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Charles M. Blow: Forcing Biden out would have only one beneficiary: Trump

Charles M. Blow New York Times

Joe Biden refuses to drop out of the presidential race, even as some liberals, rattled by the incumbent’s frightening debate performance last week, keep pressuring him to do so.

Who’s surprised by that?

The inertia of a presidential campaign is one of the most powerful forces in politics. Ending one after a party’s nomination has been secured is almost unfathomable. The candidate is already strapped to the rocket.

Furthermore, all serious presidential contenders, particularly those who hold or have already held the office – this year, we have both – have a God complex. They must. And doubt doesn’t exist in the presence of God. There are throngs of advisers, boosters and confidants around Biden to keep that doubt at bay; to introduce it is blasphemy.

Biden can’t be forced out of the race; he would have to be persuaded to leave it. And that eventuality, while not impossible, lives next door to “Never!”

And Biden staying the course may be the best course.

American University historian Allan Lichtman, a prescient predictor of presidential election results, told me Sunday that pushing Biden out of the race would be a “tragic mistake for the Democrats,” because he believes that the president remains his party’s best chance at winning the election.

As for the alternatives, Lichtman adds, “It’s not as if there’s some, you know, JFK out there just waiting to jump on the white horse and save the Democratic Party.”

I agree with him: There are no potential replacements that would stand a better chance of defeating Donald Trump than Biden.

Yes, a CNN-SSRS poll conducted in the days after the debate found that Vice President Kamala Harris performed slightly better than Biden against Trump, within the margin of error but still trailing. (But note that a brand-new Reuters-Ipsos poll found that only one-third of Democrats think Biden should exit.)

If Biden were replaced, yes, Harris would be Democrats’ safest option. But approval ratings and standings in one poll before she becomes the actual candidate could be a bit of a mirage.

During stretches of Hillary Clinton’s time in the Senate and her tenure as secretary of state she enjoyed solid approval ratings, but when she ran for president against Trump, her approval numbers gradually diminished.

There were lots of reasons for this, and one of them, I am convinced, is the patriarchal nature of our society. That would likely be revisited for Harris, only this time amplified by patriarchy’s twin evil: racism.

Harris is competent and capable, regardless of what her needling detractors suggest, but unfortunately, I do not believe that she is more electable than Biden in the current climate.

Yet if Biden did stand aside and Harris was passed over in favor of another candidate, there would very likely be strong protest from her legions of Democratic supporters, many of them Black women, a voting bloc that is essential to a Democratic victory.

On top of that, a free-for-all selection process would be sheer chaos. Factions would fiercely compete, egos would be bruised and convention delegates would select a candidate, effectively bypassing direct participation by Democratic voters.

This would all play out just a few months before Election Day, and opposition researchers would have a field day vetting the list of probable Democratic alternatives, several of whom are governors with only regional name recognition, increasing the possibility of a devastating October surprise.

To be clear: I’m not saying that Biden should continue to run because an eventual victory is assured. It isn’t. He was struggling before the debate kerfuffle and will continue to struggle if he survives it.

Trump’s support has gelled while Biden’s has frayed. Many Americans haven’t felt the benefits of what is a structurally sound Biden economy, and the young, activist portion of the Democratic base is angry about Biden’s handling of the war in the Gaza Strip.

I, like many others, wish Biden hadn’t sought a second term. I wish that the Democratic nominee was a young visionary with verve. But retrospective wishing is worthless.

Biden is the Democratic candidate. He’s the only person standing between us and Trump’s destructive, retributive impulses and the ever-increasing latitude that the Supreme Court has granted him.

The fact that an 81-year-old is increasingly showing signs of being an 81-year-old doesn’t panic me; what Trump has signaled he’ll do with another term does.

There’s another way that calls for Biden’s withdrawal could backfire on liberals. One of my favorite TV lines comes from Omar on “The Wire,” paraphrasing Emerson: “You come at the king, you best not miss.” A failed attempt to usurp a man in power risks his vengeance.

But I’ve been thinking of that line in another way as it relates to Biden. By building a case for Biden’s incapacity and his need for capitulation – without convincing him of the same – liberals risk further wounding their standard-bearer and increasing the probability of the thing they most desperately seek to avoid: Trump’s re-election.

And if Biden should decide to leave the race, as the New York Times reported Wednesday that he is considering, his withdrawal would only add credence to the idea that some Democrats had, in effect, conspired to conceal a disqualifying impairment and only changed course when forced. The taint of this would linger over the party and any replacement candidate.

Instead of clearing the way for victory, liberals may well be paving the way for defeat.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.