“But that’s not what’s worrying me. It’s how to do it. These things must be done delicately… …or you hurt the spell.”
—Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz
The bad witch has a point. An incumbent president’s own party dumping him without taking the party to rack and ruin would be unprecedented and would require an extraordinarily light touch. It goes without saying that it has to look like leaving was the president’s idea or else his partisans — and Biden has more than a few — would scream bloody murder and rip the party to shreds.
Yet there is a consensus growing around the idea that Biden needs to go. The debate over how that’s done is happening very quietly. And it hasn’t involved any of the party leadership or party influencers — at least not yet.
But according to the New York Times, the “whispers” are beginning to grow louder.
Midway through the 2022 primary season, many Democratic lawmakers and party officials are venting their frustrations with President Biden’s struggle to advance the bulk of his agenda, doubting his ability to rescue the party from a predicted midterm trouncing and increasingly viewing him as an anchor that should be cut loose in 2024.
Joe Biden is in no danger from nervous backbench congressmen and hand-wringing, low-level party functionaries. But the movers and shakers are listening nevertheless. It doesn’t take a political genius to see the polls and Biden’s lack of approval.
But these are politicians who have been very successful because they listen to the voters. And what they’re hearing now has to put the thought in their minds that the party will get a royal shellacking in November — and beyond.
As the challenges facing the nation mount and fatigued base voters show low enthusiasm, Democrats in union meetings, the back rooms of Capitol Hill and party gatherings from coast to coast are quietly worrying about Mr. Biden’s leadership, his age and his capability to take the fight to former President Donald J. Trump a second time.
Interviews with nearly 50 Democratic officials, from county leaders to members of Congress, as well as with disappointed voters who backed Mr. Biden in 2020, reveal a party alarmed about Republicans’ rising strength and extraordinarily pessimistic about an immediate path forward.
Elected party leaders like Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and Dick Durbin have a hundred years of experience in Washington politics collectively. The fact that they aren’t panicking should tell us that a Democratic Party turnaround is not an impossible dream — only a vastly improbable one. They’re also experienced enough to know that getting rid of a sitting president except in extraordinary circumstances would only make things worse.
The real worry for these Democrats is that, after the carnage has been cleaned up from midterms, whither Joe Biden? Should these powerful Democrats give in to the reality that everyone can see and try to convince Biden he’s just too old to be president?
“The presidency is a monstrously taxing job and the stark reality is the president would be closer to 90 than 80 at the end of a second term, and that would be a major issue,” David Axelrod, Obama’s campaign manager, told the Times.
Again, this is all obvious to anybody who watches Biden for five minutes — in any speech, or press conference, or even a puff interview with Jimmy Kimmel. The idea that he could be trusted to serve as president for another six and a half years is patently absurd. But the fact that the house organ of the Democratic Party is running this piece and for somebody as prominent as Axelrod to be saying this on the record suggests that behind the scenes, Democrats are scrambling for a way to get him to forgo reelection.
Indeed, that NRO piece by Andrew McCarthy spells it out as clearly as it can be. No one wants to talk about Biden’s infirmities with his finger on the nuclear button. It’s an “unmentionable” in Washington because it would terrify the American people and tempt enemies.
Even more worrisome is that Biden himself does not seem to realize his decline. Until he does, he can’t make the psychic leap to either resignation or retirement at the end of his term. That’s where people like Schumer and Hoyer come in. They know Biden better than most and could make him face the reality of his age and the party’s precarious situation.
The fact of a mentally compromised president in a current faceoff with a physically compromised Vladimir Putin should chill the blood of anyone who remembers the Cold War.