Joe Biden 2024: Should He Stay or Go?

I was disappointed in Joe Biden’s decision to run for re-election this year. I’ve been impressed by and pleased with the many accomplishments of his administration. However, like many others who supported him in 2020, I was concerned about his age and acuity even before last week’s debate, and that concern jumped significantly as I saw him simply unable to stand up to the barrage of lies and bluster Trump threw out. (I’ll observe in passing that the format for the “debate” itself – I’ll add the scare quotes this time to signal the very loose use of the term – favored a person who could talk quickly and glibly, especially if that person has no regard for the truth. Even a skilled interlocutor would face the decision which claims to challenge first and how to challenge them in such a limited and limiting context.)

But now I’m really struggling with the question what Democrats should do between now and the November election. It’s more and more clear to me (as if it hasn’t been crystal clear for months) that the major goal has to be to prevent Trump from re-entering the White House. (Surely I don’t need to say this, but I’m not suggesting that there’s no one worse than Trump. His pal Putin comes close. I am saying that none of the likely or even possible Democratic candidates presents anything like the threat to democracy that Trump presents.) I fear that if Trump is elected the country won’t survive as anything like a country that I would like to live in. Of course we already fall short of our professed ideals in many ways – and recent Supreme Court decisions makes things even worse – but another Trump term in the White House would bring us even lower, if indeed we survived as a country.

However, I have neither the political acumen to judge whether Biden withdrawing makes that more or less likely, nor the arrogance to suggest that I know what’s best. Earlier this week I was inclined to think that Biden should stay in. Now I’m not so sure.

I leaned toward his staying in the race earlier in large part because I feared the political turmoil in the Democratic Party in the aftermath of his withdrawal. Could the party survive that at this late date, and come out with a nominee ready to take on the Trump machine? However, I think there could be some options. As one example, I’m impressed by this proposed process for replacing Biden if he were to drop out. That link won’t provide access to the entire article unless one has a medium account, but I was able to read it once using a link shared on Mastodon and find it an intriguing proposal. In developing his proposal Genco draws on this plan proposed by Lawrence Lessig. Genco modifies Lessig’s plan a bit, first by suggesting that Biden himself should propose something like this when he announces that he’s withdrawing for the good of the nation; he also says that we should allow more time for the deliberation of those people attending the preliminary meetings.

That’s a fairly radical proposal, but in some ways I see it as fitting with Jamie Raskin’s suggestion in an interview last week that whatever the Democratic party does is likely to be a good example of how a political party should function. Raskin contrasted the current turmoil and awkward discussions among Democrats with the way that Republicans fell lock-step behind Trump after Trump’s conviction in New York.

So, perhaps Biden should step aside. On the other hand, we have Charles Blow’s NYTimes column this morning insisting that Biden should stay in the race, and that he still represents the party’s best chance of defeating Trump.

If I had more hands, I’d offer more examples on both sides of this question. As I said, I simply don’t know what’s best. But I’ll continue to read and think about it. And I can’t imagine not supporting whoever the Democratic nominee is in November. The stakes are just too high to do anything else.