Forget Identity, Just Win – Yellow Stripes & Dead Armadillos

Let’s just say for the sake of argument (and my sanity) that Joe Biden does the right thing, or is forced to do the right thing, and steps aside. Who replaces him?

If it’s Kamala Harris or Gavin Newsom we might as well stick with Joe.

Harris has a minus 20 net approval rating. Only 36% of Americans approve of her performance in office while 56% disapprove. In a head-to-head match-up with Donald Trump she loses by six points while Biden only loses by four. So how are we any better off with Harris?

Harris’ chances are no better than Biden’s.

The obvious answer is that we’re not, but there is a part of the Democratic Party that is so identity obsessed that they would rather move ahead with a candidate almost sure to lose, but who happens to be a Black woman, than nominate someone with a much better chance of beating Trump.

Rep. Jim Clyburn, for whom I have a lot of respect in general, had this to say after Thursday’s debate debacle: “I’m a Biden-Harris person, OK? So I’m not getting away from that. I’m going to be for Biden, if Harris ain’t there, and I’ll be for Harris, if Biden ain’t there.”

Donna Brazile, political strategist and former interim DNC chair, also said that if there were an effort to bypass Harris, “there would be an uproar.” 

“Joe Biden placed her on the ticket for a reason and they won in 2020,” she said. “Any attempt to try to change a horse after the voters have selected the team they want to see on the team, there would be total chaos.” 

Well, that’s just nuts. Clyburn and Brazile are saying that they are not wavering from supporting two equally unpopular candidates. I thought the point of a political party was to win elections.

Her supporters argue that Harris is only unpopular because of her gender and skin color. I doubt that. I think she’s unpopular because she exudes the same elitist sense of entitlement that Hillary Clinton did. She’s only been successful as a California politician and that is a very different world than national politics. What plays is Palo Alto won’t play in Peoria.

And what if it were true that her identity made her less likely to win? Of course that would be terrible but, again, the point is to beat Trump. If people oppose Harris for awful reasons it doesn’t change the fact that she’s less electable. Do you really want to nominate a Black woman just nominate a Black woman or is the point to keep the most awful man ever to occupy the White House out of it?

And speaking of California the same applies to its governor, Gavin Newsom. If he were the nominee he’d spend the entire campaign defending the indefensible — California’s high taxes, homeless problem, population loss, embrace of reparations and more.

Harris, and to a lesser extent Newsom, are considered to be “next in line.” That kind of thinking gave the Democrats Walter Mondale in 1984 and Clinton in 2016 and it gave the Republicans Bob Dole in 1996. Those elections did not go well for those who claimed a seniority right to the nomination.

Our best chances are Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear. Whitmer won reelection last year with 54% of the vote. Shapiro has a 64% approval rating. Beshear easily won reelection in a state that went overwhelmingly for Trump. That means all three have an excellent chance of winning Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Do that and Trump is defeated.

Right now this feels like a parlor game because the stubborn Biden is dug in and the party is senselessly rallying behind him. Yesterday he said his horrible performance was the result of two recent trips overseas. Well, foreign travel and a busy schedule are part of the job. Also, Biden can sleep on the plane. He’s not traveling coach. And a week at Camp David wasn’t enough to cure his jet lag?

Desperate excuses like that one and more reports of Biden’s decline could combine with bad polling numbers to get Democrats to muster the strength to replace him. If they do there’s no point in swapping him out with someone who is politically correct but whose chances to win are no better.

And on a related note… In recent weeks I’ve put Biden’s chances of winning at about 40% (I reduced that to 20% after his debate performance.) I pulled that number out of a hat, more or less. It was just feel. Well, Nate Silver, who crunches numbers for a living, put Biden’s chances at 35% before the debate, pretty close to my 40%.

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