Biden Must Go

Joe Biden is simply not up to the task of taking on Donald Trump. Trump presents a major threat to the country, and Biden’s insistence on running is risking a catastrophe. 

Many of us on the left have been saying for a long time that Joe Biden’s insistence on running for reelection poses a great risk to the country. Biden is hugely unpopular, having the lowest approval rating of any president on record for this point in his presidency. He has many of the same problems that Hillary Clinton had in 2016 and is repeating a number of her mistakes. Worst of all, 86 percent of Americans think he’s just too damned old to serve another four years. Biden’s staff have been reassuring us that in private, he is spry, lively, and switched-on. Clips of Biden showing his age (mixing up the presidents of Egypt and Mexico, etc.), together with his avoidance of too much time in the public eye, have fostered skepticism. Recently, given his poor showings in the polls, even relatively pro-establishment liberal pundits like Ezra Klein have been suggesting Joe Biden step aside. 

Last night, Democrats were counting on Biden giving a strong performance in the first presidential debate to reassure doubters that he could still serve another four-year term, even though he is already 81.

Biden did nothing to reassure anyone. The debate was very, very painful to watch. Biden was hoarse. He mumbled. He constantly had a confused look on his face. Anyone who wanted to see Trump defeated (as I do) felt desperate for Biden to successfully complete his sentences intelligibly, which did not always happen. (“...making sure we make every single solitary person eligible for what I've been able to do with covid… excuse me, with, um, dealing with everything we had to do with. Look, we finally beat Medicare.") Biden’s answers were often quite good, but his affect was dismal. He just looked weak. He looked like he was struggling. He looked, frankly, “low-energy.”

 

Screenshot 2024-06-27 at 10.18.24 PM

The face Biden made throughout

 

 

Donald Trump lied through his teeth, as he always does. The lies were audacious. "I didn't have sex with a porn star,” Trump declared. (Take a moment to reflect on how this country looks to the rest of the world.) He repeatedly said that every legal scholar thought Roe v. Wade should have been overturned. This was nonsense. He said Democrats supported aborting newborn babies. He fearmongered about hordes of supposed murderous immigrants crossing the border. He said Joe Biden had called young Black people “superpredators” (that was Hillary Clinton, although the point is somewhat trivial, since Biden did push the policies that gave us racist mass incarceration). He pushed his disastrous tariff plan. He did his usual schtick of saying the country is a complete disastrous crime-ridden hellhole and that only he can fix it. I’m sure plenty of people will compile lists of all the things Trump said that were totally made up. The moderators didn’t call out his most egregious whoppers. Biden didn’t either. He often just gave Trump the same confused look. 

But Trump spewed all his nonsense with confidence and energy. Since Kennedy and Nixon in 1960, style has been just as important as substance in these things, and while neither candidate was coherent, Trump seemed more coherent. And in a moment that will be repeated in a hundred Republican ads, after Biden finished babbling a pseudo-answer, Trump replied: “I really don’t know what he said at the end of that sentence. I don’t think he knows what he said, either.” Nor did we, the audience, know. The consensus on social media among every viewer I saw who was observing with some level of fair-mindedness was that Trump lied through his teeth and Biden could barely get his sentences out.

The debate was a painful reminder of why both the candidacies of Trump and Biden are unpopular. If we had a real democracy, instead of a two-party duopoly, a third alternative would easily rise up, but every other candidate in the election (and there are other candidates in the election, like Jill Stein, Cornel West, Claudia de La Cruz, and even Robert F. Kennedy Jr. ) was excluded from the debate stage. My own central reaction, which I’m sure many others shared, was “How can it be that these two are really our options?” I felt that way before the debate, too, but exposure to these men for over 90 minutes really reminds you of how ill-equipped either of them is to be the commander in chief.

But the debate was also an alarming reminder of why Donald Trump needs to be stopped. A small portion of it focused on the most crucial issue of our time: the climate catastrophe. Donald Trump was asked what he would do about it. He ducked the question, then gave the utterly incoherent reply: “I want clean water and absolutely clean air. We had H2O.” We can laugh at Trump’s “We had H2O,” but it’s deeply, deeply alarming, because the real answer here is that Trump would do nothing, and would in fact escalate the crisis by accelerating the burning of fossil fuels and the warming of the planet. Biden had a much better answer, of course, but once again looked so old and feeble giving it.

 

This description was accurate and essentially all you need to know 

 

The whole debate was a reminder of what a degraded state our public discourse is in. Biden and Trump argued about their golf scores, but they treated the suffering of Palestinians as a nonexistent issue. (Trump even used “Palestinian” as an insult, saying that Biden had “become like a Palestinian.”) Both of them lied about different things, and hardly anything was corrected. It would be impossible for anyone watching to know what was actually true or false. Essentially Trump said Biden had a terrible economy, Biden said Trump had a terrible economy, Trump said America was hell on earth, Biden said Trump was a felon who slept with a porn star, Trump said Biden’s son was a felon, and the whole country should feel a deep sense of shame that these men are our leaders.  

 

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I personally don’t believe it’s an exaggeration to describe Trump as a major threat to American democracy (to the extent we have democracy). His plans for a second term are deeply authoritarian and would terrorize immigrants, further empower Israel to destroy what’s left of Palestinian society, worsen the climate catastrophe, and crack down on political opponents. This is why I warned in 2016 that it was a disastrous idea to run Hillary Clinton against him. The first presidential debate reveals that Biden is much weaker as an opponent than Hillary Clinton. I don’t think anyone watching him can even imagine him serving for another four years.

Unfortunately, there are no good options here. Our political system shuts out third party contenders, who can’t gain any traction. So there’s a choice. Either Democrats are going to need to convince Biden to step aside, so that someone who can, well, actually speak can run against Trump. Or they can run someone who is just manifestly not up to the task. If Biden is replaced at the convention, whoever replaces him will not have long to introduce themselves to the country, and the party may be in complete disarray. It could even be Kamala Harris, the only person I can imagine screwing up a run against Trump more badly than Biden. 

I am very worried right now. Apparently a number of influential Democrats are, too. Good. If they had been subscribed to Current Affairs they would have seen this coming over a year ago. I’ve been afraid Donald Trump would come back for a long time. Biden needs to step aside. Period. 

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