AMAC Exclusive – By Andrew Abbott
A new consensus is emerging within the Democrat Party establishment: Yes, Joe Biden is too old to run for president again in 2024. But the party will back him anyway, because the alternative of a Kamala Harris-led ticket is worse.
That’s the upshot of a bombshell story from Politico reporter Jonathan Martin late last week detailing the private thoughts of many senior Democrat operatives, who nearly all spoke on the condition of anonymity. One senator said, “Few Democrats in [Congress] want Biden to run again,” while a governor “mused about just how little campaigning Biden would be able to do.”
A few brave Democrats have openly stated that Biden is simply too old to run. Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota has said that “if [Biden] were 15-20 years younger it would be a no-brainer to nominate him, but considering his age it’s absurd we’re not promoting competition but trying to extinguish it.”
Fellow Minnesota Democrat Angie Craig has made similar comments. Some voices in the mainstream media have also made that case, with The New York Times releasing an opinion article last July declaring “Joe Biden is too old to be president again,” and The Washington Post running an analysis piece putting the spotlight on Biden’s age and mental fitness.
But the hard truth that many Democrat power brokers have come to face is that Kamala Harris, Biden’s most obvious heir apparent, gives them an even worse chance of retaining the White House in 2024.
Harris’s tenure as vice president has been a disaster. Early in his presidency, Biden tasked her with solving the border crisis. This was met with back-to-back failures. Not only was the border not secured, but a series of interview gaffes tarnished her public image. Most notably, in an interview with Lester Holt, she dismissed criticism for not visiting the border by stating, “And I haven’t been to Europe.” The gaffe drew such criticism and condemnation that the vice president withdrew from almost all major interviews for nearly a year. Harris, it seems, is the only politician capable of doing worse in front of a microphone than her boss.
Democrats are in a bind, however. As a woman of Asian and Jamaican descent, any attempt to deny Harris the nomination would likely infuriate large parts of a Democrat base obsessed with identity politics. As vice president, Harris is also the natural choice for the nomination if Biden were to choose not to run.
This combination of factors virtually mandates that Democrats must back Harris if they abandon Biden. “Democrats have seen what happens when anyone in their party openly criticizes Harris,” Martin writes. “They’re accused by activists and social media critics of showing, at best, racial and gender insensitivity. This doesn’t stifle concerns about her prospects, of course, it just pushes them further underground or into the shadows of background quotes.”
Another House Democrat said, “The Democrats who will need to speak out on her are from the Congressional Black Caucus, no white member is going to do it.”
Re-nominating Biden, then, is perhaps more about avoiding an intraparty civil war than it is about giving Democrats the best chance to win in 2024. The obvious conclusion that most Democrats seem to have reached but few have the courage to say out loud is that the party is best off running someone not named Joe Biden or Kamala Harris in the next presidential election.
But running Biden again next year will only prolong the inevitable: whether in 2024 or 2028, Kamala Harris will expect what she feels she is owed – a clear path to the nomination.
Democrats find themselves stuck at an impasse of their own creation. If poll numbers and both Biden’s and Harris’s woeful record are any indication, however, it won’t matter who is at the top of the ticket in 2024, because both the president and vice president will find themselves voted out of office.
Andrew Abbott is the pen name of a writer and public affairs consultant with over a decade of experience in DC at the intersection of politics and culture.