If Joe Biden Can Be Replaced at the Top of the Ticket, There’s Hope for Us All

If you’re deeply woke or MAGA, you won’t like a lot of the thoughts that follow. But if you view what’s been happening in our country with dismay, as I do, you may consider both wokeness and MAGA-itis to be the sort of thing Ben Franklin was wary of when, at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, he responded to a question about the form of the country’s proposed new government — a monarchy or a republic. “A republic,” he replied, “if you can keep it.”

Our nation’s problem, 237 years after the Founders crafted our Constitution, is that we’re heading into an election this November in which significant majorities of Americans are widely reported to dislike having to choose between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, the Republican and Democratic parties’ clear front runners. I haven’t been keeping score, but all the polls I’ve seen show both candidates with much lower favorable ratings (generally around 40%) than unfavorable ones (over 50%).

Below, I propose a possible way to enable voters to avoid having to choose the lesser of two evils and to more or less happily vote instead for a moderate centrist who can win both the popular vote and the Electoral College. And who can justify Ben Franklin’s hope that we can keep our Republic.

First, however, a quick rundown of the current front runners’ liabilities.

Pluses and Minuses
Trump has now been indicted for (1) inciting the January 6, 2021, mob attack on the U.S. Capitol as part of an effort to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election; (2) stealing (there’s no better word for it) and refusing to give back many sensitive, highly classified documents; (3) trying to overturn the certified results of the 2020 presidential balloting in Georgia; and (4 — the least consequential charge, in my view) falsifying business records in connection with a hush-money payment to porn “star” Stormy Daniels.

Regardless of whether (and when) Trump is found guilty, the conduct for which he has been indicted — in the view of many observers far more knowledgeable than me — makes him utterly unfit for public office, much less the presidency.

The clouds over Biden are not as dark as those over Trump. His most-discussed liability is his age. Now 81, he will be 82 at the start of a second term and 86 by the time he leaves office — if he lives that long — by the end of that term. (If he dies in office and Kamala Harris is again his running mate, it may be worth considering her reputation as a lightweight whose rise to political prominence, some think, was boosted by a mid-1990s relationship with former San Francisco mayor and California Assembly speaker — and kingmaker — Willie Brown.)

More than the issue of Biden’s being superannuated however, is his reputation for frequent gaffes. The cherry on top of this reputation, in my mind, is the assessment of Biden by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates (who served presidents of both parties): “I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” To the extent that this opinion of a sober-minded national security figure like Gates is accurate — and reinforced by Biden’s disastrous pulling of the plug in Afghanistan (following, to be sure, the ground having been foolishly prepared by Trump) — one might well wonder why he should be given four more years as Commander-in-Chief in times that are rapidly becoming ever more perilous.

Ukraine, Taiwan, Iran
The perilous times basket includes the following: Russia has yet to be expelled from Ukraine, China is threatening to invade Taiwan, and Iran continues not just fomenting terror across the Mideast and beyond, but is edging perilously close to developing nuclear weapons, whose only obvious use would be to fulfill its promise to “wipe Israel off the map.” Where does Biden stand amid all this trouble?

On Ukraine, he’s been continually slow-walking (and often denying) the weaponry that beleaguered country desperately needs to throw the Russian invaders out. At the same time, some of his people (assisted by the crazy fringe of the wafer-thin GOP majority in the House that is keeping Congress from doing any serious business on behalf of the American people) have been sniping at the failure of Ukraine’s summer 2023 counteroffensive to expel the Russian invaders despite its having been stymied by Biden’s repeated reluctance to provide jets and longer-range artillery and rockets for fear of annoying Vlad Putin.

What about defending Taiwan from invasion, which Biden has promised? Let’s just note that while China is rapidly expanding its navy, Biden’s budget is keeping the size of the U.S. Navy virtually static. Nor has Biden done enough to pump the needed juice into the rebuilding of the U.S. arms industry’s capacity to produce the large number of artillery shells and other munitions that we and beleaguered allies Ukraine and Israel need to defend themselves from the terrorist onslaughts of Russia and Hamas.

