What Should Joe Biden Do to Save His Reelection?


Editor’s Note: This essay extends a recent Post Alley discussion by Peter Miller regarding strategies to shore up Joe Biden’s standing, particularly with young people.

Democrats have to wonder how to help Joe Biden lift the very visible burden of age that is already damaging him with younger voters. The recent call by my Post Alley colleague Peter Miller for Biden to pick a new vice presidential candidate with appeal to younger voters and make the Democratic Party stand for peace is a good start.

With Biden unable to end Israel’s attacks on Gaza and the lack of any flair for the dramatic in his administration, the odds of anything fresh aren’t high. 

There is no indication that Biden believes he needs to make major changes. And maybe we don’t want him to risk picking a Democratic version of Sarah Palin for a running mate to stir up support. It could be that the prospect of returning Trump to power is enough to make Biden a winner in November. 

As Biden’s recent Valley Forge speech showed, he does know he has to attack Donald Trump, but he knew that four years ago. Now, he doesn’t have the advantage of Trump’s bumbling on Covid-19 to remind voters that he is bad for them in their daily life. Plus, Black Lives Matter and other racial justice movements quite reasonably don’t seem excited about Biden. 

Are Democrats in the Northwest likely to try to push Biden toward more urgency about relating to young voters and everyday people? At one level, you might think they could. Washington and Oregon have earned Biden’s attention with their solid support. Washington’s Sen. Patty Murray is at the heart of the party’s establishment as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. She is, to be sure, 73 years old, but she has never seemed to completely lose her connection to everyday people in her Senate priorities. She has the clout to talk to Biden’s inner circle.

And she could maybe pick up a cue or two if she were willing to seek advice from some of the few high-profile younger members of Congress in the Washington delegation, like hyper progressive Pramila Jayapal, 58, but with strong standing among a young Seattle constituency, or the more moderate Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, 35. 

Among them, maybe they could offer him some solid advice on a much younger running mate to replace the almost invisible Kamala Harris or at least one with real appeal among young people, as Peter Miller suggested. Harris may have helped Biden with young people in 2020 but it’s a good question whether she can do it again.

One risk for Biden is spending too much time listening to his pollsters, campaign consultants, and political insiders. The Washington Post just reported that Biden’s aides have been meeting with economists and others to craft economic policy points that could be a winning message against Trump. The report identified at least five experts involved in the discussions, people whose names mean nothing to me but undoubtedly have cachet inside the Beltway.

Among the ideas: focusing on beefing up Social Security and pointing to what Biden has done to lower prescription drug prices. Dynamite stuff for those of us old enough to have regular prescriptions and collect from Social Security. But maybe it’s not much against the intoxicating effect Trump has on a lot of people, old and young, apparently regardless of his politics or behavior.

With right-wing authoritarianism on the rise in Europe as well, Biden and his crowd might want to emulate Emmanuel Macron, France’s president. Macron, just 46, is already putting a younger face on his government with the appointment a 34-year-old prime minister, reportedly to help squelch the right wing in June elections for the European Parliament. At the same time, Macron is fighting on an economic issue with appeal across all ages: food price inflation. Under pressure from the French government, a major supermarket chain recently pulled all its PepsiCo products. For younger American generations who are skeptical of corporate-ruled capitalism, aggressively attacking price gouging and urging tax increases on large corporations and billionaires might be a good fight for Biden to wage.

The Middle East combat that Biden jumped into with his no-conditions support for the authoritarian-leaning government of Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu shows no signs of ending. As Miller suggested, making the Democrats again the party of peace would be smart, and would help with young people. Young people in Seattle have certainly made their voices known in the campaign for a needed ceasefire.

Despite his support for Israel, Biden has failed to budge Netanyahu toward a two-state peace settlement. So, Biden is left to search for a path to resume meaningful negotiations to free hostages, restore peace and end the endless inhumane slaughter of Gaza’s men, women and children with U.S. weapons that started after the Oct. 7 inhumane slaughter of Israel’s men, women, and children.

