-by Patrick Toomey
The recent push to make South Carolina the opening round of the 2024 Democratic nomination process makes it clear that the party establishment is all-in on having Joe Biden serve as the standard-bearer in an election that will be held shortly before he turns 82. As we saw in both 2016 and 2020, said establishment believes that it is its role to choose the presidential nominee, the same way that the DCCC and DSCC choose House and Senate nominees. Instead of the smoke-filled room run by party bosses, we now have the smokeless room run by the party’s investors. The Democratic Party is not very (small “d”) democratic.
Admittedly, no incumbent president from either party has faced a serious primary challenge since 1980. No one gave a moment’s thought to challenging Clinton in 1996 or Obama in 2012. This apparent push to re-nominate Biden, however, leads to the following questions:
1) Biden’s net approval ratings went underwater in roughly September 2021, and they have basically remained underwater ever since. They consistently have been underwater by double digits in 2022. Do the mandarins think they can get his ratings above water by 2024, and, if so, how?
2) How many Democratic Senate or House candidates wanted to have Biden campaign for them in 2022?
3) How many will want to have him campaign for them in 2024?
4) How many Democratic Senate or House candidates wanted to have Harris campaign for them in 2022?
5) How many will want to have her campaign for them in 2024?
6) Ronald Reagan, who was 77 when he left office, became visibly impaired in his second term. There should be a concern about disability (or death) becoming an issue with a President Biden in his mid-80s. How do the mandarins view Harris as a potential president? It’s not an academic question.
7) If there are concerns about keeping Harris on the ticket, how could they ease her off it without igniting a political firestorm? Who would be a plausible candidate to replace her?
8) Young voters are an essential component of any successful Democratic coalition. Enthusiasm for the Democrats with young voters visibly waned in 2022. How does the party establishment plan on attracting young voters in 2024?
9) Running against Trump has been an essential plank in the Democratic platform (more like a party picnic bench) in the past 4 cycles. The party has not mounted a successful campaign without Trump on the other side since 2012. If Trump isn’t the GOP nominee in 2024, how will party adjust to the absence of their favorite foil?
10) The party chose to not contest FL-Gov this year, thereby freeing DeSantis to campaign for GOP candidates in other states. In doing so, he increased his visibility, tested out themes, and accumulated chits for 2024, when he clearly plans on running for president. While it’s still early, has anyone in the party establishment given much thought as to how Biden might match up with DeSantis? What themes might work in such a campaign? Has anyone considered trying to run some opposition research on DeSantis?
There are many other questions that can be asked under current circumstances, but this set offers a good place to start asking them. Simply rubber-stamping the re-nomination of a president with obvious weaknesses raises multiple causes for concern. Doing so when they could face an opposing 2024 nominee who doesn’t carry as much baggage as your average transatlantic steamship raises even more concern. Doing so based upon the party’s perceived victory in 2022 when they lost the aggregate national House vote by almost 3 points raises the most concern of all.
The questions posed in this essay are based upon currently existing conditions, which could markedly change in the coming Congress. A hypothetical second Biden term is apparently based upon the expectation of a fairly stable environment, which is what investors prefer. Hell, the party’s investors ultimately chose Biden last time based upon his stated promise that “nothing would fundamentally change” if he were elected.
We probably haven’t had a halfway “normal” election since 2012. We clearly will have a highly abnormal one in 2024, especially after 2 years of the Quanon Caucus running amok in the House. How many mandarins honestly think that Biden will be up to the challenge of such a campaign?