Why Democrats Can Still Push Biden Off the Ticket

This week, President Biden wrote a letter saying, “the subject of how to move forward has been well-aired for over a week now. And it’s time for it to end.”

His theory of the case is that, if he demonstrates a determination to hold onto the Democratic nomination, Democrats can’t dislodge it and will have no choice but to accept his nomination and move on.

I find this view unduly fatalistic. If the Democratic Party develops a sufficiently strong consensus that Biden is not fit to campaign and/or serve in office four more years, they can probably push him out.

A prevailing, if not quite uniform, belief among Democrats is that Biden stands almost no chance of winning the election. That conviction was endorsed today by George Clooney, whose op-ed stated flatly, “We are not going to win in November with this president.”

That is an overstatement. There’s inherent unpredictability attached to future political events. Maybe Trump will suffer a heart attack. That said, if Democrats believe Biden stands no chance, or close to no chance, and that they are facing a wipeout in Congress, Biden’s warnings that they’re hurting his campaign by talking about replacing him will have no impact. If they believe they have nothing to lose, they’ll keep trying to get him off the ticket.

And if that belief becomes the prevailing view among Democrats, it places enormous pressure on Biden. Supporting the Biden campaign stops being the default choice for a loyal Democrat and becomes an act of subverting what the party believes is its only choice to stop Donald Trump.

In that environment, raising money gets much harder. (One of his biggest fundraisers just publicly asked him to drop out!) And at some point, staffing his campaign will become difficult, too. Biden famously relies on an inner circle of longtime advisers who are deeply loyal. But if those advisers also conclude he can’t win, and is dooming the country to a second Trump term, they will face pressure to advise Biden to quit. Nobody wants their career to be associated with a kamikaze mission fueled by one man’s ego.

And if Biden’s advisers abandon him, he could find new ones, or press onward with his family members taking over as his key advisers. (This process has already begun to an extent, according to press reports.) But the Democratic National Committee delegates would probably revolt and cite the conscience clause before they nominated a campaign with Jill and Hunter Biden as chief strategists and virtually no authentic support from the party.

Biden has a lot of leverage over his party. But his party also has a lot of leverage over him.

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