DANIEL VAUGHAN: Democratic Party's Impasse: To Kick Biden Or Not?

 July 10, 2024

The Democratic Party is at a standstill in the middle of its soft-pressure campaigns to push Biden out of the race. Joe Biden refuses to leave. Not only that, but Biden threatened Democrats to challenge him at the upcoming convention. After multiple intense meetings, Congressional Democrats have little to show for trying to push Biden to an off-ramp. Now, the big question is: Do Democrats escalate?

After facing an onslaught in the press and from Congress, the Biden White House started this week on offense. Every Democrat received a letter from the President. Biden followed that up by calling into the Morning Joe show on MSNBC. The message was clear: Joe Biden is staying in the race; he refused all the offers to leave and blasted anyone as having a chance to beat Trump.

The White House out-flanked Congress. Politico reported that Biden's "survival strategy" banked on threatening an internal war in the Democratic Party. Specifically, Biden is pitting the Congressional Black Caucus against the rest of the party. The implied threat to the rest of the party was obvious: Biden will claim you're only opposing him due to racial differences in the party.

Benjy Sarlin at Semafor summed it up as "Mutually Assured Destruction." Biden is telling Democrats that if they come after him, he will return the favor. It's not about convincing anyone that Biden can do the job or doesn't have cognitive failings. Biden is flexing the power of the bully pulpit and his control over delegates as a means to beat back the Democratic Party.

Sarlin added, "What Biden can do is be stubborn in a way that sets up a scenario of mutually assured destruction for Democrats. So long as opponents of his nomination believe it's impossible to force him to step aside, any escalation of their criticism risks damaging him even further in November. And the worse his standing gets, the more his party is likely to suffer up and down the ballot."

The White House's harsh work is paying dividends. Axios reports that Congressional Democrats are depressed and see the movement to remove Biden as failing.

Axios reported, "One shell-shocked lawmaker who was present at the meeting would offer only one word to characterize it: 'Intense.' Another described the mood as 'pretty much unanimous' that Biden has 'got to step down,' adding, 'There were actual tears from people, and not for Biden.'"

NBC News spoke to an anonymous state party chair who said, "'I wish I was more brave,' said one Democratic state party chair who thinks Biden should step aside. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because they fear retaliation from the President's camp."

NBC News continued," 'I would be crucified by them if I spoke out of line,' the chair continued. 'I know when you get out of line they all of a sudden have a shift of priorities and your races, your state is no longer on the map.'"

Bully ball is working, for now. Notably, the New York Times Editorial Board continued the drumbeat, demanding Biden step aside. The Times wrote specifically to Democratic Party leadership: 

For those at the helm of the Democratic Party — including the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer; the House minority leader, Hakeem Jeffries; and even the former House speaker Nancy Pelosi — the time has arrived to speak forcefully to the President and the public about the need for a new candidate before time runs out for other candidates to make their case to the party's convention delegates.

The New York Times represents the opinion of the Democratic Party elite. They're calling for escalation against Biden. Some Democrats are trying to circle the wagons around Biden, and others are looking for the exit doors. 

The Democratic Party is at an impasse. Do they escalate and push harder against Biden? What would escalation involve? For one, one of the big newspapers, like the Times, has to come out and accuse Biden of hiding medical records. Or they need to leak medical records against Biden.

Absent that, the next stage is lining up a convention fight. Nate Silver and some House Democrats have argued that delegates are not bound to Biden. Escalating here would mean stripping delegates from Biden and getting a new person in that top spot.

What would that look like? It's unclear.  It's also unclear whether or not Biden could sue to enforce voting results for the delegates. Are the bylaws a binding contract with all Democratic Party members? Or is it something less that can be bent towards the party's will? 

No one knows. 

In the debate's immediate aftermath, Democrats pitched many possible white knights who could march through the door and save their party. Biden is trying to slam the door shut on those thoughts. It's Biden of the highway, according to the White House. 

Democrats in the press and Congress have a choice: do they escalate or not? The choice is up to them; no one else will save them. 

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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