Tuesday, May 24, 2022


A story in New York magazine about Democrats' plans for the 2024 election (or lack thereof) in the event that President Biden doesn't run reveals that Biden very much intends to run (as we already knew from other reports), and that he seems determined to do so for only one reason:
As far as Biden’s camp is concerned, there isn’t any ambiguity about 2024 at all. He has said in private that he sees himself as the only thing standing between the country and the Trumpian abyss and has instructed his aides to redouble their planning for a rematch.

... nothing has budged Biden’s sense that nobody but him can keep Trump out of the White House. [Democratic pollster John] Anzalone articulated it on a Politico podcast this spring: “A lot of us feel that if Trump runs, there’s no one else that could beat Trump than Joe Biden.” Facing a country dubious that he will run, Biden just gets more convinced that he must.

... “Biden has to run again, because he desperately has to keep Trump out of the White House and defend our democracy,” as one Capitol Hill supporter puts it.

Biden is sustained by his contempt for Trump and the imperative of keeping him out of office. “If Trump is alive,” one veteran adviser says, “Biden is running.” ...

In private moments, Biden has been reflective, recently musing about his predecessor in a way that reminds his confidants of the aftermath of the 2017 neo-Nazi attack in Charlottesville — the moment Biden started to take 2020 seriously. The first question he asked his advisers was whether he could beat Trump. Then he lingered on a second one: “If I don’t run, who’s going to beat him?”
Maybe wanting to beat Trump is a good enough reason to run for president, but it suggests that Biden doesn't really think about why he wants to be president. It makes me suspect that he lacks a sense of urgency about, say, inflation or the baby formula shortage, or intraparty sabotage of his agenda. The idea of beating Trump gets his juices flowing in a way that being president apparently doesn't.

And is Biden really the only potential candidate who could beat Trump? In 2020, he seemed to be the only hope mostly because there was no pushback against the notion that the other candidates were too left-wing, too Black, too brown, too female, or too gay to win. It's true that0 no one in that field had the across-the-board popularity of 2008 Barack Obama -- but neither did Biden. I think a lot of people could beat Trump or Ron DeSantis in 2024, but only if everyone in the party agreed to cheerlead for whoever emerged from the primaries the way 2016 Republicans agreed to cheerlead for Trump. But we know that won't happen, because Democratic insiders would rather tell journalists that they agree with critiques of their party's potential stars than push back against those critiques.

In any event, I wonder what this portends if Biden runs again as expected but Trump doesn't run, or is indicted (an outcome they keep telling us is very much on the table), or is beaten by DeSantis in the primaries. Can Biden motivate himself to run hard against DeSantis, even though DeSantis would be a worse president than Trump? For that matter, can the rest of the party leadership? Prominent Democrats agree: Trump is bad. Do they know that other Republicans are, too?

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