The End Is Near for Angry Ol’ Joe
It won’t happen as soon as we’d like, but it’s coming nonetheless.
“For 37 years in the service of our nation,” he said, “first as a congressman, as a senator, and as vice president, and now as your president, I have put the unity of the people first. I have put it ahead of any divisive partisanship. … Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.”
That was President Lyndon Baines Johnson, and the date was March 31, 1968. After a lengthy address to the nation about the status of the war in Vietnam, a war that had riven the country, he announced that he’d step down from the presidency at the conclusion of his term and not run for reelection.
It was a shocking moment, given how rare it is for a sitting president to decline a second term in office. The election to a second term, after all, tends to act as a stamp of approval from the American people and thus signifies a successful presidency.
We can’t know for sure, but somewhere, some Democrat speechwriter is contemplating those words from President Johnson and wondering how they might be remade for Joe Biden. Because it’s becoming clearer with each passing day that this president won’t be allowed to run for reelection, and he won’t be the nominee.
The Democrats are, first and foremost, about political power. And they realize that Biden is a political loser. His poll numbers have, ever since his disastrous retreat and surrender in Afghanistan nearly two years ago, been consistently and stubbornly in the basement, lower than any president in history with the possible exception of Jimmy Carter.
He’s been overtaken not only by cognitive and physical decline but by ruinous and unpopular policies. In addition, he’s been overtaken by events. Instead of taking command of the domestic and international affairs of his presidency, he’s being buffeted by them.
So he needs to go. The question is: How?
And the answer is: by threading the needle. His handlers need to orchestrate a “Baby Bear” departure from the Oval Office. He can’t go too soon, and he can’t go too late. The Democrats can’t afford to have Biden resign in disgrace amid an ever-growing scandal of international graft. Nor can they afford to have him impeached and removed from office. Why not? Because, as historian Victor Davis Hanson has observed, both of those outcomes would usher in President Kamala Harris, who’s the only Democrat in America less popular than Joe Biden. And a President Harris would demand that the party apparatus support her candidacy in the 2024 election — a candidacy they know is doomed.
No, the Democrats need Biden to finish out his term, which would necessitate a traditional open-field primary — a primary in which Harris would be forced to run like California Governor Gavin Newsom and every other candidate rather than running unopposed as a sitting president.
The leftist press knows this, too. Notice how a trio of recent stories — a friendly nudge from CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, a forceful attack in The Atlantic, and a look at a potential third-party threat — focused exclusively on what they believe is Biden’s wrong-headed decision to run again. Each of the stories ignored the corruption scandal that might cause him to resign or be impeached and removed before the end of his term.
In “whispers” and “furtive phone calls,” top Democratic donors and officials are saying that “President Joe Biden won’t actually be running for reelection,” CNN reported Thursday.
Those Democrats are talking to “possible replacement presidential candidates,” according to the report, and urging them to “get ready.” They say that “time is already running out” for Biden, who has officially announced his candidacy but hasn’t named a campaign finance director, hired any on-the-ground staff in competitive states, or even opened a campaign headquarters.
We can’t know for sure what FJB’s LBJ speech will sound like, but we in our humble shop wonder whether it might chalk up his reason for declining to run again as a desire to, ahem, spend more time with his family, especially his
six seven grandchildren.
But, oh, what a mess it’s going to be. Imagine letting Gavin Newsom, Mr. White Patriarchy himself, into the game to replace the woman of color, Kamala Harris. Imagine, too, the challenges from the Left and Center-Left: from Cornel West, who’ll cut into Biden’s black support, and a possible “No Labels” unity ticket of West Virginia Democrat Senator Joe Manchin and former Utah Republican Governor Jon Huntsman.
Interestingly, a recent Suffolk University poll offering three choices for president produced the following breakdown: 34% for Joe Biden, 32% for Donald Trump, and 23% for a third-party candidate. A recent CNN/SSRS poll showed similar dissatisfaction with the current choices, with 33% of voters favoring Trump, 32% favoring Biden, and 31% favoring a candidate named Neither. (For comparison, the final version of that same poll showed 5% for Neither in 2020 and 3% for Neither in 2012.) Caveats apply, of course, because Donald Trump is beating Joe Biden head-to-head in most recent polls, and because when push comes to shove on Election Day, most voters have been reluctant to cast a third-party vote. But conventional wisdom is that a third-party run hurts Biden more because he’s the incumbent, and he’s thus the primary source of dissatisfaction and independent energy.
In any case, Biden’s LBJ moment is coming, slowly by surely, like a freight train. He might not know it, and his fellow Democrats can’t yet say as much, but they’re definitely thinking it.