The One Thing That Could Save Joe Biden
Plus: Yes, It Did Happen
“Dismal” doesn’t seem to capture the true awfulness of Joe Biden’s poll numbers in this season of our discontent.
His approval rating has cratered to just 33 percent in the NYT/Siena College poll; and a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll finds that just 18 percent of Americans want him to run for re-election in 2024. Nearly two in three — 64 percent — think he should walk away.
His numbers in the latest Pew poll are equally dreary.
Biden is underwater on just about any issue you can name: from inflation and the economy to immigration and crime. Nearly three-quarters of Americans doubt his ability to bring the country together.
How bad is it? These are FFS right track/wrong track numbers:
But it gets worse. Even his fellow Democrats are bailing on him. As the NYT wrote earlier this week:
In a sign of deep vulnerability and of unease among what is supposed to be his political base, only 26 percent of Democratic voters said the party should renominate him in 2024.
This has, inevitably, sparked a herd of doleful takes on the Democratic angst, like this, “Should Biden Run in 2024? Democratic Whispers of ‘No’ Start to Rise,” and this, “There Has to Be a Backup Plan. There’s a Backup Plan, Right?” The usual knives are being sharpened in the usual ways by the usual suspects: “Progressive group to press Biden not to run in 2024.”
History tells us that other presidents— Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — have weathered weak poll numbers and been re-elected. But they were vigorous, charismatic politicians and — I mean no disrespect here — Biden is neither, as he reminds us on a daily basis. Voters are worried about his age and he’s not getting any younger.
Obviously, Biden needs the economy to stabilize and inflation to fade away. But, while that’s necessary, it’s not clear that that would be sufficient to pull him out of this kind of polling spiral. Another massive spending bill won’t turn things around; and Roe may not be enough to reverse the polarities of his political decline.
We’re also beyond the point where presidents can count on any event — war, pandemic, or terrorist attack —to cause Americans to rally around the flag. In our current political fever, crises inflame rather than unify.
So, at this point, what would it take for him to make a comeback?
He needs Donald J. Trump to formally announce that he’s running in 2024.
Biden’s folks seem to get this. Earlier this month, NYT political reporter Michael Shear told his colleague Blake Hounshell:
There is a belief among some people close to the president that a formal Trump candidacy will provide an effective foil for Biden and will energize him much the way he was energized during the 2020 campaign. The threat of Trump was, after all, Biden’s stated reason for running in the first place.
There’s also a belief — maybe more of a hope — that an early decision by Trump to announce that he is running could hurt Republican candidates this fall. It would force the political discourse away from issues that benefit Republicans, like inflation, and toward subjects that are more favorable to Democrats, like Trump’s rantings about Jan. 6 and a “stolen” 2020 election.
This may be wish-casting. But it’s not implausible, because Trump’s entry into the race would be… clarifying. It would remove any ambiguity about the stakes or the nature of the decision voters would face; and it would starkly remind voters of the binary choice that framed Biden’s 2020 victory.
Even with his dreadful numbers, Joe Biden still leads Donald Trump in hypothetical matchups. The NYT/Siena poll has the deeply unpopular president nevertheless leading Trump 44 percent to 41 percent. The Yahoo News/YouGov poll has him up 44 percent to 43 percent in a 2024 re-match.
Trump, I hardly need to remind you, has uniquely ghastly numbers that seem to be getting worse:
Amid the Jan. 6 hearings, most voters (52%) now think “Trump committed a crime by trying to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election”; even more (54%) think the U.S. Department of Justice should prosecute him. And nearly 6 in 10 Americans (59%) say that Trump shouldn’t run for president again either. Only 28% say he should.
Biden himself likes to say, “Don’t compare me to the Almighty, compare me to the alternative.” With Trump in the race, Biden would no longer be running against the ghost of FDR, or a generic Republican. He wouldn’t be constantly compared with a mythical progressive pol who could magically enact sweeping spending plans in an evenly divided Congress.
The alternative would be Trump.
That fact alone would go a long way toward fixing some of Biden’s problems. Democrats, who are now wallowing in their season of acedia and self-loathing, would come home.
The [NYT/Siena] poll showed that Democratic misgivings about Mr. Biden seemed to mostly melt away when presented with a choice between him and Mr. Trump: 92 percent of Democrats said they would stick with Mr. Biden.
Trump’s early entry would also remove any lingering rationale for ignoring him; and voters would be reminded again why they tired of his act the first time around. The New Trump is, of course, the same as the Old Trump, but the memories of his star-turn on “The Apprentice” have been replaced with images of his new role as the Captain of Team Crazy. And Team Sedition.
If anything, the defeated, disgraced, twice impeached president, in pouting exile, has become more vicious, unhinged, narcissistic, dishonest, reckless, and demagogic than he was as Mad King.
People would notice.
Voters would be confronted with the very real threat of his return to the Oval Office, with access to the nuclear codes, unlimited pardon power, and control over the DOJ, FBI, CIA, and IRS.
This time around, there’s no mystery about what Trump 2.0’s Unplugged Revenge Tour would look like. There would be no grown ups in the room. It would be Unhinged All the Way Down.
The moment he announces, Trump also becomes the presumptive nominee and Maximum Leader of the GOP, and that would shape both the midterms and the next two years. In his latest desperate bid for power, he will demand that the GOP serve his obsessions — especially if he is facing criminal charges and condign punishment for his attempted coup. (And no, don’t expect the GOP to rediscover its collective conscience and turn against him.)
