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The Democrats have made a bad Biden situation worse

The party’s high command has been revealed as incompetent and out of touch

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Joe Biden did not keep his age a secret. It was not ultra-classified information, held up in some vault. No SEAL teams were dispatched to silence any would-be whistleblowers as to the information. It would not take a crack team of journalists, a la Watergate, to uncover the fact. It was as public as public can be.

In their unedifying scramble since the disastrous first presidential debate, Democrat insiders have tried tactic after tactic to suggest that they were somehow blindsided by the information. Okay, they’ll argue, we knew about his age, but we didn’t know what that meant. 

The electorate quickly puts paid to that: voters had been saying in poll after poll and focus group after focus group that they thought Joe Biden was too old and they would prefer another candidate. Footage of Joe Biden looking confused or frail – often edited to make it look worse than it was – aired nightly on Fox News. Voters in swing states have been seeing such clips in adverts for months.

The reality is that the Democratic establishment intentionally ignored all of that information for years, to the point of condemning anyone who pointed it out and asked for a public discussion on it.

US political parties have a well-established system for choosing their presidential candidates, which grinds out over a period of months. No serious candidate offered themselves as a rival to Biden during that process (which is now all played out), meaning 14.5 million people cast a vote for Biden to be their candidate – “uncommitted” (used as a protest vote over Gaza policy) was second, on 700,000.

This primary process is an important one. It gives the eventual winner the legitimacy of having been selected by “real Americans”. It tests candidates over a period of months as to skeletons in their closets and weaknesses in their performance. It forces them to build up an activist base and a donor base. It gets them match fit.

It is costly, too: Democrats attack Democrats, and Republicans attack Republicans. There is a reason both parties conclude it more than six months before the general election date – crucially, before most voters are paying attention. It is rarely a clean process, and the recriminations of dirty fights can fester for some time (such as with Bernie Sanders vs Hillary Clinton in 2016).

That primary process was the off-ramp to the Biden highway. Never trust anyone who responds to this with “better late than never” – if you miss your turn-off, it is rarely a good idea to suddenly jerk the steering wheel into a hard fork. All too often, you’ll just plummet off-road and into a ravine.

That is what the Democrats are doing with their all-out war on their own candidate. The people who came out the day after Biden’s performance and said he must go had no plan whatsoever – no plan as to how he might be ousted, no plan as to how to pick a replacement, and no plan as to how to win the race after those processes.

Instead of stopping to think first, they jumped straight in. And showing themselves as more sheep than donkeys – Democrats are clearly herd animals – huge swathes of their donor base and their Congressional representation joined in.

The farce that has followed has shown the folly of jumping in unprepared. Team Biden, seeing itself under public attack, is playing defence and has entered full siege mode. Already, this has agitated some commentators enough that they are suggesting deploying the 25th amendment to forcibly remove Biden as president – in the deluded idea that a drastic move like this could possibly help rather than hinder the electoral race.

Some commentators assumed vice president Kamala Harris would meekly stand aside for a candidate they think would be likelier to win than she. Others assumed everyone would agree that as vice president, Harris would be the only possible candidate to rally around. 

Still others, proving that the West Wing continues to poison minds decades after it first aired, imagined a rapid primary process convened by Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama and even Taylor Swift.

None of them seemed to stop to consider why the party hadn’t seriously looked at unseating Biden a year before, when it would have been much more achievable and much less damaging. 

US campaigns take years to build up their infrastructure. Polling showed that as bad as Biden’s numbers were last year, they were much better than most of his would-be rivals. Democrats were generally pleased with Biden’s presidential record – until a few weeks ago, that he’d got a lot done in his first term in tough circumstances was a given. 

It is now not clear whether it would be better for the plotters to succeed or to fail. If Biden remains in place, the Democratic establishment has done huge damage to their own candidacy and to their prospects of victory. They have all but ensured that their prophecy is a self-fulfilling one: they have made a Biden victory even more difficult than it already was.

If the plot to oust Biden succeeds, somehow, it will not be the win that some imagine. There is not an obvious successor and there would be a contested process. The other candidates have not been tested on the road. Their messaging and key lines aren’t in place. What they would say about Biden’s record isn’t out there. And they will have infuriated a huge chunk of their own base: 14.5 million people voted for Biden as candidate, and would be cast aside by an elite.

America’s establishment media have been active participants in the frenzy – as if they themselves were part of that Democratic establishment, or at least from the same stock, a charge they endlessly deny. 

Newspapers that never bothered to suggest that Donald Trump should step down as a presidential candidate when he was convicted of 34 felonies wrote high-minded leaders demanding Joe Biden step down because their friends have now realised he is 81. The New York Times ran 192 pieces in just over a week on the president’s age. 

The amount of time Joe Biden has been alive is being treated as if it is a comparable scandal to the antics of Donald Trump, a convicted felon and adjudicated sexual attacker who has openly said he would throw out numerous constitutional and legal norms should be elected. Indignation abounds at presidential staff for trying to make their boss look good.

Perhaps the most galling aspect of the Democratic reaction is the righteous indignation that accompanies it. How dare people be scathing about the sudden reaction to Biden’s age? How dare they suggest there is nothing to panic about?

The reality is this: an animal caught in a bear trap has good reason to panic. It is in pain, it cannot escape, it is bleeding, and – though it might not know this – a hunter is likely heading its way. That does not make panicking a virtue: all panic accomplishes is injuring and distressing the animal further, opening the wounds and making survival even less likely.

No-one is saying there is no cause to panic. What they are saying is that flailing wildly does nothing to improve the situation. 

The Republican imagination often presents the Democratic establishment as master plotters, as if they have tentacles in every electoral count, media outpost and more. What they have shown is the opposite. 

These are the people that variously present themselves as “the grown-ups in charge”, the bulwark against a far-right takeover of America, and the best hope for the future. Seeing how dismally they perform under the most predictable of pressure, is it any wonder that Americans of all stripes give up on them?

Pollsters speak of the 2024 US election as being the battle for the “double haters”, the millions of Americans who hate both candidates. The Democratic establishment seems to be doing everything it can to make itself and its candidates even more widely hated. 

Should Trump win a second term amid this implosion, the Democrats seem likely to keep their guns turned on one another in recrimination for years. America deserves so much better.

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