Home / General / Let’s not bicker and argue about who murdered who

Let’s not bicker and argue about who murdered who

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It’s been a stressful three days in our little community, and I want to offer up this post as an opportunity for reconciliation, where we can come together and agree on at least one proposition, which is this:

Any analysis of whether Joe Biden should drop out is ultimately just a judgment regarding what the best course of action is in regard to defeating Donald Trump in an election that will be well underway less than four months from now. Other considerations exist, and I’ll mention them, but they pale into insignificance in comparison to that. (Anyone who needs a reminder as to why should check out this thread about Project 2025, and this interview with soon to be jailbird Steve Bannon).

The reason politically engaged liberals and leftists are freaking out is very simple: Because Joe Biden had one job last Thursday, and he wasn’t able to do it. That job was to make four years worth of Republican claims that he’s a confused doddering old man look like a ridiculous lie, a grotesque caricature of the truth, which is that he’s old, yes, but still very sharp: your funny sarcastic old uncle, as opposed to your he has good days and bad days which is why we had to take away the car keys grandpa.

This failure is extremely upsetting, and it’s not surprising that lots of people are trying to minimize the extent to which it happened, if not denying it altogether. It’s extremely upsetting, because anything that makes it even slightly more probable that Trump will win is extremely upsetting, considering what would follow from that.

Now what we don’t know is the extent to which, if at all, this failure will make it less likely that Biden will win. On the plus side, less than a third of the people who will vote saw the debate, even if you assume turnout will be lower this year than in 2024, and that everybody who saw the debate will vote, which is obviously not true. And the people who saw the debate are overwhelmingly partisans whose eventual vote isn’t going to be affected by it, just as quite literally no one at LGM’s vote was affected by it.

The downside risk, in my view, isnt really from people watching Biden’s performance and changing their mind: it’s from the endless social media ads and memes that will circulate for the next four months, exploiting Biden’s failure to parry the Republican caricature to maximum potential effect. Again, what that effect will ultimately be we don’t know. It’s possible that Republican propaganda regarding Biden’s age and mental condition had already been so pervasively effective prior to the debate that, ironically, Biden’s performance will have very little or no effect, because the caricature was already priced in to Biden’s image with the voting public, and therefore his election chances. I really think this is a distinct possibility, although I wouldn’t want to bet my country on it if I had the choice.

Which brings me to Kamala Harris. I agree wholeheartedly with Scott that, if Biden were to step aside, the only move that makes any sense is for him to at a minimum fully endorse Harris for the nomination, if not actually resign from the presidency and make her the incumbent. This would give the primary process some democratic legitimacy, it would avoid a convention bloodbath in Chicago, it would transfer all the money and the existing re-election apparatus to Harris (not possible with any other candidate), and it would avoid alienating the Democratic party’s critical base of black voters, especially black women voters.

Now, would candidate Harris or President Harris have a better shot at beating Trump than President Biden? The only honest answer to this question is that we have no idea, which again is why the last three days have featured an understandable freakout. We just don’t. What we do know is that Biden is struggling in the polls, Thursday didn’t help and may have hurt (again we don’t know that either), and that you can make all sorts of arguments regarding why Harris would obviously do better or obviously do worse than Biden against Trump, with essentially no evidence to back any of those arguments either way.

Which does raise the following question: Assuming for the purposes of argument the giant can opener that Harris would have a better shot of winning than Biden, or at least no worse of a shot, would you favor Biden stepping aside? For me this is an extremely easy question to answer, because I would much prefer a Harris presidency to a second Biden term, for several reasons:

(1) Anybody who isn’t worried about Biden’s health over the next four years is a fool. The risk here is not sudden death, it’s gradual physical and mental deterioration, that leads to a Potemkin presidency. The fact that such a presidency could be “handled” (see Edith Wilson’s crypto-presidency) is not a recommendation for trying it.

(2) It would be an unequivocally great thing to have a woman president, and a woman president of color in particular (Harris is also South Asian).

(3) Harris is in the prime of her professional life, and there are good reasons to believe she could accomplish more in a first term than will be accomplished in what is likely to be an enervated second Biden term.

(4) She would have the advantages of incumbency, such as they are, in 2028.

My doubts about Harris are largely confined to the $64 trillion question overhanging all of this, which is how good of a campaigner would she be? Her 2020 run was a face plant, but on the other hand Joe Biden’s first two presidential runs were similar disasters, so you never know. I’m pretty sure that a Harris candidacy would have an enormously energizing effect on the Democratic base, but here again we’re getting into speculative tradeoffs (it would also cause a world historical freakout in Trumplandia needless to say).

Anyway, the reason people are upset is because the situation is extremely upsetting, and, crucially, no one knows what the answer to the most important question of all, which is whether Joe Biden ought to drop out in favor of Kamala Harris in order to reduce the risk that Donald Trump destroys liberal democracy for the foreseeable future.

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