Imagine a short history of the near future: in 2023/24 a GOP Congress held hostage by its president-in-waiting, who would bully, threaten, and goad it into overreach and paralysis. He would have Kevin McCarthy’s testicles in a lock box, next to Lindsey’s — and even Speaker Marjorie Taylor Greene would be loath to vote for anything that Trump would shadow veto.
So we’d get endless hearings into Hunter’s laptop, one or two impeachments of Biden, radical culture war legislation, national abortion bans, endless relitigation of the 2020 election, gridlock, government shutdowns, and perhaps even defaults on the debt.
Could Biden run against that kind of Congress? Just ask Harry Truman. Or Bill Clinton.
There is, of course, another reason that the Democrats may not decide to jettison their elder statesman. As JVL wrote last month, “barring a health event, Biden will run for re-election in 2024 for one simple reason: There is no other option.”
The Democratic coalition is currently made up of a giant mass of factions, some of which are in tension. They cannot win the presidency without getting close to 52 percent of the popular vote and even that margin gives them only about a 50-50 shot of winning the Electoral College.
Democrats need to hold together (and turn out) progressives, African Americans, young voters, women, Hispanics, and college-educated suburban voters. They need to do this without losing even more ground to white, high-school-educated men.
Joe Biden is the only Democrat even theoretically capable of shouldering this burden.
If you disagree, you need to come up with some names; and explain how the primaries would not devolve into an epic shitshow.
Counterpoint: Bill Kristol is making the case that Biden should announce that he’s not running, and let the flowers of thousands of would-be successors bloom before we get to 2024.
You can listen to our discussion (near the end) on Wednesday’s podcast.
Yes, It Did Happen
As a follow-up to this… we’ve added this note:
[UPDATE, July 13, 2022, 2:20 p.m. EDT: We now have the answer to the question posed in the headline of this post: Yes, it did really happen. Bethany Bruner and colleagues at the Columbus Dispatch have reported today that a 27-year-old man, Gershon Fuentes, has confessed to raping, on multiple occasions, a 10-year-old Ohio girl, who then underwent an abortion in Indiana. Fuentes has been charged with rape. The post below has not been altered, but should be read in light of this new information.]
A Columbus man has been charged with impregnating a 10-year-old Ohio girl, whose travel to Indiana to seek an abortion led to international attention following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v Wade and activation of Ohio's abortion law.
Gershon Fuentes, 27, whose last known address was an apartment on Columbus' Northwest Side, was arrested Tuesday after police say he confessed to raping the child on at least two occasions. He's since been charged with rape, a felony of the first degree in Ohio.
Columbus police were made aware of the girl's pregnancy through a referral by Franklin County Children Services that was made by her mother on June 22, Det. Jeffrey Huhn testified Wednesday morning at Fuentes' arraignment. On June 30, the girl underwent a medical abortion in Indianapolis, Huhn said….
The criminal charges and testimony from the Columbus detective further confirm the disturbing story that has become a key flash point in the national furor over the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
The Indianapolis Star, a Gannett sister paper of The Dispatch, first reported earlier this month that a 10-year-old rape victim traveled from Ohio to Indiana for abortion services after most abortions became illegal in her home state. The account was attributed to Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an Indianapolis physician who provides abortion services.
Meanwhile, In Wisconsin
We are Republicans who will NOT vote for:
Any Republican who voted on January 6 against certifying the election unless they have clearly and unambiguously publicly apologized and said they were wrong.
Any Republican candidate who publicizes Donald Trump's endorsement after August 1, 2022 (we will give time to these candidates to realize that using such an endorsement will lose them some votes).
Regardless of whether we supported Donald Trump's policies, the Big Lie about the election, and the behavior of Donald Trump and his enablers after the election and on January 6, disqualify Donald Trump and his enablers from holding office. They lack the civic virtue to hold office.
We are or were until at least 2016 Republicans. but we are Americans first. What Donald Trump did was un-American. His behavior violates the fundamentals of Americanism. They also are inconsistent with the basic tenets of Republicanism. We believe in the sunny optimism of Ronald Reagan, not the un-American behavior of Donald Trump.
We might not reflect the majority of Republican voters. We hope that, eventually, we will once again.
We do not support the policies of the Democratic Party. However, the short-term risk of those policies, which can be changed by a responsible Republican Party, are less dangerous than are Donald Trump and his enablers.
We either will not vote, or will vote for the opponents of the people listed above.
Although we might not be a majority of Republicans, we believe we are numerous enough to keep some crazy Republicans from being elected. If the Republican Party wants our votes, it must once again deserve them.
"The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust."
-The Federalist Papers: No 57
If you are so inclined, you can sign here.
The Real Goal of the Jan. 6th Committee
Yes, writes Will Saletan in the Bulwark, the committee is unearthing evidence that could lead to prosecutions—but that’s not its main aim.
After eight public hearings and dozens of such questions, the reason is clear: The committee’s principal goal isn’t to expose crimes. It’s to restore truth and sanity.
The investigation has found plenty of evidence that Donald Trump and people around him broke the law. Ideally, that evidence will lead to prosecutions. But even if Trump and his accomplices don’t go to jail, the country needs to be immunized against his lies about the election and the insurrection.
Those lies haven’t gone away. They’ve been taken up by Republican candidates and are widely believed by rank-and-file Republicans. In a recent Economist/YouGov survey, 75 percent of Republicans and 36 percent of registered voters still say Joe Biden didn’t legitimately win the election.
This is the audience the committee wants to reach.