That war is morally atrocious, and his lack of a way to end it isn’t a good look for Biden, especially when he will soon be up against Trump, who is practiced in playing the role of a strong man, no matter how weak he really is, and boasts about being able to keep America out of wars.

Joe Copeland
Joe Copeland
Joe Copeland is a former senior editor for Crosscut. Before that, he was an editorial writer and columnist for the Seattle P-I and editorial page editor of the Everett Herald. A Fulbright researcher in Japan in 2009, he is the author of an e-book, “Peace Quest: The Survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”​


  1. Good to see a timely piece by you, Joe. Agree that Biden needs to spread his appeal to younger voters and pay less attention to pollsters who are notoriously flawed. The big question is how might Biden appeal more broadly? If one agrees that Kamala hasn’t been helpful, how could Biden switch at this point and to whom?

  2. I think I may be a little confused about this story. The younger voters need to hear more of more social/racial justice and anti-corporate policy direction from Biden, or they’ll vote for Trump? Something doesn’t really add up here.

  3. The best defense is a good offense. Biden will win if the focus is on fear. The damage Trump did in one term, is now compounded. Biden is the only choice or Lord only knows what damage Trump could do. Fear of Trump’s re-election is the phase that will pay for Biden. Until the next generation finally surfaces.

    • Yes, political scientists call this “negative partisanship,” which is that idea that in a polarized political environment far more voters are motivated by fear of the opposing side winning than they are out of love of or excitement about their own side. Biden v. Trump, where both candidates are manifestly flawed and deeply unpopular, is the definitional case of a negative partisanship election.

  4. Biden better hope against hope that Trump is the nominee. He will never beat Hayley. A stark difference on stage and in a debate.
    I have no idea what the hell the Biden campaign is doing. It’s late and he is running out of time and excuses.

  5. Maybe a lot of people who don’t like Biden — I’m thinking of present company — have unrealistic expectations about the abilities of any person? Much less POTUS in 2024? I like Biden because he’s a decent well-intentioned thoughtful person — NOT because I’m looking for a daddy figure to solve all my problems.

    As to Democrats who hope for Trump to be the nominee — do they remember 2016?

    Trump is a brilliant politician so be careful what you wish for.

  6. Replacing Kamala Harris at this stage with a younger anti-Israel leftist, as appears to the main substantive suggestion for Biden among the Post Alley crowd, would be (a) seen by the media as a glaring red flag sign of weakness and desperation on Biden’s part, (b) read by normie voters outside Seattle’s cozy left progressive bubble as absolute proof positive that the incessant Republican attacks on Biden as a culturally alienating left progressive zealot are indeed accurate, (c) would be massively divisive within the Democratic Party and would totally freak out older voters who compromise the majority of Biden’s base, and (d) would risk even greater erosion of Black voters from the Biden coalition.

    But hey, other than that it’s a boffo idea. “Cause, like, think of the kidz!

  7. Rather than concerned about “youth vote”, I wonder if Biden gains more by an opening to the right? To constitutionalists. Attempting to draw on the last remaining rational conservatives? Who feel some residual necessity to be loyal to the Republican Party but dislike Trump? Are there enough of them who could they be drawn away to a more centrist _constitutional_Democratic Party?

    It’s just numbers and I don’t know them. In cold, hard political terms I could very well be wrong, but I’d like to hear somebody explore it.

    But overall I’m suspicious that the “youth vote “ — is it all that large? worth the trouble it creates?

    After all, what have they actually contributed? Either genuinely sound policy or politically attractive? Defunding the police? “Diversity” efforts based on racism & identity? Biological fantasy?

    (And just by the way, I pretty much consider myself somewhat a socialist in favor of managed capitalism, universal healthcare, strong antitrust laws etc etc . So there.)


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