So who cares what I think, but here goes:

It appears to me that Joe Biden has lost the confidence of his party and the voters. With that he’s lost control of his story, and stories are what people use to make decisions. Biden-is-old has entered the doom spiral of Hillary-is-unlikeable and Al-Gore-is-a-nerd. Replacing it with Biden-is-a-trusted-leader looks all but impossible.

The President is showing far too many signs of of cognitive decline and diminished capacity — however modest — to win back his story.

It also appears to me more obviously urgent than ever that the Democrats prevail in November; the latest Supreme Court absurdities make the stakes crystal clear. It’s not an election about policy. It’s an election about the integrity of the law and the Constitution.

Given these two facts, I think Biden should resign the presidency, hand the Oval Office keys to Vice President Kamala Harris, and endorse her as the Democratic candidate for President.

I think Biden should consider this his final act of leadership. It should come soon, decisively and unequivocally: a brave move from a wise man backed by a sound Constitution. It would close the book on “TOO OLD” and open up a whole new story: a story about a man who hears his party and his voters, sets aside his personal ambitions, acknowledges that Father Time beats us all, and transfers power to the young, capable leader elected by the American people to serve as Vice President.

Some will call it a story of weakness. Done wrong, it would be.

But done right it’s a story of strength — a full-party pivot away from worry and towards hope. It would instantly disarm the opposition, forcing the GOP to abandon its best campaign weapon. It would re-arm Democrats with a powerful new story — about the future, not the past. And it would allow the President to leave the stage with honor, having done his duty, listened to his voters, and set his party on the path to victory.

When I shared this proposal with my favorite sounding board, a person whose instincts have proven correct many times, m’lady paused and considered. After a few moments she said: “Boss move.”

The spoken message from the President should be:

“I hear and understand that I’ve lost the American people’s confidence. I respect the American people’s wisdom. That same wisdom named Kamala Harris as Vice President, so I’m handing the job to her. She’s ready and she’s able and she’s tough as hell. This time tomorrow, she’ll officially be our nation’s second Black President and its first female President. In November she’ll ask you to give her four more years. She’ll have my vote, and I know she’s going to earn yours. Vote for Kamala Harris. Democracy demands it.”

The unofficial, repeated-on-cable-TV-ad-nauseum message should be: “We know that Republicans can beat up an old white man. Now let them try it with a young Black woman.”

Which they will — unhappily. The last thing Republicans want is for Biden to take away their favorite toy. They have one plan for victory: to gleefully howl that “BIDEN IS OLD” all day every day until Election Day. They don’t have much else that’s fit to share in public. “Biden is old” is their sword and shield. Behind it is only MAGA madness.

But if Biden steps down and Harris becomes President, “Biden is old” disappears instantly. In its place, a whole new story: “Biden heard the people. A woman of color — Black and Asian and Indian — is now President. Will voters keep her?”

That’s an engaging story, especially for the Democratic base, and not just the women — of all colors — who’d come out in force for Harris. A Harris-lead ticket opens up stories about women, youth, people of color, and — critically — adjustment and achievement in the face of change and disruption. Voters can rally to that story. Advocates can build coalitions around it. Pundits can wax poetic about it. Cable TV hosts can fill panels with Democrats who’ll be thrilled to discuss it.

Meanwhile, robbed of their most effective weapon, confronted with a new opponent, Republicans will be forced to find a new story. We know what story that will be: they’ll attack Harris’s competence and legitimacy by invoking her race and gender, while the MAGA grassroots howl that she’s a prostitute (her MAGA nickname is “the Ho;” they’re fond of knee-pad jokes).

I don’t think most Americans will like that story. Many will. But most won’t, and for good reason: it’s vile.

Conversely, I think a lot of Americans will like a Dems-make-way-for-youth story. They be able to see themselves in it. Harris would need the right box-checking VP, of course; my choice of the moment would be young, white, suburbs-friendly, Israel-friendly Governor Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania. Others could fill the bill too. But no matter who the VP, if Biden steps down and Harris ascends, the big story is, “Holy crap, Democrats listened to voters!”

And what do voters want, if not to be listened to?


