President Joe Biden

President Joe Biden delivers remarks in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on July 15, 2021 in Washington, D.C.

(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Democratic Establishment Seems Ready to Lose With Biden in 2024

It looks as though there is only one scenario that offers hope for November 2024: the increasingly unpopular Democratic president announces in the coming weeks that he won’t seek reelection.

If you get your news from Biden-protecting outlets (MSNBC is just the most extreme of many), you’ve been warned daily that the Trump movement is preparing to steal the 2024 election. It’s a totally legitimate worry – given that MAGA forces nearly stole the 2020 election.

But there’s another totally legitimate worry that Biden-friendly media don’t like to discuss – that Joe Biden is such a weak candidate, he’s likely to lose a fair-and-square election in 2024. And likely to lose even to the discredited, unstable, repeatedly indicted Trump.

The New York Times/Sienna College poll of registered voters released Sunday should cause alarm: Biden is trailing Trump in head-to-head match-ups in five of the six most crucial battlegrounds states – all of which Biden won in 2020. The president trails Trump in Nevada by more than 10 points. He trails Trump in Georgia by six points, in Arizona and Michigan by five points, and in Pennsylvania by four points. (Only in Wisconsin does Biden lead, and that’s by only two points.)

If your news diet is provided by MSNBC or other pro-Biden corporate outlets, you may have heard Biden likened to the second coming of FDR, a savior to the working classes. That’s not how the working classes see him. They see him as economically ineffectual, especially in dealing with inflation. “Bidenomics” may be a success story in the studios of MSNBC or CNN or NPR; it’s not seen that way by the voting masses.

The “not-as-bad-as-Trump” pitch is obviously not satisfying many Democratic-leaning voters and activists, especially young progressives who are angry with Biden over Gaza civilian deaths and other failings.

In fairness to Biden-allied media, many of those who voted for Biden in 2020 – but now tell pollsters they won’t do so in 2024 – are “low-information voters.” While some are misinformed by right-wing outlets, most don’t pay close attention to news or politics. You can tell that from the ill-informed quotes they gave to the Times.

But in my view, the new poll actually understates the problems for Biden. The president has lost many of the activists who are needed to inform the ill-informed, to organize get-out-the-vote campaigns and mobilize occasional voters. These activists are often highly informed. Indeed, they are so well-informed that they know all too well about Biden’s policy reversals and broken promises. For example, thousands of climate activists mobilized in swing states to help Biden defeat Trump in 2020. Will they in 2024?

As civilians in Gaza are being massacred day after day, Biden’s one-sided “I stand with Israel” policy is losing him countless young activists and racial justice organizers who mobilized for him against Trump in 2020. In Michigan and other swing states, Arab and Muslim activists who detest Trump have said they won’t vote for Biden, let alone mobilize for him

Let me be clear about my own position: On every issue where Biden’s policies are mediocre (like on climate or the corporate greed that has fed inflation) or awful (like Israel-Palestine), Trump’s policies are even worse. Far worse. That’s not debatable.

But the “not-as-bad-as-Trump” pitch is obviously not satisfying many Democratic-leaning voters and activists, especially young progressives who are angry with Biden over Gaza civilian deaths and other failings.

As my RootsAction colleagues and I have been pointing out for the last year via the Don't Run Joe and then Step Aside Joe campaign, there’s a major split between Democratic Party leaders and donors on the one hand, and Democratic voters on the other. Polls have long shown that the Democratic base does not want Biden to run in 2024. But Democratic leaders and officials have ignored the party’s core constituencies.

As for the big donors who’ve funded Biden for years (some of whom donate to both parties), they’d rather lose with Joe than risk the election of a change-oriented Democrat they don’t know well or can’t control.

There is only one scenario that offers hope for November 2024: the increasingly unpopular Joe Biden announces in the coming weeks that he won’t be seeking reelection (President Johnson took that step in March 1968). This would lead to a wide-open primary process featuring competition between Vice President Harris (with approval levels even lower than Biden’s) and various senators, Congress members, governors and activists.

In an open primary process, the activist base of the party—which is more progressive than the party leadership on every issue from racial justice and economics to climate and foreign policy—could exert its influence and make demands on the candidates. For example: given that most activist Democrats don’t believe “self-defense” justifies the day-in day-out massacre of Palestinian civilians, there’s a real possibility that the winning Democrat would have a more even-handed approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

What’s needed is a democratic and transparent primary process. Such a process could enable the party to unify and rally behind a Democratic nominee who is capable of soundly defeating Trump and Trumpism.

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