Democrats face two equally bad options: keep Joe Biden or hope he steps aside

President Joe Biden during the debate at CNN's studios in Atlanta.
President Joe Biden during the debate at CNN's studios in Atlanta. Photo: Jack Gruber / USA TODAY NETWORK

Joe Biden bombed at the presidential debate last Thursday. Even his most fervent supporters had to step back and question whether Biden had the wherewithal to serve another four years in the White House. With the stakes so high, the question was unavoidable: should Biden be replaced as the Democratic nominee?

That question has become a full-time job for pundits. The New York Times editorial page concluded less than 24 hours after the debate that Biden needed to go. (It’s worth noting that the editors didn’t say Donald Trump had to step aside as the GOP nominee after he was convicted of 34 felonies.) There’s a long list of other political experts who have said the same.

Of course, it’s easy to pontificate when you don’t have to worry about the details. But the details of Biden’s departure from the ticket are incredibly messy. Moreover, the belief that Biden’s successor would do so much better relies pretty much on, well, wishful thinking.

First of all, the party rules are such that they only way to replace Biden is if he goes voluntarily. Right now, there’s not a lot of evidence that he’s considering that option. His team seems to be treating the debate debacle as just an off night instead of a defining moment in the way people view Biden.

Even if the pressure builds to the point that Biden bows to it and steps aside, the next question is, who will replace him? The speculation has become a kind of political version of fantasy football for D.C. nerds.

The speculation has also been an incredible diss on Kamala Harris. Pundits love Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. California Gov. Gavin Newsom has done a terrible job of hiding his ambitions, even though he’s repeatedly said he’s not interested in this year. Then there are lists that include Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro and Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker.

A few things are at play here. For one thing, reporters and pundits seem to think it would be a wide-open field, and Democrats would quickly coalesce around a candidate in the few weeks leading up to a convention. This is the kind of thing that only happens on The West Wing and never in the actual Democratic party.

The other thing is that the lists are a subtle—or maybe not so subtle—dig at Harris’ electability. Many insiders had seemed pretty underwhelmed by her performance as vice president and worried about her ability to go head-to-head with Trump, but she’s proven herself to be a strong campaigner.

The idea that somehow Democrats would pass over the Black woman who is next in line for the presidency for a white candidate most voters haven’t heard of is a good explanation as to why Democrats have a problem with Black voters. Harris has been exposed to the national press in a way that Whitmer, Newsom, or any of the other fantasy candidates have not.

Should someone other than Harris be the choice, two things will happen.

First, the Democrats will have alienated Black voters, a key constituency, at a time they can ill afford to. It sends a message that when push comes to shove, Democrats think electability has to do with whiteness, whether that’s the intended message or not.

Secondly, the chosen candidate will then have to introduce herself or himself to voters and endure the endless round of stories digging into their past. Every controversy will be resurrected and examined at the height of the campaign, taking the focus off of Trump, where it should reside.

Plus, there’s no guarantee that any other candidate will satisfy the voters’ wish for “none of the above.” Just because the pundits and the party elite are in love with a candidate doesn’t mean that the voters will be. As a reminder, Biden was dead in the water as a candidate in 2020 until it became clear that none among the multitude of his rivals had the ability to close the deal with voters.

Picking a new candidate is a giant leap of faith. It’s essentially a concession that Biden cannot win, so let’s roll the dice. The odds of Biden winning were always close, and if the media now cements an image of him as not up to the job, then the odds will be a lot worse.

Of course, that may or may not happen. The last time a party frantically thought about removing a candidate from the ticket was in 2016 when Republicans thought about getting rid of Trump in the wake of the Access Hollywood tape becoming public.

Democrats have every reason to worry. If Trump wins the election, it’s not just a matter of bad policy. It’s a matter of the systematic destruction of government by a man who presided over an attempted coup.

Biden has been a very good president, but he is a terrible campaigner. And he is old (as is Trump). So now Democrats have to ask themselves: do we gamble with the known quantity, even though Biden is damaged goods? Or do we take a chance by throwing everything in to chaos and hope for the best? There are two options. Unfortunately, both of them are bad.

Don't forget to share:

Support vital LGBTQ+ journalism

Reader contributions help keep LGBTQ Nation free, so that queer people get the news they need, with stories that mainstream media often leaves out. Can you contribute today?

Cancel anytime · Proudly LGBTQ+ owned and operated

Over 40 attacks on LGBTQ+ symbols occurred in 21 states during Pride month

Previous article

JK Rowling mocked for saying she’s “a reclining sofa” in bizarre tirade about analogies

Next article