Back in January 2020, I posted a blog titled Musings on 2020. You can find it in the archives. It reviewed the candidates competing to take on Trump in the 2020 presidential race. Here’s what I said about Joe Biden 4½ years ago:

        “ Sanders and Biden are too old. I have said that until I am blue in the face and I still believe it. Too old. And, no, it doesn’t matter that Trump is old, too.”  

I didn’t say it because Biden seemed feeble even then. And I included Bernie, who was no spring chicken either. No, I discounted them both because I didn’t think that anyone in their mid 70s — Biden was 77, Bernie was almost 78 — would have physical or mental vigor to handle the presidency for four more years. Nothing I’ve seen since has changed my mind.  I am 74 and relatively healthy but I’ve been too old to run for president for several years. Call me an ageist, but it’s impossible for me to be enthusiastic about Biden at 81.


We’re in a dire situation. Our only non-fascist political party is poised to run a visibly diminished incumbent who refuses to step aside in the most important election of the century, or maybe of two centuries.  And make no mistake, we are dealing with two problems: Biden’s visible decline and his stubborn refusal to consider stepping aside. He cannot do anything about the first problem —  can’t unring a tolling bell. But, assuming his diminished mental capacity allows lucidity, he can look in the mirror and see the truth.  It would take a miracle for him to defeat Trump. Then again, maybe he’s holding out hope that the Almighty will come down to make it happen.


What can be done? Jill Biden’s influence could be pivotal, but everything I’ve read about her suggests that a) she has enormous sway over her husband, and b) she relishes her role as First Lady. I’ve heard anecdotally that she can be a tough cookie, even willful or vengeful when crossed. If so, it’s unlikely that she’ll tell her husband to hang up his tack. 


Absent Jill Biden, our best hope is congressional Democratic leadership —  Schumer, Jefferies, Pelosi, Schiff, etc. They could approach Biden as a group and urge him to withdraw. Lay it on the line, tell him he’s getting the heave-ho because he can’t possibly beat the demon who must be beaten. So far, though, establishment Democrats’ loyalty to Biden has paralyzed them, probably because they don’t want to be seen as turncoats. They fear their own reputations would be tarnished if they’re perceived as disloyal to Biden. Imagine what Fox News would say about them. 


But Democratic heavies need to stiffen their backbones and do what must be done for the good of the country: Swallow hard then call the White House to schedule an appointment with the president. Yes, he might stiff-arm them publicly and say they’re betraying him. It’s a risk they have to take, but so far it’s hard to see any profiles in courage among the Democratic elite.  Schumer’s repetition of his “I’m with Joe” mantra serves no one and means nothing. 


Another reason for the Democratic leadership’s paralysis is their fear of chaos and acrimony that will ensue in the scramble to replace Biden. I keep hearing about interviews with Democrats who raise the specter of the divisive and violent 1968 Democratic Convention. Is it really likely that the party would screw up an open nominating convention? I doubt it. Is it a certainty that they would? Certainly not..


If Biden withdraws by mid-July, the party would be faced with two options. It would unify around Kamala Harris or it could pick a nominee at the convention in Chicago in August. Is the first option the easy answer? Maybe not. Too many Democrats question the strength of a Harris/who? ticket. The vice president is not a slam dunk to win the “most likely to beat Trump” sweepstakes. I don’t have a strong opinion on which of the two paths would be the wiser, and it’s all complicated by the fact that no one can explain the process for moving forward with Biden sidelined. Who decides? DNC Chair Jamie Harrison? It’s hard for me to believe that Harrison has the power, gravitas or political savvy to plot a course if Biden steps aside.


Two countries, both Western democracies, just held elections that were called unexpectedly and finished in 5-6 weeks. So why is the prospect of choosing a replacement nominee in 5 weeks so daunting to Democrats? Can’t our one functioning political party be nimble enough to choose a formidable Trump opponent in the time remaining. Why can’t we act assertively — rather than like a circular firing squad — to prevent a real disaster in November?  


The Democratic Party’s power brokers owe it to the rest of us to ask these  questions. Theirs is an awesome responsibility – preventing a second Trump presidency. So far they’re failing at that job. And it’s not like they had no warning. Biden has been visibly deteriorating for at least the last year. Doing nothing now is simply giving up. 


The mantra of loyal Bidenites has been this: It’s a binary choice between the rogue Trump and the decent guy Biden; so, let’s stay the course. Voters will figure it out and do the right thing. Superficially it’s a tempting proposition. But one has to be intellectually dishonest to entertain the notion that Biden should be entrusted with the reins of government for four more years given his demonstrated weaknesses . It reminds me of the last years of Strom Thurmond’s Senate career. Everyone knew he was feeble and senile, but they supported him anyway because his staff did the things that many South Carolinians wanted done. The fact that Strom was addled didn’t matter to most South Carolina voters. But I was never comfortable with that kind of thinking, and it had nothing to do with my revulsion at Thurmond’s past racism or his latter-day embrace of Republican policies. I just don’t think it’s prudent to have a propped-up  presidency, to paper over obvious deficiencies, to fake it. Biden’s staff cannot meet with foreign heads of state or make final decisions on crucial challenges around the world. His decline will be on full display and it will lead to instability here and abroad. 


Democrats, take action now.

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About Buck Close

Deacon Buck Close serves on the staff of the Church of St. John the Evangelist in Newport, RI. He was born in South Carolina, graduated from Tulane University in 1972 with a BA in Economics and Latin American Studies.

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