OPINION | BRADLEY GITZ: Democrats’ new plan (Part I)

Democrats can't have it both ways; if Joe Biden is too mentally incompetent to stand trial, he is most certainly too mentally incompetent to be president. And if he is mentally competent enough to be president, as they implausibly continue to insist, then he is mentally competent enough to stand trial.

Pick one. For the sake of logical consistency.

The failure of Democrats to do so, at least to this point, points us toward a conflict between the welfare of the nation and the perceived electoral welfare of the Democratic Party: what is good for the welfare of the country--that Biden resign from office--is thought bad for the Democrats because it would make Kamala Harris president and presumptive Democratic nominee.

Democrats continue to insist that Biden remain president, even though they know inwardly that he is physically and mentally incapable of handling the onerous duties of the presidency, because they fear that his replacement would fare even worse come November.

It is possible that there have never been so many people so adamantly claiming an emperor is fully clothed when so many more can see that he is not.

Those who blame Special Counsel Robert Hur for the Democrats' predicament also forget important things, including that Hur was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland (for just cause), that he was required to issue a confidential report to Garland which included an explanation for why charges would or would not be recommended (which, in this case, included concerns over Biden's fitness to stand trial), and that it was Garland who then chose to make that report containing that damning explanation public.

At the risk of defending something Garland has done, there was no good choice in that last regard: Had he broken with tradition and not released the Hur report, he and his party would have been predictably accused of upholding a "dual" system of justice, but by releasing it he also revealed its devastating assessment of his boss' condition.

In short, Hur's recommendation--that Biden not be charged--only made sense if the reasons why were appended to it, which included evidence of a mental decline long suspected.

Decisions have consequences, and the nightmare Democrats are now experiencing stems not from Hur's investigation but from two terrible decisions Biden himself made--the choice, purely out of identity politics pandering, of an inept running mate back in 2020 and the choice, purely out of ego and hubris, to seek a second term after initially suggesting that he wouldn't.

Biden, however, and contrary to so much conventional wisdom, still has time to atone for the first and reverse the second of those decisions, as parts of what would be a somewhat intricate plan to get the Democrats out of the mess of his own making.

Observers note, per his disastrous post-Hur Report press conference, that Biden's growing stubbornness constitutes a common symptom of the decline he is experiencing and might make it even more difficult to persuade him to step aside (and barring the unlikely invocation of the 25th Amendment, it will remain his, and only his, choice).

Perhaps, but the idea of salvaging his legacy, combined with appeals to the welfare of the Democratic Party and welfare of the country, defined as stopping another Donald Trump presidency, might go a long way here. That his continued candidacy makes a Trump victory in November more likely should therefore be the primary message.

As Charlie Mahtesian and Steven Shepard noted in a recent essay in Politico, Biden "could insist he's still fit to serve out another term but that he accepts the public's concerns with a president who would be 86 at the end of a second term. He could remind voters that he has always said he was a bridge to a future generation of Democratic leaders. The economy is on track, he could note, and argue that he defeated Trump once and protected American democracy. He met his duty."

Were Biden to be persuaded to withdraw on such grounds, it would also, per the plan, be preferable for him to wait until after the final Democratic primary on June 4, thereby giving him virtually all the Democratic delegates going into the August convention, and thus considerable influence over what happens there.

Easing Biden out after the primaries would take us to Step 2, which is finding a means of sidetracking Vice President Harris in a party obsessed with identity politics. As noted before, the reason that Harris became Biden's running mate--she is a Black woman--is the same reason it would be difficult to elbow her aside in Chicago, even if it were necessary to win in November.

Figuring that identitarian obstacle into Democratic decision-making inevitably leads to Step 3, wherein the delegates in Chicago gather in their (no longer) smoke-filled back rooms and retain the most important part of the Democratic coalition by picking a different Black woman as their nominee.

Put differently, the only way they can get rid of Biden without getting stuck with Harris is to pick someone with the same skin color and gender as Harris.

And we all know who that is, don't we?

Freelance columnist Bradley R. Gitz, who lives in Batesville, received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois.

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