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Democrats, Step Away from the Ledge


Anxiety comes easily to Democrats. We’re highly practiced at perceiving a crisis, wanting to fix it immediately, and being consistently frustrated when we can’t.

Democrats understand consequences, which is why we always have plenty to worry about. Republicans don’t give a rat’s ass about consequences — which is, let’s face it, their superpower.

I wasn’t intending to write about last Thursday’s debate, mostly because I post on Tuesdays, and this could be old news by the time it gets to you. But then the New York Times weighed in with a wildly disingenuous editorial calling for Joe Biden to drop out of the race, and the rest of the mainstream media piled on. In the Times' not-so-humble opinion, Biden needs to consider “the good of the country,” something their own paper has repeatedly failed to do for almost a decade.

And since this is now the crisis du jour for virtually every Democrat who watched that shitshow, I thought I might at least try to talk a few people down. I might not succeed.

But first let’s acknowledge the obvious. The debate was disappointing. Okay, it was horrifying. Painful to watch. I literally lost sleep over it.

I couldn’t help seeing it from the Fox News point of view. I was imagining Hannity and Ingraham getting aroused at the sight of Joe Biden slurring his words, stuttering, repeating himself, and generally mirroring the crass caricature that Fox has been painting since 2021.

I could picture their smug smirks at the surprisingly smooth performance of Trump, whose firehose of outrageous lies was masterly, in its own scummy, scammy way.

So nothing about this felt good. Whenever I ponder the consequences of a new Trump regime, I feel existential threat, as if the planet itself is at stake — which, as it happens, it is. The feelings come from the gut, and I know I’m not the only one having them.

But, as a friend of mine says, the feelings might be real, but they’re not necessarily reality.

So now, with a little distance, I can put what happened into a broader context, and I’m already over it. There are too many other things for Democrats to worry about without dwelling on a single bad debate, four months out from the election.

These debates — if that’s what they are — grow stupider over time. They’ve devolved into media circuses no more illuminating than reruns of Jerry Springer. They are neither won nor lost — the results are entirely in the eye of the spin doctors — and it’s not clear that they have any impact at all on the ultimate election results.

Let’s recall how badly Barack Obama tanked in his first debate against Mitt Romney in 2012. Obama hated debates, for all the right reasons — all style, no substance — and he went into this one with a bad, some say arrogant, attitude.

Romney was well prepared, and we spent that whole hour struggling to look on the bright side. It felt, Democrats being Democrats, like the end of life as we’ve known it, and Romney indeed got a significant bump in the polls.

But Obama learned his lesson, and he blew Romney out of the water in every subsequent debate. He also won re-election. Did one have anything to do with the other? Still unclear.

For a very large number of Americans, Thursday's so-called debate was their first exposure to this bizarre electoral rerun, and they’re just starting to get used to the idea of the same two guys as last time. Whatever their first impressions might have been, they’ll have four months to change their minds.

Almost lost in the national meltdown was that, yes, Biden came across as old, but Trump came across as nuts. His signature blizzard of lies might have played well in 2016, but they’re now stale, predictable, and easily exposed. Much has been said about CNN’s unwillingness to fact-check him in real time, but I’m not sure it mattered — the lies were that transparent.

I can’t imagine that Trump changed any minds that night, or won a single vote. Biden might have lost a few, but even those few seem unlikely to vote for Trump. And I’m quite sure he’ll get most of them back.

Removing Biden from the ticket based on his age, rather than our panic, is neither practical nor desirable. The chaos that would ensue in trying to replace him would be far more damaging to the Democratic party than any age issues. And for what? So we can give up the biggest advantage any candidate can have — incumbency? It’s a rare president who can’t get himself re-elected, Trump being one notable exception.

Biden’s age has never been the big deal the media has made it out to be. So short of him stepping down of his own accord, he will be our candidate. And that’s a good thing.

Biden has earned the benefit of the doubt. He’s been a sensational president by almost any measure, and there is nothing to indicate he is anything but highly effective in his job. Did he have a bad night at the debate? Yes. Does his debate performance have anything to do with his job performance? No way.

The chorus of pols and pundits calling for him to step down, while not surprising, is almost entirely fueled by the media. The instantaneous frenzy was, to be sure, a knee-jerk reaction from the mainstream press, whose continued refusal to call out the threat posed by Trump is the real story here. As for the frenzy, it’s already dying down.

But once again, shame on the Times, first for spending several years enabling the whole “Biden’s too old” meme, then for taking such a smug victory lap after the debate. How dare they get all huffy and self-righteous about the good of the country, when they know full well that the worst thing that ever happened to the country was on that very same stage. They did not ask Trump to drop out of the race.

Joe Biden’s life’s work has brought him to this point, where he finally has the job he knew he was born to do, even if we didn’t. No doubt he’d prefer to have gotten it at an earlier age, but we all deal with the age we are. And now he brings even more lived experience to the chops he already had.

So who are we to question all that natural ability, coupled to all that experience in public office, just because he’s eighty-one? Do any of us doubt that he would step down if he felt he could no longer serve? Do we doubt that Jill Biden would be the first to tell him?

Biden is still Biden, Trump is still Trump, and the choice is still stark. By November, this one debate will have long since been flushed down the memory hole.

Will there be more attacks on Biden’s age? Will there be other incidents just as bad, or worse? Will there be more opportunities for Democrats to panic?

Yes to all of the above. By October, we’ll look back and wonder what the fuss was all about.





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