Home » How would replacing Biden actually work? DNC memo outlines a possibility

How would replacing Biden actually work? DNC memo outlines a possibility

by John Jefferson
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President Joe Biden seemed to give mixed signals about the future of his presidential campaign after his poor performance during last Thursday’s debate. While the campaign jumped to announce that it had outraised Donald Trump’s campaign in June, pulling in $127 million to Trump’s $118 million, it was also clear that rumors were swirling about whether Biden could effectively continue in the race.

One clear sign emerged on Wednesday that Biden is at least weighing the idea of stepping aside: he and Vice President Kamala Harris lunched and Harris received the President’s Daily Brief, which she only receives occasionally alongside the president.

Not long after that, Democratic insiders told The Independent that they believe it’s a case of when, not if Harris goes to the top of the ticket, saying they think there’s “no question” it will happen.

Harris would never openly knife her boss. And the White House strongly denied that the president was thinking of bowing out the race on Wednesday afternoon. But the possibility is clearly being discussed among some Democrats.

Of course, if Biden ultimately makes the decision to step aside, that’s only the first question answered. The Democrats will then have to pick a new presidential nominee. And the logistics surrounding that are not entirely simple.

The modern primary campaigning and nominating process is relatively new, having only begun in earnest during John F Kennedy’s 1960 run for president. Prior to that, nominating a candidate bore more resemblance to the proverbial smoke-filled rooms where party elders select the nominee away from the eyes and ears of the public.

That’s infeasible in this moment, particularly for a party that bills itself as a defender of democracy.

At the same time, Democrats risk a complete battle royale if too many candidates emerge. Should Biden stand down, the process would have to be very carefully handled to make sure this didn’t scupper the party’s chances against Donald Trump in November.

Enter James Zogby, a member of the Democratic National Committee who worked on Jesse Jackson’s campaigns and whom Bernie Sanders nominated to serve on the party platform committee in 2016. This week, Zogby sent a memo seen by The Independent to Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison laying out how to replace Biden in the event that he does step down.

“The central idea is to create a process that is open, transparent, and energizing, while, at the same time, legitimate and democratic,” the memo reads. “And it is one that is deeply respectful of the president and his accomplishments.”

The plan would require that any prospective candidate secure the endorsement of 40 committee members — since most committee members are elected officials — and that they must include four members from each of the committee’s four regions.

After the deadline, candidates would appear during televised events to make their case to voters. That would culminate in a nominating process at the Democratic National Convention.

“It is not a coronation,” the memo says. “…For at least one month, national media will be focused on our candidates and our exciting process, drawing sharp contrast with the antics of GOP nominee. Given that we can likely predict the pool of potential candidates (Vice President Harris, Governors, Senators, Members of Congress) — the debate they will have will no doubt be respectful and substantive.”

Zogby’s proposal is an audacious one to be sure. It would require TV networks to comply and broadcast the debate. And despite his optimism, there is no guarantee that the contest for delegates would be a clean fight.

Indeed, the old ways were rife with kickbacks, corruption and back-scratching. And Republicans would make hay about the disarray that Democrats face.

But it might be one of the few options the party has. Democratic primary voters chose Biden in the 2020 primary almost as soon as he won the South Carolina primary and then, as a way to prohibit a challenger, the party moved South Carolina up the calendar in 2024. Democrats ostracized heretics like Representative Dean Phillips who suggested something different, even if he was an admittedly imperfect messenger for his cause.

As of right now, it is unclear whether the president would actually step aside. But if Biden does exit the stage, many Democrats might want to take a look at Zogby’s proposal — especially considering a recent post-debate poll showed Biden losing against Trump.

The president has tried to explain away his debate performance with a variety of excuses. At a rally in Virginia in the immediate aftermath of the debate, he suggested that he was exhausted due to jet lag. He told donors that “I decided to travel around the world a couple of times,” before taking the stage, adding: “I didn’t listen to my staff” and “I almost fell asleep onstage.” He then apologized for the faltering performance that sent Democrats into crisis.

But this excuse seems to be — to borrow a favorite word of the president — malarkey. Biden spent the better part of a week preparing for the debate. He went to Camp David to workshop his responses. Indeed, Republicans complained that Biden had spent his time cloistered to prepare instead of holding rallies like Trump did.

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