We are stuck collectively holding our breath every time Biden takes a step (2024)

Hello and happy Independence Day, may it not be our last. There are 123 days until the election and I don’t have to tell you what we are talking about in this edition: You know.

Is he senile or tired? Will he drop out or fight it out? Would Kamala Harris be next or nixed?

So. Many. Questions.

And so many answers from the pundit class, from politicians, from your Aunt Nancy. Who can you believe?


There’s only one person who knows what’s going on. And it’s not Joe Biden. (Kidding). Of course it’s Joe.

We can’t read his mind, but here’s some things to think about as you start your God-Bless-America day drinking.


You're reading the L.A. Times Politics newsletter

Anita Chabria and David Lauter bring insights into legislation, politics and policy from California and beyond. In your inbox three times per week.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.

Never gonna get knocked down

The thing with campaigns is that they are long. This one certainly didn’t start with the debate, and that’s why it won’t end with it either.

Biden has never been defeated in a general election — since he started running for local office in 1970.

I tell you this not to reinforce that he is ancient, but that he is tough. And he knows how to win — he received 306 electoral votes (soundly above the 270 needed) and 81 million popular votes in the 2020 election, the highest number of popular votes ever.

Biden is not dropping out because MSNBC or CNN thinks he should. Or because a couple of politicians go rogue. Maybe he should, maybe he shouldn’t. But he’s not.

As White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre put it during a Wednesday briefing: “He understands that it is fair for people to ask that question.”

But “when he gets down, he gets right back up.”

The machine is cranking

Whatever side you are on in that debate, it’s worthwhile to remember — again — that campaigns are long. This one has been cranking for months, if not years.


Biden has delivered on a lot of promises he made when he ran last time — especially for young voters and unions. Yes, some people are angry over his handling of the Israel-Hamas war.

But others see a president who has stood up for working Americans, fought for climate initiatives and lower drug costs and is the best bet for protecting Social Security and Medicare. And let’s just end with civil rights — for women, LBGTQ+ people and basically everyone.

And, he’s not an orange-hued fascist who wants to deport 10 million people.

So Biden has loyalty — the kind that isn’t switching candidates without his say-so. Individual rich-dude donors may have their own opinions, and the ability or desire to act quickly, but the voting blocs and organizers are less likely to make snap moves.

Which is why you saw AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler put out this statement: “President Biden and Vice President Harris have always had workers’ backs — and we will have theirs.”

I also spoke with Jack Lobel, the communications director for Gen Z organization Voters of Tomorrow.

Lobel is 20 and this will be the first presidential election he has voted in. He points out that he is not shocked to learn that Biden is old, and that comes with decline.


“When I made the choice to vote for President Biden, it wasn’t because he was a good debater, it was because he’s a good president,” Lobel told me. “While people are freaking out, we are determined to elect President Biden and defeat Donald Trump.”

So not everyone is jumping ship, despite what Twitter would have you believe.

Next moves

Biden called 20 governors to the White House Wednesday, including our own Gavin Newsom, Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer and J.B. Pritzker of Illinois — all presidential hopefuls. Likely, he’s whipping them into line and we can expect them out stumping for Biden this holiday weekend.

Biden also has also announced his first post-debate interview, what sounds like a cushy sit-down with “Good Morning America” and “This Week” anchor George Stephanopoulos that will start airing on Friday.

But surrogates and sit-downs aren’t going to fix this. We need to see Biden often and unscripted to regain any faith. And that comes down to the question Nancy Pelosi asked: “Is this an episode or is this a condition?”

If it was indeed a stuffy nose, jet-lag-induced episode as the White House would like us to believe, then he’s got to prove it — with frequency and force.

M. Steven Fish, a UC Berkeley professor who specializes in democracy and authoritarianism, recently wrote a book, “Comeback: Routing Trumpism, Reclaiming the Nation, and Restoring Democracy’s Edge.”


