Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas)

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) is seen at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on June 5, 2024.

(Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

Risk of Trump Win 'Too Great': First House Democrat Calls On Biden to Step Aside

"President Biden saved our democracy by delivering us from Trump in 2021," said Rep. Lloyd Doggett. "He must not deliver us to Trump in 2024."

Crediting U.S. President Joe Biden with spearheading "transformational" changes since taking office three-and-a-half years ago, Rep. Lloyd Doggett on Tuesday became the first Democratic member of Congress to call on the president to withdraw from the 2024 electoral race, warning that a potential victory by former President Donald Trump would "usher America into a long, dark, authoritarian era."

With just four months until Election Day, and weeks until the Democratic Party formally nominates its presidential candidate, Doggett (D-Texas) said in a statement that the party's "overriding consideration must be who has the best hope of saving our democracy from an authoritarian takeover by a criminal and his gang."

Doggett spoke out five days after Biden faced Trump in the first debate of the presidential campaign and alarmed viewers, Democratic strategists, and aides with his performance. The president, speaking in a raspy voice and appearing to lose his train of thought several times, struggled to make the case for his achievements and to call out Trump's repeated lies.

The debate reportedly sent a wave of panic through the Democratic Caucus, with one party insider telling Politico that names of potential replacements for Biden were being floated.

In his statement, Doggett noted that Biden's poll numbers compared to Trump's were cause for concern for several months before the debate.

"Too much is at stake to risk a Trump victory—too great a risk to assume that what could not be turned around in a year, what could not be turned around in the debate, can be turned around now," said Doggett. "President Biden saved our democracy by delivering us from Trump in 2021. He must not deliver us to Trump in 2024."

Doggett's comments came as CNN released a poll showing that Trump is leading Biden by 49% v. 43%, while his lead over Vice President Kamala Harris in a potential matchup is smaller. Trump leads the vice president by two points.

Among Independent voters, Harris has a three-point edge over the former president, while Trump leads Biden by 10 points.

A separate poll released Tuesday by the progressive grassroots group Our Revolution showed that 67% of respondents supported Biden suspending his reelection campaign.

Doggett noted that the days following the debate have made increasingly clear the danger of a potential second Trump term, as the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled that Trump has "absolute immunity" regarding "official acts" he committed while he was in office—casting doubt on whether he can be held accountable for trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election results and rendering any U.S. president, as Justice Sonia Sotomayor said, "a king above the law."

"Newly empowered with immunity," said Doggett, Trump would be "unchecked by either the courts or a submissive Republican Congress."

The congressman noted that while Biden has spearheaded some far-reaching legislative reforms, the president signaled earlier in his term that he planned to serve only one term.

"He has the opportunity to encourage a new generation of leaders from whom a nominee can be chosen to unite our country through an open, democratic process," said Doggett. "Recognizing that, unlike Trump, his first commitment has always been to our country, not himself, I am hopeful that he will make the painful and difficult decision to withdraw. I respectfully call on him to do so."

Doggett told Matthew Choi of The Texas Tribune that he had notified the White House of his decision to speak out in favor of Biden stepping aside last Friday, the day after the debate.

"After the debate, the risk of a Trump presidency has grown so much that I felt forced to take this action," Doggett said.

Another survey released Tuesday by Puck News showed alternative candidates including Harris, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer polling ahead of Biden in a potential matchup with Trump.

In light of the the new polling numbers, said former Rhode Island lawmaker and lawyer Aaron Regunberg, Democratic leaders who are "trying to shut down this debate are actively helping Trump."

Regunberg called Doggett's statement "courageous."

"Biden cannot beat Trump," he said. "But another Democrat absolutely can! Whether it's a handoff to VP Harris or an open convention, we don't have to resign ourselves to fascism. It's time for Biden to do the honorable thing and pass the torch."

Also on Tuesday, longtime Democratic National Committee (DNC) member James Zogby wrote to Chairman Jamie Harrison outlining a process through which the party could select its presidential nominee over the next month, ahead of the Democratic National Convention.

Potential candidates could work to secure the endorsements of at least 40 current DNC members and the party could then host two televised events in which the candidates would "make their cases before Democratic voters across the country" before the formal nomination process at the convention starting August 19.

"The excitement generated by this process and the attention it will be given will be a plus for our eventual nominee," said Zogby.

In an interview with The Nation national affairs correspondent John Nichols, Zogby concurred with Doggett's suggestion that Biden's ability to continue serving as president is not what has caused growing concern.

"The focus of this election shouldn't be on the president's age, on his capacity to campaign, on his capacity to govern," said Zogby, founder of the Arab American Institute. "It should be on the danger that Donald Trump presents to the country, on the threat that Donald Trump poses."

"We have to face reality here," he said. "Do I think that Joe Biden is capable of governing? I would say 'yes.' Is he capable of forming a team that can govern? Yes. But can he win an election under these circumstances, when these questions about his abilities will be the constant focus? When the Republicans and the media are looking for the next gaffe, waiting for the next time he forgets something, watching his every step to see if he will stumble? This is not what the election should focus on. And, yet, that's where it's headed."

"I would trust Joe Biden on his worst day more than Donald Trump on his best day. But I don't want his last campaign to be one where all people talk about are his weaknesses," Zogby added. "To go out as the gracious warrior, who fought the great battle to defeat Donald Trump in 2020, served four years and then decided to pass the torch, would absolutely solidify his place in history as somebody who thought more about the good of the country than himself."

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