Impeaching Joe Biden Could be the Key to Democratic Victory in 2024 — But Maybe Not for the Reasons You Think!

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

Democrats have to strengthen Biden’s appeal or get someone else on the ticket without destroying party unity. The Republicans’ impeachment attempt could be their chance to do either.

Joe Biden’s in trouble. His polls are disastrous, showing a loss to Trump despite Trump’s well-publicized legal issues. He has also lost the trust of his own party due to concerns about his age and competence, as well as the failure of his controversial foreign policy. However, Biden seems unlikely to step down from his party’s ticket, and any attempts to remove or replace Biden would appear disloyal and could split the party, potentially costing the Democrats the election.

The Democratic Party has two options: One, they can try to strengthen Biden’s appeal both within the party and with Americans more broadly, or two, they can try to replace him without appearing disloyal. The Republicans’ impeachment provides the Democrats the chance to try either strategy and, whatever the results of the impeachment trial, emerge the victors in 2024.

If Democrats fight the impeachment, Republicans will claim that Biden is “hiding” something because he’s guilty. That may be unfair, but it’s proven to be a psychologically powerful and convincing argument. Instead of fighting the impeachment, Democrats should embrace it. Assuming that Biden truly didn’t do anything worth conviction, the impeachment serves as a chance to demonstrate his innocence and signal the strength and competence that many have accused him of lacking.

Embracing impeachment would also allow Democrats to assert their commitment to values like transparent and accountable government. This would likely play well, given current widespread distrust of American politics. As leadership researcher Barbara Kellerman points out in her book The End of Leadership, it has become more important than ever in recent decades for leaders to embody the values and perspectives of their followers if they want to maintain their positions or be effective. Projecting transparency and accountability to voters could help Democrats earn their trust.

This all sharply contrasts with the behavior of Donald Trump and the Republicans. Trump’s hissy fits around his own legal troubles have been nothing short of spectacular, to the point that he’s literally had a gag order placed on him. He is uncooperative and evasive (even outright deceptive) about his own alleged crimes and misconduct, at least some of which most of the public believes he committed. While some of Trump’s defenders maintain his innocence, far more on the Right have simply cried that there is a “double standard” at play, and that President Biden has gotten a pass for the same sort of conduct. Cooperating with impeachment in the name of transparent and accountable government would blow this talking point out of the water and make the Democrats look stronger, more dignified, and more principled than their opponents as they head into the election cycle.

Biden’s recent interview about his alleged mishandling of classified documents seems to signal the party’s willingness to embrace this approach. Per the White House, Biden is “cooperating with this investigation, and as it has been appropriate, we have provided relevant updates publicly, being as transparent as we can consistent with protecting and preserving the integrity of the investigation” (emphasis added). This, especially combined with Trump’s ongoing blunders and the Republicans’ own internal woes, will likely improve Biden’s chances. 

Of course, this all presumes Biden’s innocence and his ongoing cooperation.

However, if he’s guilty, embracing the impeachment is still a win for the Democrats. Cooperating with the impeachment and officially removing Biden from office (or at the very least, forcing him into resigning, Nixon-style), would let them replace Biden with a more popular figure, such as the oft-discussed Gavin Newsom, who certainly seems open to the prospect.

Better yet, it would allow them to do so without appearing disloyal. Instead, the Democrats could appeal to principle in a way that sets them apart from the rival party — e.g., “We care about accountability in government so much as a party we impeached our own president — unlike Republicans!” Given that Trump might still be facing legal issues up until the very election (if not even after), Biden’s replacement would likely look far more appealing in contrast.

Of course, I doubt that any of this is actually going to happen. The impeachment is almost certainly going to fail. But it will most likely fail for more typical, tribalistic reasons. 

Although facing their own woes with the infighting around the Speaker of the House position, the Republican Party is likely (and their voters are demanding) to reinvigorate the impeachment attempts once they get their own house in some semblance of “order.” However, doing so might end up handing Democrats an opportunity to demonstrate strength and assert their commitment to key American values. The only question is whether they’ll seize it. 

Dr. Aaron Pomerantz is a social psychologist and researcher in Houston, Texas. His research examines issues of culture, leadership, and responses to threats in politics, law, and society. He can be found on Twitter @pompom9211.