragedy that the Republicans have failed to have a similar debate about the manifest moral and temperamental unfitness of their standard-bearer, instead setting aside their longstanding values, closing ranks and choosing to overlook what those who worked most closely with the former president have described as his systematic dishonesty, corruption, cruelty and incompetence.

Look, I’d love to have a Republican nominee besides Donald Trump; I’m NeverTrump, and the first word in that label means exactly what it says. However, there are no good options for NeverTrump conservatives in this field.

But let’s point out that the Republican Party did have a similar debate about the fitness of its standard-bearer: It was called the 2024 presidential primary. More than 21 million people voted in it, and 16 million of them voted for Trump. The fact that I think primary voters made an awful choice, and that Ron DeSantis or Nikki Haley would be a much better choice, doesn’t mean that Trump didn’t win the primaries fair and square.

Republicans did debate the fitness of Trump, and roughly 75 percent of those who bothered to cast a ballot effectively declared he’s just dandy.

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