I was there Jan. 6. Trump is dangerous. That’s why Biden must exit.

It is deeply irresponsible for Democrats to make voters choose between a candidate who threatens democracy and one who raises serious concerns about fitness.
President Joe Biden on June 27 at the presidential debate with former President Donald Trump in Atlanta.  (Jason Getz/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

President Joe Biden on June 27 at the presidential debate with former President Donald Trump in Atlanta. (Jason Getz/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Many have wrestled with that moment when you have to confront your parents about stepping down or scaling back because of age related impairment, when you have to take away the car keys or arrange for them to have in-home care. Typically, they protest, and there is always the ambiguity of whether it is really necessary. Democrats are now at that point with President Joe Biden. Many saw the debate and despaired, but then they saw the rally in North Carolina and felt new hope. But the consequences of equivocation and delay in this case are not just a broken hip or a car driven into a ditch. The fate of the nation is on the line.

I see the Democratic leadership in Georgia valiantly trying to make the case that they are “Ridin’ with Biden.” But it just isn’t going to work. Nearly 50 million people watched the debate. Before the debate, about 66% of voters were already seriously concerned about Biden’s age. Now, according to a CNN poll, 72% are.

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Credit: Handout

The debate wasn’t just a one-off bad night; it was explicitly marketed as the moment when voters’ fear about Biden would be laid to rest. Obviously, their fears were heightened.

Of course, in my mind, former President Donald Trump is most certainly worse than even a highly impaired Biden. I was in the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and there is no doubt in my mind that Trump neither understands nor cares about the laws, norms and ethics required for a functioning democracy. But it is deeply irresponsible for Democrats to make voters choose between a candidate who threatens the democracy and a candidate who raises serious and well-founded concerns about physical and mental impairment — particularly when they have the very real opportunity to make a change.

Further, I know way too many people who are not going to make the same calculation that I will. They will reluctantly, grudgingly pull the lever for Trump. Biden is trailing in some polls; he is underperforming down-ballot candidates in swing states. That suggests the problem is not Democrats in general; the problem is Biden. And that was before the disastrous debate.

Biden and his campaign owe his supporters a disciplined way forward. Time is of the essence. The media is loving the “Democrats are panicked” message, and Democratic leaders calling people raising legitimate concerns “bedwetters” is simply not going to cut it. This must be put to rest ASAP.

Presumably, the president, if he is capable, can do a series of town halls or tough interviews in the next two weeks to reassure voters that he is up to the job; however, that was supposed to be the purpose of Thursday’s debate. Alternatively, Democrats should proceed as quickly as possible with a strong plan for a brokered convention. Most Democrats’ excuses on this front do not hold water.

So far I have seen the following objections to this path: 1) Biden won’t step down, and it’s too late in the process to do this; 2) if he does step down, then Vice President Kamala Harris will be the nominee, and she can’t win; 3) all the money raised for the campaign is in the name of Biden-Harris and can’t be transferred to another candidate; 4) if the Democrats have a brokered convention, they will tear themselves to shreds and/or there is no evidence that another candidate can do better than Biden.

All of these could be problems, but they certainly don’t have to be. First, Biden could choose to step down and release his delegates. Presumably, if a broad delegation of Democratic leaders firmly tell him this is necessary, I can’t imagine he wouldn’t. There is still time to organize a brokered convention, but within a few weeks it will indeed be too late. Second, let the vice president make her case. We’ve all seen public opinion change, but there is no reason to limit the choice to only her. Having seen the profound pragmatism of the Black leaders like Jim Clyburn in nominating Biden, I don’t think the party will implode if Harris doesn’t get the nomination. Third, having seen how the money flows in campaigns behind the scenes, I am certain there are ways to shift money around to be useful to whoever the nominee is.

Finally, a brokered convention is risky, absolutely, and it will require strong leadership. But at this point, the risk of the convention is less than the risk of continuing with Biden. Highly competent leaders in the party can broker this, not least of which is Biden’s own team. And it is not hard to imagine that new nominee would create a wave of energy — and relief — in an electorate that clearly does not want the options it now has on the ballot.

Overall, Biden has a done a good job. His term has been successful. He has passed good legislation. As a nation, we are building the new economy of the 21st century. But those who have cared for loved ones know what we saw in Atlanta Thursday night: Biden does not have the mental or physical stamina for four more years of one of the most demanding jobs on Earth. It’s no one’s fault, and it’s not fair. But life isn’t fair. And the best path forward is an intentional and organized process to select another Democratic nominee to beat Trump.