How about Iran? Despite repeated denials, Biden has never ceased trying to breathe life into a deal that would effectively legitimize the mullahs’ quest for nukes, all while proclaiming his unshakeable friendship for the target of those nukes, the ground zero of a potential second Holocaust, Israel.

So while Biden talks a good game about supporting Ukraine, Taiwan and Israel, his inactions and slow, hesitant actions belie his words. No wonder many voters have their doubts about keeping him in place as Commander-in-Chief.

Finally, there is the question of Biden’s judgment and the extent of his possible entanglement in the questionable activities of his son Hunter. Even for someone as gaffe prone as Joe Biden, it seems to me an enormous stretch to believe he was actually so foolish as to have been on the take while serving as vice president. Still, corruption’s odor is in the air, and Joe Biden has yet to convincingly blow it away.

Intoxicated by the White House
The problem for sober-minded centrist and independent voters, unfortunately, is that both Trump and Biden are intoxicated by the White House, and their parties seem incapable of thwarting their candidacies.

On the Republican side, an awful lot of folks seem intent on mangling Abe Lincoln’s dictum that “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” If Honest Abe were alive today, he’d probably look at Trump’s MAGA base and say, “But you sure can fool a hell of a lot of ‘em for a very long time.”

The result is that just one of the GOP’s remaining primary candidates, Chris Christie, is willing to antagonize Trump’s base. It’s hardly conceivable that any GOP rival will manage to wrest the nomination from Trump’s grasp. This means that barring Trump’s death or incapacitation (for which I ardently pray), the Democratic nominee will likely win the general election, since Trump loyalists alone aren’t sufficiently numerous to carry the day. Biden has been banking on this, although recent polling indicates that he just might lose enough swing states to put Trump back in the White House.

How to Clear the Way for a Better, More Centrist President
Still, if more Americans disapprove than approve of Biden, how can centrist voters elect a candidate more in tune with their moderate views? Why am I thinking about this? Because polls show that far more Americans are in the center than on either the far left or far right. It’s worth recalling that while Biden was elected as a moderate, in practice he has often seemed more in tune with his party’s “progressives” (i.e., its immoderate left) than the center.

The answer, I hope and believe, is that enough serious people from the Democratic Party’s center can convince Biden to pull out of the race and gracefully retire on his laurels. There are numerous grounds on which a case for retirement can be made to him. For the case to be persuasive, however, it must be made forcefully by people he respects. One possible inducement, I suspect, could be the promise of immunity or pardon for Hunter and, conceivably, Joe himself.

I am no student of Congress or of America’s state governors, so I am in no position to identify one or more of those who might be able to convince Biden to retire. Nor can I confidently suggest a Democratic nominee who could likely win the general election with the support of independents and moderate, Never Trump Republicans, even if many progressives choose to sit out the election rather than vote for a centrist Democrat.

Perhaps Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota, Biden’s only serious (if still little known) rival for the Democratic nomination, could be that centrist nominee. While he has a solid record of support for Democratic Party policies, he also has a strong record of working across the aisle. Perhaps he could break the Trump-Biden stranglehold and give us all a desperately needed breath of fresh air. Or perhaps Nikki Haley, a much more traditional Republican than Trump, could somehow break through in the GOP primaries and give the nation a refreshing candidacy.

My request to readers who find this analysis interesting is simple: Please write or phone your congressman or senator — if he/she is a Democrat — and any other Democratic movers and shakers whose constituent you are (perhaps your governor or mayor) and make the strongest case you can for replacing Joe Biden at the top of the 2024 ticket. Widespread pressure from below could make a big difference. And if you’re a Republican (or consider yourself a former Republican thanks to disgust with Trump), please cast your primary vote for Haley.

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