Opinion: The Case for Ditching Biden and Making Kamala Harris Step Up Instead

Thursday night’s debate was an abject disaster for President Joe Biden and should underline to everyone in the political system, the media, and the electorate that the overall trajectory of his competency is one of sharp decline.

The day after the debate was marked by mass panic among Democratic Party elites who, frankly, should have been aware of this problem—and moved to fix it—many months, or even years ago. It was also marked by “Double Haters,” like myself, really leaning in on the “Double” portion of the phrase. Never Trump. Never Biden.

While former President Barack Obama offered a show of support for Biden, it was made before any real, meaningful polling was done to gauge how bad the debate really was for the U.S. president. My guess is that by the time we get to next Wednesday, we’ll be in a position where Biden is found to be trailing Trump by a significant, potentially irreversible margin in all swing states—and potentially some states that have not to-date been on the swing state list.

And let’s be honest: With every day, Biden is getting older, not younger. Whatever Anita Dunn’s talents as a political consultant, she has not yet invented a time machine. That is the only thing that could be banked on to reverse the damage done last night, and Democrats are running out of time to beat Trump.

We are consistently told a victory against Trump is essential, not just to the Democratic Party, the cause of progressivism, and fulfilling a bevy of individual liberal ideological goals, but indeed to save democracy itself. If Democrats truly believe that, they have one choice right now, and it is to replace Biden as the presidential nominee.

But that may not be enough. Vice President Kamala Harris’ relatively low profile has forced a view in which precious few Americans see her as able to do the job of president. I would, however, suggest Democrats take a serious look at what might be the ultimate gamble, but one that could solve a variety of problems now facing them (though potentially ushering in other, different ones): If the polling next week really does turn south in a way that is totally conceivable, if not predictable, Biden should seriously consider resigning and letting Harris step into the job of president.

If you just spat out your drink, or laughed at the notion, you are likely with the majority of Americans. Even I am laughing at myself a little bit as I type this. But the reality is, as of June 24, 2024, according to the FiveThirtyEight average of polls, Harris actually had a better approval rating than Biden. Her disapproval rating was also lower than that of Trump. The same trends are broadly visible with RealClearPolitics’ numbers, though per RCP, Harris has a slightly higher disapproval average there than Trump does an “unfavorable”average.

Incredible as it may be, Harris looks like less of a political liability than Biden—especially since her aging a day more with every 24 hours is unlikely to frighten voters the way Biden aging even an hour more clearly does. Installing Harris and removing Biden in fact takes the age consideration completely off the table—except where it relates to Trump. Trump, by the way, has also declined significantly since 2020, it’s just that Biden on Thursday night struck people as so old, so infirm, so confused and so incapable that few people noticed that Trump is also showing signs of not being sufficiently compos mentis to do the job (and that’s setting aside concerns he is crazy).

Biden resigning and handing the reins to Harris would give a different candidate not saddled with the “too old” liability a chance at making it to November, by which time maybe, possibly, voters will have adjusted to the higher prices that have everyone feeling so rotten about the economy—but which are not going away. Much private polling shows that independent voters hate Biden on the economy. The truth is, there is nothing any Democratic candidate can do about this except hope people just start feeling better about it all. But Harris stands a better chance of getting a big boost from voters if their perceptions shift because she simply isn’t saddled with the age problem.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris greets her audience before discussing reproductive rights on the second anniversary of Roe v. Wade being overturned, in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S. June 24, 2024.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris greets her audience before discussing reproductive rights on the second anniversary of Roe v. Wade being overturned, in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S. June 24, 2024.

Rebecca Noble/Reuters

Of course, the reason this plan will almost certainly be dismissed out of hand by Democratic elites—setting aside the Biden clique’s insane and frankly egomaniacal belief that no other Democrat in the world can beat Trump (and let’s be honest, Trump is incredibly beatable with his voluminous liabilities)—is because so many people have concluded Harris is incapable of doing the job of president and, to put it politely, has over the course of her political career, consistently failed upwards. Here’s the thing: Literally the only way of proving anyone wrong about this is to put her in the job and let people see her do it.

Granted, there’s a very high chance that the predictions will indeed come true. But functionally, Biden is not the one doing the job at the moment anyway—that is clear from what we all saw on the debate stage. Really, in my view, the “president” is a variety of unelected staffers calling the shots. At least Harris was on the ticket and people voted for her.

We are told that Biden trusts Harris. If that is true, he and his coterie of family, advisers and friends should at least be willing to consider the plan. There is at least a chance that if Harris assumes the presidency, she will rise to the occasion—or at least rise to it more than Biden appears to now be capable of. If voter sentiment about the economy improves—and it could, because with each passing month, we get further from the 9 percent inflation number that caused all the price hikes that everyone is pissed off about—her numbers might rise.

And let’s be honest, Harris talks about abortion and Dobbs and Roe much more fluidly and fluently than Biden did in the debate, where he appeared to suggest women need abortions because their sisters rape them. Also, if the Democratic Party is worried about African-American voters, it probably makes more sense to promote an African-American woman than hold her in second place, doing nothing of much consequence.

Oh, one other thing: While Trump fans love to troll Harris with the “Kamala is a cop” meme, voters who are worried about rising crime might actually prefer someone who was a prosecutor, even if she has been accused of targeting fellow African Americans for prosecution and conviction.

Before everyone concludes upon reading this that I myself have early stage cognitive issues, I would just underline that in the 2024 election, on so many levels, we are in uncharted waters. We have never had a major party nominee who is a convicted criminal. We have never had two nominees who are anywhere close to as old as these two guys. We have never had a situation where voters tuned into a debate just to see if either or both candidates might die. And yes, save going back to Lyndon Johnson (where the underlying dynamics relating to un-electability were far different), we have not had a situation where a sitting president became so unpopular that it was even theoretically less risky to swap him out late in the campaign and give his Veep a go. There is no blueprint for Democrats winning in this situation. None.

At a minimum, if Biden did stand down now and allow Harris to take over, Democrats could claim down the line, for posterity’s sake, that they did in fact supply America’s first female, first Asian-American, and second African-American President.

Right now, it’s impossible to see any great talking points the party will yield from keeping Biden around. There may be precious few wins for Democrats to eke out of 2024; at least they could bank this one relating to gender and racial progress. At the same time, they would be making the mother of all bets that might just pay off.

It’s a far better alternative than playing it safe and leaving voters to find Donald Trump, of all people, to be the candidate who seems younger, more energetic, and vastly more up to the task of being president.

This post was originally published on Daily Beast

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