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Withdraw



As I was halfway through writing this essay, the Supreme Court decision came down granting Donald Trump immunity from prosecution for virtually anything he did while holding public office.  Any conversation he held or, should he be re-elected, may hold with any member of his staff or cabinet, or with any military officer, seems to be shielded.  The implications have me reeling.  They make what follows even more crucial.


For, the implications of Thursday's presidential debate were bad enough.  


It took me only a few excruciating minutes to conclude: President Joe Biden must pull out of the 2024 presidential contest.  The stakes go well beyond the question of electability.  Biden's withdrawal is a national security imperative, an imperative in the global brawl over the very life of democracy that is raging far from our shores as well as within them.  As Ross Douthat put it in Saturday's New York Times, Biden's "obvious deterioration" doesn't just make a Trump victory more likely.  It also means that a Biden victory, and a second Biden term, would themselves endanger the United States.  For the president to acknowledge and act on this reality would be one of the most courageous demonstrations of patriotism since George Washington refused to run for a third term.


As Douthat suggests, the enfeeblement that was on unmistakable display Thursday may already have emboldened avowed U.S. adversaries.  And even the closest U.S. allies, as Benjamin Netanyahu has amply demonstrated, act in ways they know violate U.S. interests and core principles.  Diplomatic chiding behind closed doors -- already weak leverage -- has even less chance of restraining them if the chider-in-chief is wobbly in his grasp of what matters.  Nor is such a spectacle good for democracy itself.  At a time of acute peril for government of and by the people, Joe Biden is no longer up to the challenge of leading the world's foremost democracy.   


Yet, ignoring these dangers, the walking dead immediately closed ranks.  Democratic Party leaders and Biden's family and closest confidants scrambled with their face-paint and verbiage to persuade us to doubt the unexpected moment of real, in-the-flesh-evidence we got.  Former Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean, for example, told National Public Radio Monday he didn't "think Biden's in any worse shape than Reagan was in his last couple of years."  (There has been reasoned debate as to whether Reagan suffered the onset of Alzheimers disease while still in office).  


Wow.  The truths that get conveyed, despite people's best efforts with the airbrush.


So what's the alternative to Biden's trademark stick-it-out reflex?  A patriotic decision to decline to run, and an open convention.  That prospect, warned party operative Dean, "would be incredibly ugly. ... There'd be several contenders.  It would be a wild convention."  


I say, bring it on.  Not one but several talented contenders?  All with a real chance of winning?  Vying publicly for six short weeks for the confidence of newly released delegates and the voters they represent?  Then an open convention to select the very best?  That sounds a lot more like democracy than the sclerotic regular procedure Americans have submitted to for decades.  And what a courageous example to set for the rest of the world. 


I understand how powerful is the pull of a strategy or coping mechanism that has proven as successful to a person as Biden's obdurate refusal to give up has proven to him over the course of his career.  These are the reliable patterns that are so hard to shake when we embark on a rite of passage.  The sign of true maturity is the ability to recognize when those loyal strategies, the ones we've always fallen back on, no longer serve.  For Biden, that time is now.


I also realize that Monday's Supreme Court sledgehammer blow to the foundational idea of our democracy -- that even the president is subject to its laws -- makes the scenario described here less likely.  Still, it's the first prospect that's given me political energy in years. 


So, if you agree, make your views known.  Carry a sign to your July 4th celebration; contact your Democratic senators, or anyone you know who knows someone with influence within Democratic Party leadership; come up with your own idea.  In any case, in fact, get creative.  Our democracy needs your imagination.

11 Comments


I missed these latest updates of sarahchayes.org mostly due to the overwhelming and fairly nauseating appeals for money for Biden.com.

I fear a Trump dictatorship more for what’s it going to do to the world wide natural environment more than anything else like relatively small things like Supreme Ct and abortions (he can’t stop them anyway) and it’s time to just abolish the Supreme Court (but that’s a real revolution).

But without a thriving Natural World we will be toast in few generations ..,

I’ve felt Biden to be almost as duplicitous and arrogant as Trump for awhile now. He’s increased oil production, allowed CEOs to raise prices mercilessly (thank you, Anita Dunn, Biden’s corporate handler) and ignored the youth…

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spc
spc
Jul 03

Dear Friends:


Thanks very much for this spirited debate. Like michaeljkinsley I do not regard the prospect of a genuine, democratic deliberation within the Democratic Party -- following a courageous and graceful withdrawal on the part of an old warhorse -- to be a daunting or frightening prospect, but rather an invigorating one. Those of us who hold this view are widely accused of panic. In my own opinion, we are not panicked we are simply acknowledging the evidence before our eyes. It's the other side of the question, people who don't dare imagine any other course of action than staying the course, no matter what, whom I'd suspect of fearfulness.


I also clock Roxana Marinak's point. I have no…


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Replying to

Do we know for sure that Biden is showing signs of dementia, or did he have a bad debate? Genuine question, as this is a medical diagnosis, and I would hate for Biden to be labeled falsely. I've read some convincing pieces in the last 48 h about his possible withdrawal and how it might work, with Harris as the contender. It would require massive outreach and blaring communication about why the Dems are still the best option, as they have yet to do well in that regard.


Looking forward to your forthcoming essays.

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I have followed with interest Professor Allan Lichtman's, 13 keys. In this interview, he emphatically states that Joe Biden is the Democrats only chance to defeat Trump. https://www.fox5dc.com/news/presidential-predictor-allan-lichtman-uses-13-keys-to-the-white-house-tracker-on-2024-election


I've felt that any younger, credible challenger to Biden-Trump stands a good chance to win, based upon the sentiment of those of us who claim to be independents. We already have buyer's remorse for the two candidates. A challenger who is moderate stands a good chance of becoming president.


We live in the best of times and worst of times. George Friedman in his book, "The Calm Before the Storm indicates there are cycles in American History. We are seeing for the first time the congruence of the cycle of institutional crisis…


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Sarah,

Biden's performance was horrible. My wife and I watched the entire debacle, deeply disappointed and then nearly panicky. What should we do, we asked? Who else is available?


Our despair condensed into a couple of questions over the next days and hours. That is, "Who has the best chance of defeating Donald Trump in November?" And, "Is having a diminished Biden and his team in power really worse than having the mendacious and now above-the-law Trump team in power?"


Seriously, do you believe that there is anyone we could sub-in now who could win more votes than Diminished Biden? The voters who are uncommitted don't follow politics and likely have never heard the names of the people who most…


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Some here base their disagreement with Chayes on the assertion that Biden has done a great job. Yes, of course he has. However, the question here is not his record but rather his elect-ability, which the debate obviously and seriously eroded. I wish I could hug him, congratulate him on decades of service and a terrific four years, and ask him to do the courageous thing: step aside. Our beloved RBG hung on too long; Joe must not make the same mistake.


Joe's courageous withdrawal is not a grim scenario. It's a bright one. Imagine the press and public reaction to the clear nobility of such a move.


And we Dems have a terrific bench to draw from. Most of…


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