The Ultimate Leadership: The Path for Biden is Clear


President Joe Biden clings to the belief that only he can save the world. He declared to a meeting with Democratic governors, “No one’s pushing me out. I’m not leaving.” He followed up in an interview with George Stephanopoulos, saying only “the Lord Almighty” could drive him from the race. 

Biden and Harris can allow the Democrats to win in November by relinquishing their candidacies and campaign funds. Importantly, they must take leadership in organizing their party to avoid internal discord. In doing so, they can guarantee their supporters that the principles they pursued in office will continue under the new Democratic presidential administration since they will help select those candidates and consider retaining Harris.

They have worked well as a team. Their new mission is to avoid the Democrats stumbling into a brokered convention. They have the prestige, the ground support, and the discipline to lift the Democrats out of their befuddlement about how to win the presidency, given Biden’s health and poor polling. The Democrats can now unite around a new candidate, while the Republicans are stuck with a very beatable Trump, particularly if he is running against someone other than Biden.

In the recent New York Times poll, the response to the question: How well do you think Joe Biden and Donald Trump did in the presidential debate? Biden got trounced by Trump. A whopping 57% thought Biden did “not well at all,” while only 27% had that same impression of Trump. Meanwhile, 53% of respondents agreed that Joe Biden is just too old to be an effective president, while only 22% would agree with that assessment for Trump.

Although being old may slow one’s movements, it does not necessarily hinder one’s ability to think clearly. However, viewers witnessed a confused and muddled Biden. His staff attributed his condition to exhaustion and fatigue from a couple of long world trips filled with meetings just prior to the debate. 

There is one excuse for Biden that may be real and even provable. It could account for why New York Times’ reporters heard from interviews with “current and former officials and others who encountered him behind closed doors” that they “noticed that he appeared confused or listless, or would lose the thread of conversations,” over the last couple of months.

Biden could be suffering from a series of mini-strokes, aka TIA (transient ischemic attacks), occurring in middle-aged and older adults brought about by higher levels of stress. The results of such strokes are the type of behavior reported to the reporters. 

A person can suffer multiple TIAs and never know it. They do not last long, and while they do not immediately result in any permanent damage, over time, there can be cumulative effects on the brain’s health and physical and mental abilities. These attacks are not full-out strokes like the one that sent John Fetterman to the hospital. Fetterman recovered and won his election, but then again, he is 25 years younger than Biden. 

Regardless of Biden’s specific medical concerns, the public perceives him as unfit to continue as president. The debate helped to bolster that view, according to a national poll taken of registered voters by the NYT/Siena shortly after the debate. 

Despite the Biden campaign’s investing $50 million in advertising the month before the debate, a CNN poll conducted by SSRS found that three-quarters of all US voters say the Democratic Party would have a better chance of winning the 2024 presidential election with someone other than President Joe Biden.

The bottom line is that other than Biden’s 2024 opponent, former President Donald Trump, no incumbent has trailed this far behind in the polls since Jimmy Carter’s reelection bid 44 years ago, in which he was stomped by Ronald Reagan. 

Although Biden is a hair short of a majority, if his delegates begin to drop away, a fight will begin to select the presidential candidate — a brokered convention. The last Democratic brokered convention was won by Adlai Stevenson in 1952, and he lost to Dwight D. Eisenhower. Another tumultuous convention in 1968 produced a damaged Hubert Humphry, who lost to Nixon

Biden can avoid a brokered convention by shifting his focus from being the presidential candidate to being the ultimate negotiator who successfully brings people together. Rep. Jamie Raskin’s comments to MSNBC foretold this shift: “One thing I can tell you is that regardless of what President Biden decides, our party is going to be unified . . . He will be the figure that we rally around to move forward.” 

Biden needs V.P. Kamala Harris, the only politician with the influence, to work with him in accepting the withdrawal and formulating a smooth succession. She has been Biden’s chief surrogate on the campaign trail and the co-owner of their campaign fund, which the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and no other candidate can use. 

To convince Biden to select another candidate, Harris would have to join Biden in allowing a whole new ticket to be formed. She would not have to reject being on it, but she could enable party leaders to help choose the vice presidential and the presidential candidates. Unless there is a unified agreement on the ticket, divisions among delegates could surface on the convention floor. 

The DNC moved up its formal nomination process to a “virtual roll call” scheduled for August 7 to meet Ohio’s deadline to get the Democratic nominee on the ballot for November’s election. However, Ohio Gov. DeWine signed a bill giving the DNC until September 1 to register their candidates’ names, well after the August 19-22 Democratic convention.

This change allows the Democrats an additional three weeks to agree on new candidates to secure the majority of delegates votes on the first balloting. Biden could request that the virtual vote be dropped to allow this additional time to unify the party around a new ticket. 

The biggest hurdle in selecting new candidates is convincing a majority of delegates that their favorite candidate and their community are respected and their interests addressed. That is why Biden and Harris, as the President and Vice President, must take the lead in organizing their party to promote the best ticket possible to defeat Trump. 

Nick Licata
Nick Licata
Nick Licata, was a 5 term Seattle City Councilmember, named progressive municipal official of the year by The Nation, and is founding board chair of Local Progress, a national network of 1,000 progressive municipal officials. Author of Becoming a Citizen Activist. Subscribe to Licata’s newsletter Urban Politics


  1. I hope for rational and realistic thinking and actions by leaders in the Democratic Party. Unfortunately many of our prideful older leaders refuse to step aside at strategic times in order to facilitate the emergence of younger, more capapable, more energetic colleagues to the detriment of their constituents and supporters (i.e. Dianne Feinstein, Ruth Bader Ginsburg). I think that it’s probably best for Joe Biden to step aside as the presidential candidate and become the “bridge” to the future that he promised to be in 2020. Another action that needs to be considered is for Sonja Sotomayor to retire now while Biden is still president and while there is a Democratic majority in the Senate. We can’t afford more justices like the last three.

  2. Why should Biden & Harris, having won election with 81 million votes, pay attention to windy advice from somebody who once hosted (at PRAG House) a presidential hopeful, one Larry Agran!

  3. Joel, Thanks for attending that PRAG House event for Larry Argan! You may have also attended others I hosted for Jim McDermott, Mike Lowry, Don Bonker, and Richard Gephardt. They are better known than Argan, but you never know who rings your bell.


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