Why Grassroots Democrats Have Turned Against Biden

Photograph by hay s on Unsplash

Pundits are focused on Joe Biden’s tanking poll numbers, while progressives continue to be alarmed by his dismal job performance. Under the apt headline “President Biden Is Not Cutting the Mustard,” last week The American Prospect summed up: “Young people are abandoning him in droves because he won’t fight for their rights and freedom.” Ryan Cooper wrote that “at a time when Democrats are desperate for leadership — especially some kind of strategy to deal with a lawless and extreme Supreme Court — he is missing in action.”

Yes, Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema team up with Republicans to stymie vital measures. But the president’s refusal to issue executive orders that could enact such popular measures as canceling student debt and many other policies has been part of a derelict approach as national crises deepen. Recent events have dramatized the downward Biden spiral.

Biden’s slow and anemic response to the Supreme Court’s long-expected Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade spotlighted the magnitude of the stakes and the failure. The grim outlook has been underscored by arrogance toward progressive activists. Consider this statement from White House communications director Kate Bedingfield last weekend as she reacted to wide criticism: “Joe Biden’s goal in responding to Dobbs is not to satisfy some activists who have been consistently out of step with the mainstream of the Democratic Party. It’s to deliver help to women who are in danger and assemble a broad-based coalition to defend a woman’s right to choose now, just as he assembled such a coalition to win during the 2020 campaign.”

The traditional response to such arrogance from the White House toward the incumbent’s party base is to grin — or, more likely, grimace — and bear it. But that’s a serious error for concerned individuals and organizations. Serving as enablers to bad policies and bad politics is hardly wise.

Polling released by the New York Times on Monday highlighted that most of Biden’s own party doesn’t want him to run for re-election, “with 64 percent of Democratic voters saying they would prefer a new standard-bearer in the 2024 presidential campaign.” And, “only 26 percent of Democratic voters said the party should renominate him.”

A former ambassador to Portugal who was appointed by President Obama, Allan Katz, has made a strong case for Biden to announce now that he won’t run for re-election. Writing for Newsweek under the headline “President Biden: I’m Begging You — Don’t Run in 2024. Our Country Needs You to Stand Down,” Katz contended that such an announcement from Biden would remove an albatross from the necks of Democrats facing tough elections in the midterms.

In short, to defeat as many Republicans as possible this fall, Biden should be seen as a one-term president who will not seek the Democratic nomination in 2024.

Why push forward with this goal? The #DontRunJoe campaign that our team at RootsAction launched this week offers this explanation: “We felt impelled to intervene at this time because while there is a mainstream media debate raging over whether Joe Biden should run again, that discussion is too narrow and lacking in substance — focused largely on his age or latest poll numbers. We object to Biden running in 2024 because of his job performance as president. He has proven incapable of effectively leading for policies so badly needed by working people and the planet, including policies he promised as a candidate.”

It’s no secret that Republicans are very likely to win the House this November, probably by a large margin. And the neofascist GOP has a good chance of winning the Senate as well, although that could be very close. Defeating Republicans will be hindered to the extent that progressive and liberal forces circle the political wagons around an unpopular president in a defense of the unacceptable status quo.

While voters must be encouraged to support Democrats — the only way to beat Republicans — in key congressional races this fall, that should not mean signing onto a quest to renew Biden’s lease on the White House. RootsAction has emphasized: “While we are announcing the Don’t Run Joe campaign now, we are urging progressive, anti-racist, feminist and pro-working-class activists to focus on defeating the right wing in this November’s elections. Our all-out launch will come on November 9, 2022 — the day after those midterm elections.”

With all the bad news and negative polling about Biden in recent weeks, the folly of touting him for a second term has come into sharp focus. While the president insists that he plans to run again, he has left himself an escape hatch by saying that will happen assuming he’s in good health. But what we should do is insist that — whatever his personal health might be — the health of the country comes first. Democratic candidates this fall should not be hobbled by the pretense that they’re asking voters to support a scenario of six more years for President Biden.

It’s time to create a grassroots groundswell that can compel Joe Biden to give public notice — preferably soon — that he won’t provide an assist to Republican forces by trying to extend his presidency for another four years. A pledge to voluntarily retire at the end of his first term would boost the Democratic Party’s chances of getting a stronger and more progressive ticket in 2024 — and would convey in the meantime that Democratic candidates and the Biden presidency are not one and the same.

Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, where he coordinates ExposeFacts. Solomon is a co-founder of RootsAction.org.