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Blind Loyalty

Susan Estrich on

California Gov. Gavin Newsom says he has President Joe Biden's back. It's almost enough for me to take him off my list of possible successors to the incumbent president. Having Biden's back is not a matter of loyalty.

Biden has been a fine president. He inherited a country in crisis, roiled by the pandemic, and righted the ship of state. The economy recovered. We beat back the pandemic. Important bipartisan bills were passed, including the infrastructure bill and major legislation on climate change. We would have passed immigration reform, with bipartisan support, if Donald Trump hadn't scuttled the effort by calling on his Republican friends to abandon the bill to save him an issue to campaign on. He led the Democratic Party to a surprisingly successful midterm election. He would go down in history as a very successful president if he doesn't go down, as seems increasingly likely, as a selfish leader who stayed too long and endangered our democracy as much as the man he is running against. We've been to that movie. Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The Trump court. Make no mistake, if he doesn't step aside, that will be his legacy.

The polls say that as many as 78% of the American people don't want him to run again. They aren't kidding. And I'm not kidding when I wonder if those who do are only looking for a candidate so thoroughly discredited that he's the only one Trump could beat.

We all know what we saw on television. It was not just an off night. It was a man who had no business being on that stage.

Dear Gavin: Who are you being loyal to? How about being loyal to the future of our democracy? Biden himself has recognized that's what is at stake in this election. It is. And Biden is the one who is threatening to take it down by his stubborn determination to hold onto power past his time. He has clearly emerged as the Democrat least likely to defeat Trump. Are rank-and-file Democrats -- we who feel powerless -- the only ones to see that? It can't be. Where is Biden's inner circle? Where are the so-called leaders of the Democratic Party? Are they telling him what he needs to hear or what he wants to hear?

The New York Times has reported that Biden met with his family to seek their advice. The family, it is reported, urged him to stay in the race. Hunter was particularly strong. How terrifying. The Biden with the demonstrably worst judgment in the family, a convicted felon and an object of ridicule -- is this who Biden is listening to? Or are we only being told this by an insider who is afraid to speak out publicly about why Biden should step aside so is telling us who he is listening to instead? It hardly helps Biden. It makes him look weaker, not stronger.

 

I understand blind public loyalty. I've been there and done that. It is misplaced. Politics is too important for personal loyalty at the expense of country. The reason the party rallied around Biden in the first place -- when some of those who knew him best must have seen up close what had happened to him over the course of four years, must have seen the decline we all witnessed in Atlanta -- was clearly because of the conventional wisdom that challenging an incumbent president would only weaken him in the general election. That was, on the face of things, the lesson of the 1980 election, when Ted Kennedy challenged Jimmy Carter, who used the power of the presidency adroitly to defeat him and then lost to Ronald Reagan. But that's just plain wrong. I was there, too. The reason Kennedy ran in the first place was because he was convinced, rightly, that Carter could not defeat Reagan. Could Kennedy have done better? He could not have done worse.

It would have been better if someone had taken on Biden. We would have seen him on a debate stage earlier than we did. Every delegate to the convention would not have been pledged to Biden. We would have a stronger candidate right now.

But it is not too late. Rank-and-file Democrats may not be able to do much, but Democratic leaders and donors can make their voices heard. This is a cause that demands courage. Biden needs not only to hear it privately, but to hear it publicly. It is not too late for him to avoid more public humiliation, and for us to preserve our democracy.

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To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.


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