ROFF: Biden’s Problems Aren’t Just Beginning – They’ve Been Here All Along

by | Jul 4, 2024 | Opinion

Washington, D.C. – The Democrats are worried. They should be. But not because President Biden had a bad night. That happens, even to the best of them, occasionally.

The president’s sub-par debate performance is the least of their worries. If there’s a panic starting, it should be because this week, the Atlanta Fed halved its projection for second-quarter growth in U.S. GDP from 4.2%, which is what it was predicting seven weeks ago, to 1.7%.

Consumer spending has been down recently, which could be an indicator that Americans are losing confidence in the economy and the politicians who oversee it. As Chicago Fed president Austin Goolsbee said Tuesday, we may see “warning signs” that what some economists have called the weakest strong economy in U.S. history may head into negative territory before the election.

Goolsbee wants the Fed to cut rates. That’s unlikely to happen. Economists of a more conservative bent want Congress and the administration to cut spending. That’s not likely to happen either, at least not by enough, soon enough to make a difference. It’s hard to see how Biden or any Democrat can defeat Donald Trump if the economy is headed into a recession.

That ought to be their focus, but it isn’t. Instead, Democrats are focused on the disintegrating narrative, carefully constructed and maintained since Biden initially announced he was running for president, that, to put it in the vernacular, he is “large and in charge.”

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He isn’t, which has been evident since 2016. The lockdowns that kept him off the campaign trail allowed his public appearances to be carefully stage-managed and, more importantly, limited to times, places, and events where he was generally guaranteed to do well.

The degree of doubt currently expressed in public by the punditocracy and in private by many senior Democrats who are nevertheless defending him on the airwaves reflects their growing concern the whole House of Cards is about to come crashing down.

This has led many of the leading lights on the left—led by the New York Times editorial page—to call for Biden to quit the race. Forget all the high-minded claims about the democratic process. The schemes thus far proposed to maneuver Biden off the ticket before or at the Democrats’ national convention violate the law, party rules, and electoral norms.

Biden has enough delegates pledged to him to win the nomination on the first ballot. They weren’t appointed by party leaders. They were chosen by the party faithful in caucuses and primaries conducted over many months. If the party wanted to change leaders, the time to do it was then, not now, when all of America can see the emperor has no clothes.

The Democrats can always change the rules at their convention. The president can release his delegates. They could opt for an open convention, meaning the nominee would be picked in the kind of smoke-filled room dealing that went out with Harry Truman.

The Democrats could also find enough blue judges in red states to ignore the complex collection of laws, deadlines, and regulations governing who can be on the November ballot, which makes a last-minute substitution somewhat problematic.

Of course, doing so would draw attention to the fact that the Democrats’ principal concern had now become holding onto power rather than providing for the general welfare of the nation. Still, such things can be overcome with help from a fawning media.

Democrats won’t like being described that way. They’ll likely push back by comparing what they are doing to what they perceive the Republicans have been up to. After all, “What about Trump?” has always worked well for them.

Not this time. Even if everything the left says about the GOP and Trump is true, so what? Biden is supposed to be better. The Democrats are supposed to be better. They hold themselves out as the ones protecting democracy from dying in darkness, to borrow a phrase. They want us to believe they’re not the ones making corrupt bargains with wealthy special interests to win the White House.

It takes an awful lot for a single debate to wreck a campaign. It’s happened, but not usually at the presidential level. Surprisingly, the pundits in the tank for Biden haven’t been reminding the world about the first Reagan Mondale debate in 1984.

Mondale won, not because he was scintillating but because Reagan, whom everyone thought was “the great communicator,” seemed distracted, lacked focus, and rambled. Sound familiar?

It wasn’t a good night for Reagan, and it opened the door to a debate about whether he—at the time, the oldest man ever to have been president of the United States—had the mental acuity required for the job.

None of that mattered. Reagan recovered. In his second debate with Mondale, he was sharp and focused. And when Reagan promised he would not, “for political purposes, exploit his opponent’s youth and inexperience,” he put his opponent and the election away, winning 49 of 50 states in the fall.

Biden won’t win that many states. He can’t, and he couldn’t before he debated Trump. The numbers coming out of the Atlanta Fed tell us that. The economy isn’t good enough. But he could fight his way back. He could still win if everything underlying his campaign is solid.

Unfortunately for the president, it’s not. What happened at the debate is emblematic of everything about the Biden presidency. It wasn’t just a bad night. It’s been a bad four years. He has to explain why the next four will be better if he remains in office. If he can’t do that, he might as well quit now.

AMP America Contributing Editor Peter Roff is a veteran journalist who appears regularly on U.S. and international media platforms. He can be reached at roffcolumns@gmail.com and followed on social media @TheRoffDraft.

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