It is perhaps understandable that an elite media which has much to explain for its decisive role in the 2020 presidential election, its naked, unbridled support for Joe Biden, has chosen mostly to ignore a subject right before their very eyes. What is it, you say?
Well, in a word, it’s the remarkably perilous state of the Democratic Party – above and beyond the already ominous specter of huge losses in the 2022 congressional elections. Fact is, the party which controls the White House with a first-term president is on the ropes to a degree we have not witnessed in almost a century. And things have descended to the point where only one truly viable nominee remains for 2024. But to explain who that is and why, one must first engage in a process of elimination.
To begin, we need to put Biden’s sinking approval in context. You may be tempted to point to the last incumbent with a comparable degree of withering unpopularity as this 46th president, one Jimmy Carter, in arguing that it’s only been 50 years rather than 100 since a first-term Democratic president was met with such low approval, but there is a significant difference even with a president so unpopular that he lost 45 states in his bid for re-election.
You’re No Jimmy Carter
First, no one questioned whether Carter was mentally capable of running the country, albeit poorly. A recent poll by Harvard-Harris reveals that 57% of Americans believe Biden is “too old” to be president – begging the question of what so many who apparently voted for Joe Biden as the leader of the free world were thinking at the time – a majority of Democrats already favor a different nominee in 2024. Second, there was no question of whether Carter could or would seek re-election in 1980 – unlike Biden, the oldest president in American history, Carter was nothing if not healthy, youthful and energetic. And third, unlike Biden and his increasingly calamitous choice of Kamala Harris, Carter selected at least a respectable vice president – and successor nominee – in Walter Mondale, who despite a landslide defeat to Ronald Reagan in 1984 at the peak of Reagan’s popularity, was at the very least a figure of dignity and competence.
No, things are actually worse for Democrats now than in the days of Jimmy Carter. First off, Democrats maintained solid control of Congress in the 1970s. And while presidents in their second term generally decline in popularity, you have to go all the way back to the Great Depression to find a party with a first-term president in this much trouble. It was 1932, the stock market had crashed, almost a quarter of the country was out of work, and Herbert Hoover was beaten by FDR in a landslide.
Ground zero for the Democrats’ electoral problem is not so much the selection of a doddering old man as their nominee. Biden all but admitted to being a placeholder, and at least accomplished the party’s overwhelming objective of removing Donald Trump, even as he has since become an embarrassment to himself and his party. No, the real problem was the short-term, and short-sighted, decision to select Kamala as vice president. The presumption was that picking her was a nifty two-fer, mollifying his party’s left wing and making history with the first black woman nominated to a presidential ticket, while setting the stage to pass her the baton in 2024. Oh, the best laid plans. Kamala Harris has since accomplished almost the impossible, actually making the increasingly un-re-electable Biden look competent by comparison.
The Thinning Blue Line
But Kamala is a symptom of a far larger problem for the party: depth. It exploded on the Democrats in 2020, when they were forced to settle for Biden, even after he had run a feckless campaign, for fear of socialist Bernie Sanders becoming the nominee, and a striking lack of alternatives. Beyond the almost instant face plant of Kamala’s own presidential campaign, the highly touted Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), significantly devalued her currency right out the gate by submitting to a DNA test to prove her Indian heritage, which promptly backfired in spectacular fashion. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) stopped being taken seriously once he proclaimed himself the second coming of Spartacus and lurched uncontrollably into the far left ditch, along with the likes of Beto O’Rourke, who became a laughingstock with his gun-grabbing false bravado, and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, who may have delivered the signature line from that rogue’s gallery of left-wing presidential wannabes, demanding “reproductive justice for transgenders.” Seriously.
Beyond that, Amy Klobuchar proved herself unrelentingly mediocre and uninspiring. Sure, there’s still ‘ol Bernie, but he’ll be 83 years old in 2024, and still unelectable. Pete Buttigieg was about the only one who overperformed in the primaries as the first openly gay presidential candidate, but his limited experience and stature would make the prospect of the former mayor of South Bend and current transportation secretary serving as commander-in-chief unlikely in the end. In all, the Democrats put forward every one of their top-tier candidates – 29 in all – and not a single one, beyond perhaps Buttigieg, impressed or even demonstrated the potential to grow into an effective nominee.
This lack of breadth and depth in the national party traces back to the presidency of Barack Obama. As the 44th president cruised to two easy victories and eight years in the White House, the Democratic party crumbled around him, losing control of the House and Senate in two disastrous midterm elections, and dropping more than a thousand legislative seats, in all, across the land. That left a weak bench, evidenced by a 2020 Democratic presidential primary that became nothing less than a circus, and exposed the multiple aforementioned candidates once thought to be potentially serious contenders as mere pretenders, not ready for prime time. So, an already thin stable of talent dwindled down to a perilous level.
With a bench so thin, Biden so feeble, and Kamala so incapable of doing almost anything right, where will the Democrats turn? Where can they turn, with polls showing Donald Trump gaining strength and now outpacing Biden in recent surveys?
By process of elimination, the only truly viable nominee left standing, outside of celebrities like Michelle Obama or Oprah, is the governor of California. Yes, Gavin Newsom governs the most famously left-wing state in the nation and took a beating for his heavy-handed control during the pandemic. But he has movie star qualities – handsome, articulate, dynamic – and in easily stiff-arming a recall attempt in 2021, may have actually strengthened his hand. In addition, as an outsider, a governor with legitimate credentials in running the largest state in the nation on the opposite coast from DC, he is relatively independent and in a superior position to challenge either Biden or Harris than any inside-the-beltway Democrat.
The moment midterm elections are complete, the posturing will begin for 2024, and you will start hearing the name Gavin Newsom with increasing frequency. He has undeniable ambition which is widely believed not to end with his current high position. And while the media may not have given up on defending the man they were so responsible for shoehorning into the White House in 2020, and the woman he brought with him, they may soon be forced to admit that the ticket they did everything to get elected has been an abject failure, and the only person capable of sustaining Democratic control of the White House come 2024 is living on the other side of the country.