It’s pretty clear that the left is organizing to dump Joe Biden when it becomes evident that he’s a certain loser in 2024. Rather that waiting for a Ted Kennedy-like figure to challenge him in the 2024 primaries, which would likely doom Democrats to certain defeat, the left will need to push him out early, and clear the calendar for one or more Democrats to organize a serious presidential campaign. (It goes without saying the Democratic Party intelligentsia knows that Kamala Harris is a hopeless candidate.)
There really isn’t a towering Ted Kennedy-like figure in the Democratic Party today. It is worth recalling that in the summer of 1979, as Kennedy was considering a challenge to Jimmy Carter, a steady stream of Democrats all quietly urged Kennedy to run, including more conservative Democrats like Scoop Jackson and Pat Moynihan, to further left figures like John Culver and Frank Church. Their motive was the same—they wanted to save their own skins. (And in fact Culver and Church went down in the Reagan 1980 landslide.)
The left’s pincer move to force Biden to step aside will have three clear parts.
First, we can expect a steady drumbeat of media stories such as the latest from mainstream political reporter Ronald Brownstein. His latest headline: “Is Biden a Man Out of Time?” What Brownsteain’s article makes clear is that the media and the Democratic base wish Biden would be even more aggressively leftist and polarizing:
An array of frustrated Democrats this week openly complained that Biden and other administration officials had failed, in their initial reactions to the [Dobbs] ruling, to reflect the urgency and anguish of abortion-rights supporters. Although Biden quickly denounced the decision last week, he has avoided any broader condemnation of the Court’s direction or legitimacy and dismissed proposals for changing its structure. . . Biden’s earlier tepid reaction had drawn loud alarms across the party.
Even so, many Democrats share a sense that on all these issues, abortion included, Biden and his team have been following, not leading. And that tendency points to an enduring question about Biden. . .
But to frustrated Democrats, the administration’s cautious response to the abortion decision is further evidence that Biden’s roots in an earlier political order have left him slow to acknowledge, much less respond to, the radicalization of the Trump-era GOP. The growing chorus among the president’s internal critics is that even if Biden was the right man for beating Trump, he has become the wrong man for combatting Trumpism.
Conspicuously missing from Brownstein’s ventriloquist act is any mention of Biden’s obvious age-related maladies.
In addition to the direct “reporting” about Biden’s problems, there will be indirect attacks about general failures of the administration. This week Politico ran a long piece about what a terrible press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre is turning out to be. My theory is that she was picked to make Kamala Harris look good by comparison, but her failure at the job is so conspicuous that it can’t be papered over. As Politico puts it:
It’s been a rocky first month for White House press secretary KARINE JEAN-PIERRE.
Her answers have baffled reporters, and even made some of her White House colleagues wince. She has increasingly found herself sharing the podium or splitting briefings with JOHN KIRBY, who has been taking the lead on foreign policy and at times appears to function as a co-press secretary. . .
In her first 10 briefings as press secretary, Jean-Pierre said she didn’t have the information being sought 20-plus times more than predecessor JEN PSAKI in her first 10 briefings, according to a review of the transcripts by West Wing Playbook.
And while White House reporters love to complain about non-answers from communications officials, many have privately grumbled that when Jean-Pierre does have answers, they are often vague and rarely stray from the pre-written talking points prepared in the binder at the podium.
“At a certain point it wouldn’t surprise me if people started voting with their feet,” one White House reporter told POLITICO, predicting the lack of news from the briefings could result in waning attendance of reporters.
The second part of the pincer move will be party insiders who start publicly dumping on Biden. This week it is David Axelrod, the impresario of Barack Obama’s rise to power. Appearing on CNN, Axelrod said that “There is this sense that things are kind of out of control and he’s not in command.”
“Not in command” is a euphemism for you-know-what.
Then there is the polling data, which will be the third part of the pincer move to oust Biden. The worst polling news for Biden right now comes from a new Harvard-CAPS/Harris Poll that finds 71 percent of respondents don’t want Biden to run for a second term in 2024. The Hill reports:
“President Biden may want to run again but the voters say ‘no’ to the idea of a second term, panning the job he is doing as president. Only 30 percent of Democrats would even vote for him in a Democratic presidential primary,” Mark Penn, the co-director of the Harvard CAPS–Harris Poll survey, said. . .
The development comes as Biden continues to suffer low approval ratings. The Harvard CAPS–Harris Poll survey found that the president has an overall approval rating of 38 percent, with respondents giving him low marks on handling inflation (28 percent), the economy (32 percent), stimulating jobs (43 percent) and reacting to COVID-19 (50 percent), among other issues.
Of course, running a poll so that the media can then call it “news” is a premier example of what Daniel Boorstin called a “pseudo-event.” Look for the pace of Bad-News-for-Biden polls to pick up in frequency and intensity. It becomes a self-reinforcing feedback loop for party insiders like Axelrod and the media alike: every new poll gives them the opportunity to provide “analysis” that all points in the same direction.
You can expect these three pincers to show up every week in the news cycle from here on out, likely accelerating after the midterm election.