Time for Joe to make way for Kamala?

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Time for Joe to make way for Kamala?

Donald Trump, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris (image created in Shutterstock)

Democracy is an awkward, unpredictable, fascinating SOB.  It’s demolished the Tory party in the UK ushering in a Labour government on a tidal wave with all sorts of weird and wonderful outriders. France is next on its agenda after which comes the big one: America.

Can President Joe Biden hang on and, if the stubborn old campaigner does, can he defeat Donald Trump in November’s presidential elections?

From where I sit, admittedly as an armchair spectator, the answer to both questions is: “No.” Biden is a scrapper. But he’s fighting something that nobody has ever defeated: advancing age and the mortal frailties that come with it.

It’s really as simple as that. Biden’s decline has been steady. More to the point, it’s irreversible. The rather sad performance against Trump in the June 27 television confirmed, as if confirmation were needed, that the incumbent President is no longer robust enough to lead the free world.

A valiant, but not entirely honest, attempt by the White House to paper over the widening cracks, pretending that everything’s fine with their man, has failed.

It’s dawning on the Democratic party, which has been woefully unprepared for this turn of events, that what might have been a narrow defeat in November could turn into a rout.

The drama being acted out about America’s future, mostly behind closed doors in Washington DC, is spellbinding — King Lear in modern dress. And it’s not just about the United States. As the old saw goes: “When America sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold.” Or worse.

The Middle East is at war, perhaps on the verge of a conflagration between Israel and Iran. Russia is fighting a brutal war of attrition in Ukraine, threatening Europe’s eastern flank, while pushing deeper into Africa. China keeps rising, leading a gathering coalition of middle-powers that reject American hegemony and western-style liberalism. So what now?

There are three possible outcomes in the next few weeks. The first is that Biden clings on. If that’s what he decides, then – short of a 25th amendment move that removes him on the grounds of disability – he can’t be ousted. He goes on most probably to lose in November.

The second option is that he resigns, Vice-President Kamala Harris is sworn in as President, she picks a number two to replace her and is crowned at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in August.

Many Democrats won’t like this, not least those who would wish to throw their hat in the ring: California’s Gavin Newsom and Gretchen Whitmer, Governor of Michigan, to name two.

A different version of that outcome would be that, prior to Biden’s resignation, a shadow play is acted out, whereby Democratic heavyweights, such as Nancy Pelosi (perhaps also Barack Obama), square the party and Harris’s potential rivals, to unite in the face of a Trump second term.

A third option would be an open contest at the convention. But that would be in nobody’s interest. A united Convention as a launchpad for an assault against Trump would seem to be essential. Americans love upbeat, on-message cheerleaders.

Biden hates losing. He’s waited for the keys to the Oval Office all his life. He is, as old men can be, stubbornly persuaded that only he can forestall a second Trump administration and its consequences for liberal American values, the war in Ukraine and the economy.

So far his family, especially his wife Jill, have stood four-square behind him. My guess is that’s not necessarily a go-ahead endorsement. More: “Honey/Dad, we’ll back you whatever you decide.”

As for Harris: she’s not everybody’s flavour of the month. Her public performances have been patchy, occasionally weird. But the Vice Presidency is less of an understudy for the President than a bag carrier so getting the measure of the incumbent is hard.

Vice Presidents are virtually invisible against the glare of the Oval Office and Air Force One. As Johnny Carson once quipped: “Democracy means that anyone can grow up to be president, and anyone who doesn’t grow up can be Vice President.”

Harris, the favourite to step into Biden’s shoes, has been an underachiever as Vice-President. But she may be underrated. In a recent poll she did better than Biden and not much worse than Trump. She has a reputation as a formidable interrogator. She would tear Trump to pieces in a debate.

The Vice President has spent the last few months criss-crossing the country carving out a role for herself. She has been speaking out on abortion rights, the war in Gaza and race. She invoked her personal story, from her mother’s influence on her life to her inspiration for becoming a prosecutor.

Harris is smart, energetic, passionate. She’s a straight-up liberal. Her support for women’s rights in the wake of the Supreme Court’s shocking upending of Roe v Wade would be a big plus against a Trump campaign heavily reliant on a deeply conservative, religious right-wing agenda.

Biden’s weaknesses are not his policies. By most yardsticks he’s done well. One of the mysteries of the American mind is that, asked who they think would be better at running the economy, most said Trump.

Biden has created over 15 million jobs. Unemployment remains low. The economy is notching up many straight quarters of growth. His weakness is that inflation has eaten into earnings so, even though the economy may be doing well overall, many Americans are or feel worse off.

So what’s it to be? A visibly deteriorating 81-year-old against a convicted felon who talks up a storm? Or a strong, animated mixed-race woman (her mother is Tamil, her father Jamaican), perhaps with a white, male running mate with a strong record?

A second Trump term would push America back decades. The recent Supreme Court ruling shielding sitting US Presidents from prosecution of official acts is a harbinger of what awaits the country. Biden and the Democrats must choose wisely.


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Member ratings
  • Well argued: 63%
  • Interesting points: 73%
  • Agree with arguments: 59%
34 ratings - view all

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