He told me there was one small sliver of silver lining in this mess: Biden is showing some backbone by not backing down just because of poll numbers and hand wringing.

“With his back against the wall, finally he’s showing a little dominance,” Fish said.

He points out that the Democrats have done a lousy job of what he calls “high dominance politics,” which Trump excels at — basically telling voters what they should think rather than constantly reacting to what polls say they are thinking.

“Leadership means authority, it means subordination, it means some people being the bosses,” he said.

And one way or another, that’s where this is headed. Biden will not go easy. He will try to stay and prove us all wrong. He is showing some boss energy.

But one more weak performance and he’s done.

So then what?

There are a couple of roads, but they all lead to Harris.

Richard Hasen is a professor of law at UCLA and the director of the Safeguarding Democracy Project. He told me, despite all the angst, there is no legal impediment to Biden bowing out. He’s not yet the official nominee.

But the campaign finance issue of his war chest “gets complicated,” Hasen said. Unless Democrats go with Harris.


“Then it’s pretty seamless.”

There’s been talk of a mini-primary if Biden should bow out, though. And, of course, a mini-primary would be amazing television and completely overshadow Trump. But at the end of the day, the Democrats need unity — and shoving a Black-South Asian woman under the bus is not going to get it.

Voters are already soured by an election that has devolved into a felon and grandpa arguing golf.

We want change? Harris is change.

As much as people claim to dislike her, a four-month campaign plays to her strengths as a prosecutor and makes a sensible narrative. She may come off as awkward at times, but give her a clear purpose — convicting Trump of being unfit to lead — and I think she’ll come through.

And it takes away a time crunch: Biden could do it now, at the convention, or even after — turning the presidency over to her so that she is the incumbent.

On Wednesday, coconut and palm tree memes took over the internet (see below if that makes no sense). All her time on college campuses and “the streets,” as she loves to say, may pay off. She might be refreshing enough, simply through coherence, to capture that vital slice of undecided voters who haven’t so far paid much attention and don’t like what they see when they do.

Polling guru Paul Mitchell pointed out that even with Biden’s poor performance, Democratic voters aren’t changing their minds.


It’s those disengaged and unaffiliated voters who will decide this election, and that’s who Biden, Harris or whoever survives this slow-motion train wreck will have to win.

“There is not a playbook for this,” Mitchell said.

But Joe hasn’t crashed yet, despite the debate. Until and unless that happens, he’s the man.

We are stuck collectively holding our breath every time Pops takes a step.

What else you should be reading

The must-read: Trump Widens Lead After Biden’s Debate Debacle, Times/Siena Poll Finds
The must-read II: Biden and aides concede he needs to quickly demonstrate his fitness for office
The L.A. Times Special: Kamala Harris faces political pressure — and opportunity — as Biden struggles

Stay Golden,
Anita Chabria

P.S. “You think you just fell out of a coconut tree? You exist in the context of all in which you live and what came before you.” That’s a strange but true Harris quote that has gone viral (again), both positive and negative, as she is talked about as a Biden replacement.

Here’s a YouTube clip of the speech, from lifesitenews.

We are stuck collectively holding our breath every time Biden takes a step (1)

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at an event in Jacksonville, Fla., in May.

(John Raoux / Associated Press)

Was this newsletter forwarded to you? Sign up here to get it in your inbox.

We are stuck collectively holding our breath every time Biden takes a step (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Dong Thiel

Last Updated:

Views: 5637

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (79 voted)

Reviews: 94% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Dong Thiel

Birthday: 2001-07-14

Address: 2865 Kasha Unions, West Corrinne, AK 05708-1071

Phone: +3512198379449

Job: Design Planner

Hobby: Graffiti, Foreign language learning, Gambling, Metalworking, Rowing, Sculling, Sewing

Introduction: My name is Dong Thiel, I am a brainy, happy, tasty, lively, splendid, talented, cooperative person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.