I can’t take credit for this Biden-resigns notion; I first encountered it at the excellent group blog Lawyers Guns & Money, so, hat tip to them. It’s far from a perfect plan. It’s a risky plan. But no path forward is without risk. Exactly how much risk? I’m not expert in vote-counting or poll-parsing, so I don’t know.

But I’m expert in storytelling. It’s been my job for thirty years. I’m a feature writer for Reader’s Digest, fer gawd’s sakes. I know what kinds of stories Americans like. I know where those stories come from, and I can see where this story’s going: nowhere good. Evidence is mounting, voters are worrying, Biden is losing allies, and opportunists are finding the cracks.

It’s no longer just a story about Biden being “old,” but about Biden losing control, and Americans don’t like that kind of story at all.

I’ve also seen what happens to candidates like Jimmy Carter or Hillary Clinton or Al Gore or John Kerry or Mitt Romney or even Trump 1.0 who lose control of their stories: they lose. Stories are everything, and it’s clear to me that most American voters don’t see themselves in the Biden-vs.-Trump story: “Old men wrangling? Who cares? Enough with the old men!”

The biggest risk is to hope that this story will change. I just don’t see how it could. Biden can do many things, but he can’t get younger. It’s not just “the media” driving the story of his diminishing capacity; it’s the facts. People can see real evidence of a problem, and more evidence could emerge at any time, right up to election day.

So I assess the risk of change as smaller than the risk of the status quo — especially since there’s no reason to believe that a President Harris would be a less effective executive than President Biden.

It must be said that a Harris/Shapiro ticket could be no better than Biden/Harris at reaching certain voters, particularly those angered, as I am, by the Democrats’ all-but-complete support for Israel’s Netenyahu administration. Likewise, there’s no guarantee that Harris/Shapiro would win the unequivocal backing of the pro-Israel forces that carry so much weight in our politics. For the record, I fear that the Gaza war could fatally split the Democratic coalition, regardless of who’s running.

But I suspect the overall appeal of Harris/Shapiro would be otherwise pretty broad — including to pro-Israel Christians who are uncertain about Trump. The swing vote in America is the suburbs, where the watchword isn’t “social justice” but “opportunity.” A Harris/Shapiro ticket could prove appealingly pragmatic to prosperity-minded voters.

To sell the ticket would require total, unequivocal party unity — no small task when we’re talking about the Democratic Party. This is where Biden’s leadership matters most: he cannot allow the story to revert to, “Democrats in disarray.” He can’t let the party debate whether Harris should be the nominee. He must quell any revolts among factions and interest groups eager to exploit an opportunity.

Instead, Biden must tell insiders: “I see what is to be done, and I’m going to do it. The party needs to be behind me to show strength and resolve. Kamala can win. Don’t fuck it up. Lose this election and we lose everything. Back Harris now, and good things will come your way.”

Played this way, Harris’s ascent to the presidency and the nomination could be a story that lets Joe Biden leave the stage as a visionary leader — one who served with honor, but saw when his time had come, and followed the Constitution’s guidance to transfer power.

That’s not weakness; it’s strength. Sports fans know: nobody looks down on the great athlete who loses to Father Time. They only look down on the athlete who hangs on too long. So that’s where I think we should go: Biden steps down, hands power to Harris, puts on those shades, and lets youth and vigor lead the way to victory over age and obsolescence.

It would be the right move no matter who was Vice President, but the fact that she happens to be a young woman of color who’ll force the opposition to abandon its best weapon and expose its worst self is what makes it a boss move.

Will it be a shock? Yes. Controversial? Yes. But the response, I believe, will overwhelmingly be not worry, but relief. This problem started long before Biden slurred words in a debate. Months of polls tell me that voters are as sick of being cooped up in Biden-Trump as they were about being cooped up during COVID. Meanwhile, grassroots advocates and door-knockers — m’lady among them — are desperate for a better story. They don’t want to have to defend Biden’s age all summer.

From top to bottom, Democrats want a new story, one with room for them. I think the Democratic Party should give it to them. Joe Biden can lead the way.

Because here’s the other thing: whatever the GOP flings at Kamala Harris, she’s heard it all before, and she’ll relish the chance to knock it down. I think Harris would enjoy kicking the shit out of Donald Trump. I think she’d do it very well. I also think she’d be an excellent President.

[Also available at my Medium site

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