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Team Biden goes from Denial to Panic

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Picture: Brendan Smialowsi / AFP / Taken on October 30, 2023 – US Vice President Kamala Harris applauds as US President Joe Biden signs an executive order on AI in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC. The outlook is now grimmer than ever, but the big divide between Biden’s low popularity and public support for the Democratic Party overall was clear a year ago, the writer says. What now?

By Norman Solomon and Jeff Cohen

Over the weekend, Politico published the latest in a tidal wave of stories about President Biden’s dwindling prospects for re-election. Under the headline “The Polls Keep Getting Worse for Biden,” the article pointed out that Biden is trailing the presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump in a large majority of the latest polling.

The trend is dire, Politico reports: “The president’s standing in head-to-head matchups with Trump is falling: Among the latest surveys this month from 13 separate pollsters, Biden’s position is worse than their previous polls in all but two of them.” He continues to slip in key swing states.

The outlook is now grimmer than ever, but the big divide between Biden’s low popularity and public support for the Democratic Party overall was clear a year ago, despite the hype giving Biden credit for midterm election results in November 2022. Back then, the New York Times reported that one House Democrat offered a more candid assessment: “Biden’s numbers were ‘a huge drag’ on Democratic candidates, who won in spite of the president not thanks to him, the legislator said on the condition of anonymity to avoid antagonising the White House.”

Our RootsAction.org team had no reason to avoid antagonising the White House. Immediately after the 2022 election, we launched the Don’t Run Joe campaign. Last winter, it included TV ads in New Hampshire and other early primary states as well as in DC. We also placed full-page ads in print editions of The Hill newspaper, widely read on Capitol Hill; one depicted congressional Democrats as having their heads in the sand. A steady flow of news releases went out, citing data on Biden’s electoral vulnerabilities. A mobile Don’t Run Joe billboard circled the Capitol and White House when Congress reconvened in January.

But elected Democrats, loyal boosters and allied organisations stuck with the party line. Apparently, they couldn’t imagine being independent enough to call for a candidate who could champion a progressive agenda and be a stronger contender than the anaemic Biden in the 2024 race.

Ironically, we were often told that shining a critical spotlight on Biden’s re-election chances or his corporate militarism would help Donald Trump or another Republican to win in 2024. But the opposite has been the case. Biden’s amen-corner enablers — going along to get along rather than risk disapproval from the White House — have been unwitting helpers of the upcoming GOP ticket.

The bleak poll numbers might actually understate the problem, as they measure only voter discontent and not activist discontent. For months next summer and fall, Democratic activists will be needed to win over undecided voters and mobilise occasional voters. But many activists who worked hard to elect Biden over Trump in 2020 now have little enthusiasm for the president, due to his policies on climate, racial justice, Gaza and other vital concerns.

Biden’s amen-corner enablers — going along to get along rather than risk disapproval from the White House — have been unwitting helpers of the upcoming GOP ticket.

After Biden formally filed as a candidate seven months ago, Don’t Run Joe transitioned into Step Aside Joe. The campaign has continued to be adamant that Biden should voluntarily be a one-term president.

“The truth remains that a president is not his party’s king and has no automatic right to renomination,” a statement from Step Aside Joe said in April. “Simply crowning Joe Biden as the 2024 nominee is unhealthy for the Democratic Party and the country. In the face of clear polling that shows he is ill-positioned to defeat a Republican nominee, Biden is moving the Democratic Party toward a likely disaster in 2024. As the Democratic standard bearer, Biden would represent the status quo at a time when ‘wrong track’ polling numbers are at an unprecedented high.”

But Joe Biden and his coterie of backers continue to insist that he wear a crown. The fascistic forces behind Donald Trump are surely delighted.

Norman Solomon is the national director of RootsAction.org and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. Jeff Cohen is an activist and author. Cohen was an associate professor of journalism and the director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, founder of the media watch group FAIR, and former board member of Progressive Democrats of America.

This article was first published on Common Dreams