By Earl Ofari Hutchinson
The chatter about President Joe Biden not running for a second term has been nonstop. His gaffes, his physical fitness, his age, his plunging approval ratings, his supposed indecisiveness on the issues, and most important his “bad” leadership have been slung at him.
Some have even dug up his past failed and flawed history as a presidential candidate as more evidence that he’s not up to the task of beating back former President Donald Trump or whoever the Republican Party picks in 2024 as its presidential candidate.
An August poll by Yahoo News/YouGov indicated a solid majority of Americans and Democrats said he would be “bad’” for the country running again.
The question if not Biden then who is far more than an academic exercise in tossing out names of a replacement candidate for him. The names routinely bandied about carry much baggage.
There are the usual top presidential candidate suspects’ holdovers from 2020. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Corey Booker and Vice President Kamala Harris. Warren and Sanders, are too left, too old and too East Coast. Booker is an African-American male, and that instantly raises the not-another-Obama red herring among many voters in key states.
Harris’s last presidential bid faded quickly. There were endless complaints that her campaign was a poorly mismanaged, unfocused make-it-up-as-you-go-along campaign. As vice president, she has been continually nagged, nitpicked and trashed for everything from not having any substantive policy role to staff mismanagement.
The gripes are calculated political hit jobs to diminish her as a potential presidential candidate. However, they have had a damaging effect.
Beyond the familiar names, the Democrats have done absolutely nothing to cultivate and promote any younger Democrats as a replacement for a faltering Biden. Time is running out for that.
The Biden bashing now suffers the same problem it did in 2020. It ignores a brutal political calculus.
In 2020, Biden was the only Democrat who had any realistic chance of beating Trump. Four years later, little has changed. In the same disparaging Yahoo/YouGov poll, Biden soundly beats Trump in a head-to-head rematch.
The proof of why he would beat Trump and why his candidacy is not on life support is in two parts. One is a cursory look at the presidential electoral map. Apart from the two coasts where both the old and the new voter demographics trend Democrat and have grown in numbers, the bulk of the country is solid red.
That is heavily rural, blue collar, less educated, evangelical and traditionally conservative. It was that way in 2020. It will be that way in 2024.
That is not and never has been fertile ground for a solid progressive Democratic presidential candidate, which makes a run by California Gov. Gavin Newsom a bad proposition.
The second part is Trump’s 2016 win and massive 2020 vote despite his loss. He won with that constituency. A huge part of it has remained almost devotional in its backing of him despite the before, during and after the horror of his White House reign.
The number of counties that Trump won throughout America dwarfed the number that Hilary Clinton won in 2016 and Biden won in 2020. With few exceptions, such as Arizona, that base of support will remain unchanged in the run-up to the 2024 presidential campaign.
Then there is the Electoral College. It, not the popular vote, decides the presidency.
The talk is endless about the Electoral College’s gross and outdated unfairness. It heavily tilts in favor of Republican candidates such as Trump and, before him, George W. Bush in 2000. Yet, the college is a set-in-stone fact of American presidential political life and will remain so, thus giving GOP candidates a boost in the heartland and southern states.
The argument oft made about Sanders is that in primaries in a few heartland states in 2016 he peeled off a share of the blue-collar, conservative voters, the Trump base. Yes, but it was in the Democratic primary, and these were Democrats. In a general election, it would have been a far different story.
In 2020, it would have been a tough nut for a Sanders-type Democratic presidential candidate to crack. It will be impossible in 2024 with the country’s edge further to the right.
The image of a tax-and-spend, big government Democratic candidate who panders to minorities and ignores beleaguered white rural and blue-collar workers has been too deeply embedded in the Republicans’ views of Democrats.
The only hope Democrats have in 2024 to make any inroads here is with a candidate who did not stir the politically frozen, suspect notion these voters have of a too liberal Democratic presidential candidate. Biden is still the only Democrat who can accomplish that.
He is still regarded as a moderate, but blunt, plain-spoken man and thus politically non-threatening. He still looks and speaks like well, a regular Joe.
However, even with Joe’s regular guy image, it will still be an uphill battle in 2024. But without him, the Democrats have no one else to turn to.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of the forthcoming “The Midterms Why They Are So Important and So Ignored” (Middle Passage Press). He also is the host of the weekly Earl Ofari Hutchinson Show at 9 a.m. Saturday on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.