The Democrats caught between the dog and the hydrant 

Given the vice president’s defects, why are leading Democrats and their media allies pushing so hard for Joe to leave?

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President Joe Biden (Getty)
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The Democrats are not just caught between one dog and one hydrant. They are caught between three — and the water is coming down hard on their legs. 

The first dog, obviously, is the president’s physical and mental condition and his status as the presumptive nominee who won near-unanimous support in the primaries and secured enough votes to win the nomination on the first ballot. Those victories leave Biden alone in charge of staying in the race. Others can pressure him, offer him carrots and sticks, but Biden and his family control the decision. 

The second dog is…

The Democrats are not just caught between one dog and one hydrant. They are caught between three — and the water is coming down hard on their legs. 

The first dog, obviously, is the president’s physical and mental condition and his status as the presumptive nominee who won near-unanimous support in the primaries and secured enough votes to win the nomination on the first ballot. Those victories leave Biden alone in charge of staying in the race. Others can pressure him, offer him carrots and sticks, but Biden and his family control the decision. 

The second dog is Biden’s nearly impossible battle to recover public trust after his disastrous debate against Donald Trump. Voters simply don’t buy the White House explanation that it was “one bad night.” They think it’s night, alright, but it’s night in November above the Arctic Circle. It’s not going away soon. Damning perceptions like that harden and become irreversible unless the candidate can turn them around quickly and decisively.  

Ah, there’s the rub. Biden and his staff know how risky it is to try, so they are delaying instead of acting. To undo the damage, if that is even possible, the president would have to appear repeatedly at campaign rallies, look strong and vigorous, read the teleprompter without major gaffes and then do something even harder. He would have to sit down for interviews with high-profile journalists and answer hard questions extemporaneously.  

It’s obvious that Biden is loath to do that. He’s hardly tried since the debate. He got through one interview with George Stephanopoulos, stumbling but without falling on his face, but he waited over a week after the debate to do it. He has held only a couple of rallies. That’s it. He did do a few powder-puff interviews with local radio hosts but those were another disaster. His staff was caught handing the interviewers the questions, and we already know they hand Biden the answers. Even with those crutches, he told one interviewer he was the first black, female vice president. 

Third, if Democrats manage to force Biden out of the race, they don’t have good alternatives. Joe’s vice president, Kamala Harris, is even more unpopular than he is. That’s remarkable since Biden’s approval of 36 percent is the lowest since modern polling was developed. But it will be impossible to get around her and nominate someone else. 

How weak is Harris? Very. When she ran for the top position in 2020, she garnered no support and dropped out of the race before the first votes were cast. On paper, she looked great. She was a left-wing Democrat from California. She had plenty of rich supporters from her home state, where she had served as attorney general and US senator. And as a black woman, she checked all the “identity politics” boxes her party values. But what looked great on paper looked lousy in practice. Democratic primary voters didn’t buy it. 

She was chosen as vice president because she still looked good on paper and checked all the boxes. In her new role, she might have overcome the public’s mistrust if she had performed well. She didn’t. She cannot point to any major accomplishments and, as Biden’s “border czar,” is closely linked to the disastrous influx of millions of illegal immigrants. She may appear on the cover of Vogue, but her speeches to the great unwashed are insulting word salads. 

With that résumé, why is she the obvious successor? Because she is second-in-line for the presidency and bypassing a black woman in that position would blow-up the Democrats’ electoral coalition. The party depends on a heavy turnout by black voters and near-universal support among them. That support is already eroding among younger black men. It will collapse among black women if Kamala is booted off the ticket. To compound the problem, any effort to bypass the vice president would have to be executed through a back-room coup by party elders. The process would lack legitimacy among voters and undercut the party’s claims to be the standard-bearer of democracy. 

These calculations mean the Democrats have no alternative to Kamala Harris if Joe Biden leaves the race. Given the vice president’s defects, why are leading Democrats and their media allies pushing so hard for Joe to leave? Because they now think Biden is sure to lose the presidency and likely to cost them the House and Senate. So, why not roll the dice and try for something else, even if it is a long shot? After all, the mainstream media will immediately line up behind the “all-new and improved” candidate, try their hardest to sell her reinvention and hope for best. It won’t work. 

In short, the Democrats are in deep, deep trouble, all of their own making. Party elders supported Biden in the primaries, their last chance to pick a new nominee openly. Instead, they backed Joe and said nothing about the cognitive decline they could all see. The media played along, remaining silent. All of them bought into decades of identity politics, which led them to pick Harris for vice president. Now, they are paying a high price, caught between a pack of dogs and the hydrant factory. They can only look down at their legs and see they are drenched.