Staff Editorial: If Democracy Is Truly On The Ballot, President Biden Cannot Be

The Editorial Board argues President Joe Biden should step aside in the name of preserving democracy.

Democracy is on the ballot. 

This five word credo has been at the heart of the Biden-Harris campaign’s reelection effort in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 Election on Jan. 6th, his statement that if re-elected he would be a “dictator for one day” and that he would seek “retribution” on his political opponents. 

Yesterday, in a six to three decision split along ideological lines, the Supreme Court gave Trump ample ammunition to put this dangerous rhetoric into effect, ruling that Trump is immune from prosecution for actions he took in an official capacity as President. The decision is a death blow to the Justice Department’s efforts to hold the former President accountable for his efforts to subvert the democratic will of the people following the 2020 Election. 

If it wasn’t already apparent, the court’s decision confirmed the horrifying reality that elected Republicans and the justices they nominate are on board with and will aid in the implementation of Trump’s anti-democratic agenda. 

It’s clear, now more than ever, that democracy truly is on the ballot. If President Joe Biden means what he says, and he truly cares about the future of our nation’s representative republic, he must make the difficult decision to step aside and allow a younger candidate to take up the mantle of Democratic nominee in 2024. 

Biden has had a very successful first term. He guided the nation through the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and led the vaccination effort that allowed us to begin the return to normal. He passed the largest investment in green energy in the history of the world and the largest investment in American infrastructure since the Interstate Highway Act. 

But after his debate performance on Thursday night — in which more than 50 million Americans watched live as he struggled to complete his thoughts, frequently veered into incoherence and was unable to defend his record — it is clear that for the sake of not only his own legacy, but for the future of the republic, he must not seek reelection. 

Biden is 81-years-old now. If he is reelected he will be 82 before he is sworn in for a second term and 86 by the time he departs the White House in 2029. Based on the limited mental acuity he displayed on Thursday, the duties of the office have clearly taken a toll on him over the last four years. It’s irresponsible for Biden and his advisors to risk further decline over a second term. 

All of the available polling indicates this election will be decided on the margins, and the electoral college is likely to come down to a just small number of states. With so much on the line and such a small margin of error, it’s simply too dangerous to wager that enough voters will overlook the age concerns of Biden and more heavily weigh the threats posed by Trump. 

Opinion polling shows that young voters, ages 18 to 29, are particularly concerned about Biden’s ability to faithfully execute the duties of the President at his age. In the days since the debate, TikTok and other social media platforms have been filled with clips of Biden’s debate struggles — standing mouth agape, looking confused and struggling through his answers. 

If the Democrats hope to win in November, this cohort of voters is key to their success and they can’t afford to lose them in large numbers. Sticking with Biden considerably increases the risk that young voters will vote third party or just stay home and check out of the process entirely.

In the debate, Trump packed a cacophony of lies into 90-minutes. While the little he said in relation to policy also lacked coherence or any measure of sophistication, he was lucid and stayed on message. Despite his heightened age — 78-years-old — and his demonstrably false claims, Trump still appeared more capable and coherent.

For the millions of Americans burdened by the weight of increased prices and shaken up by disruptions brought on by the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, a candidate with the appearance of greater mental fitness will undoubtedly hold some appeal.

It’s not too late. There are still a little over seven weeks until Democrats meet here in Chicago to nominate their presidential candidate. Although Biden already secured the delegates he needs during the state-by-state primary process, he also reserves the right to release those delegates. 

Vice President Kamala Harris is an obvious replacement choice, and one who at just 59-years-old is well suited to take on the demands of the presidency. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker are also prominent Democrats who’ve made a name for themselves in recent years and could be up to the challenge. 

This process wouldn’t be easy, nor would it be completely painless. Undoubtedly there would be some chaos sown by the sudden withdrawal of a major party nominee this late in the game.

But it’s a process the Democratic Party must undertake. The future of women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, voting rights, worker’s rights, the future of the environment, access to healthcare and the very sanctity of our Constitution hang in the balance. 

Democracy is on the ballot.

The Phoenix Editorial Board consists of Griffin Krueger, Holden Green, Lilli Malone, Hailey Gates, Brendan Parr and Andi Revesz.

Featured image by Aidan Cahill | The Phoenix

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