Even as it completes construction on Trump’s anti-Latino border wall and stokes conflict with Communist China—and Jill Biden likens Latinos to an array of unique tacos—the Democratic Party enjoys its status as the default leftist option in American politics. So, if the Democrats have any chance of getting credit for the first black female president taking office, they have to take it. Even if it means they don’t get to run the country for long, they have to take it. But what’s the most likely strategy?
I’m surprised there hasn’t been more high-profile war-gaming and betting about this, but one way or another, the Democrats seem to be readying themselves for President Biden’s departure and Vice President Harris’ ascension. What it comes down to is timing. You can immediately perceive a multiverse of possible outcomes.
Does Biden step down well before the 2024 primaries, maybe even this year, if the 2022 midterm elections go badly for the Democrats, giving the faltering, aged President a plausible opportunity to declare himself tired and the country in need of “new blood”? That would enable Harris to become president immediately and then run in 2024 as an incumbent (first! black! female!) president.
Or does Biden, like most of his swamp-creature kind, instead cling to power to the bitter end but by doing so perhaps face Democratic primary challengers in 2024—in which case Harris likely stands by her president, rising or falling with him as v.p. running mate?
Does Biden step down in, say, early 2024 but with barely any time to cement Harris in the public mind as the real incumbent, merely enabling her to enter a likely crowded primary fight in the slightly stronger position of technical incumbent—perhaps facing down a challenge from her old ally (no one’s real friend) Hillary Clinton while they both laugh and smile unconvincingly at each other?
Does Biden run for reelection and lose but step down in December 2024 or so instead of waiting for Inauguration Day in January, just so the party can say that for a few magical, progressive weeks, it hoisted a black female (who never won a single electoral vote on her own) into a brief presidency? Pathetic by policy-making standards, big by left-liberal symbolic standards.
And if the Republicans run Trump (again) or DeSantis (or both together if one of them moves out of Florida), do the Democrats themselves believe Harris could win in her own right? I think she might, but then, it’s the Democrats who think most of the voters are nasty closet racists/sexists who can’t be trusted, and the Democrats aren’t as fond of taking electoral risks as they pretend.
Then again, many of them seem convinced failed gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams is a born winner, even worthy of featuring in a celebratory Star Trek: Discovery scene—from the same J.J. Abrams-tied crowd of producers who shortly before the 2020 election brought you a Watchmen sequel mini-series ending with a black woman walking on water—so maybe the Democrats can’t say no in these situations.
I don’t mean to suggest the whole political calculus should be done in racial terms. I’d prefer a world of resolute individualists. Hard as this is to imagine in today’s combative, tribal political environment, a decade ago, a leftist friend said one of the most distinctive things about me is that I’m visibly disgusted by racism. It’s true, though I’d practically forgotten over the past several years, so accustomed have we all become to assuming we’re within inches of being reprimanded. Nowadays, many on the left would probably insinuate I’m a Nazi just for wanting tax cuts, and they’ll have no qualms about making 2024 an ethnic (and gender) fight if they can.
Some Trumpers happily will too, of course, but I still refuse to succumb to the popular game of pretending they’re the ones who invented ugly racial politics.
We live in a world where, for instance, the liberal establishment is so eager to stoke racial conflict that that weird, hostile Central Park bird-watcher who got into fights with several different dog-walkers in a period of a few days before managing to paint one as a racist in the media is nowrewarded with his own bird-watching show-hosting gig on the National Geographic Channel (because being a writer/editor for Marvel Comics already wasn’t a plum enough media job for the poor oppressed soul).
We live in a world where every single manifestation of civilization, right down to logic and math, now gets called an evil manifestation of white privilege—yet somehow the establishment didn’t scream “white privilege,” when, say, 20-year New Jersey State Senate member Steve Sweeney tried to cling to power after his defeat last year by claiming he’d found 12,000 new votes in need of counting in a race in which only about 30,000 votes were actually cast on each side. He’s a Democrat, so whatever grasping, power-hungry, calcified impulse that was, we’re not calling it white privilege. That’s a smear reserved for use against Republicans.
Interestingly, whites have increasingly been sympathetic to such smears and concerns, so millions of them may dutifully vote for Harris or anyone who looks like her (even if she has a disturbingly authoritarian record of locking up non-white offenders and ignoring exculpatory evidence as if she were a bad cop), while nearly every other major demo, from Latinos to black males, has been moving rightward and away from left-wing “wokeness” in recent polls. White males are more easily guilt-tripped on these topics, basically, even if it means ushering in socialism. Other demos want a functioning economy.
But that means America’s whole white/black thing is no longer the rigid, eternal quasi-class-war it once seemed. It’s becoming more akin to a passing cultural fad with fuzzy battle lines. Another demo that (for now) loves the woke talk is twentysomething, white, liberal females—who also happen, according to recent studies, to be the demo with the highest self-reported rate of mental illnesses. They can be passionate and have plenty of cultural influence, but they may not be a good foundation on which to build a stable, rational, progressive plan for the nation’s future.
If America has lately been moving wokeward, it hasn't done so in accordance with the big, inexorable laws of history in which the left once trusted. The fickle public could do just about anything in 2024, from embracing socialism to calling for rule by regional warlords, and I'd imagine my Democrat friends are experiencing some serious anxiety about it. They’ll need symbolic progressive cover as they look around, sweating, for the safest thing to do.