July 9, 2024 at 1:05 a.m.
Guest Columnist

Debate Uproar Signals More Drama Ahead

The next couple of weeks should be among the most politically intriguing in our lifetime. As of this writing, President Joe Biden struggles to save his hobbled campaign, as former President Donald Trump, still embroiled in lawsuits, mulls over his running mate options.

Never before have we seen two presidents running amidst so much at stake—immigration, inflation, the Fentanyl crisis, abortion rights, Palestinian protests, and hot wars in Gaza, Ukraine, threatened aggression in the Far East.

I’ve followed election cycles for more than 60 years and learned much of what I know at the family dinner table. My father was an unwavering Republican who wore his preferences on his car bumper.  Those were the days when a bumper sticker wasn’t an invitation to being egged, keyed or worse.

Actually, this summer reminds me of 1974, in the waning days of the Nixon presidency.  At that time, the nation was in an uproar about Nixon’s pending impeachment and whether he would opt to resign. He finally did, on Aug. 9, less than two years after his historic re-election landslide.

As then, we have a president urged to step aside. Signs of mental and physical decline begs the question whether Biden is able to do his job now, much less after a second term, when he’ll be 86.

Unlike the Watergate era, the press has, to a great extent, run cover for the president because they so loathe Donald Trump.  Biden’s decline and the media’s choice to ignore it, came to critical mass June 27, during the debate that, ironically, Biden’s team had asked for.

As I write this column, we are just learning that a Parkinson’s specialist has visited the White House numerous times. Somehow nobody bothered to check the visitor log until now.

Biden supporters and prominent members of the media have expressed shock learning that Biden may have dementia, others who’ve followed the President claim they’ve been aware of this for a long time while others cry “elder abuse,” at those urging Biden to appear in public, disoriented and feeble.

Writing this column in the midst of the national debate over “the debate,” is risky. Anything could happen at any time. Trump is a lightning rod that you either love or hate. Polls have Trump ahead, but I’ve learned not to trust polls. Voters lie, some fail to follow through. Many polls are skewed too far right or left to be accurate.

When it comes to presidential predictions, I think of Dr. Allan Lichtman, the historian who wrote “13 Keys to the White House,” explaining how his analysis can predict presidential winners. He considers such “keys” as charisma, incumbency, scandals, the economy, warfare.  These factors affect voters, and so far, Lichtman has been correct in nine out of 10 election cycles. He says the worst thing Biden can do is to resign or withdraw from the race.  Lichtman, Democrat, says Biden is poised to win, though Lichtman admits that some of his keys are subjective. Is Biden charismatic? Is Trump?

I agree that Biden won’t leave willingly. He says he’ll stay in the race, a point clearly supported by First Lady Jill Biden, son Hunter and other family members—Joe Biden’s most trusted advisers, we’re told. They’re all in, and given that primaries are over, delegates committed and the convention in Chicago  is 40 days away. A candidate switch is highly unlikely.

Trump, who currently leads in polls including swing states, represents the end of democracy, opponents say. Trump joked that he’d be a dictator on day one, but Democrats aren’t laughing.  

Conversely, Biden’s Democrats are the ones who have sued to keep Trump and third-party candidates Cornel West and Robert F. Kennedy off ballots. In fact, West and Kennedy are currently blocked in North Carolina. Is this democratic? I’ll let you be the judge.

Biden pulling out of the race now would pose major problems, not the least being campaign funding. Disgruntled donors do not have a right to an automatic refund. Legal experts have said that access to the money, believed to be at least $91million, could be funneled to Vice President Kamala Harris if she replaced Biden. But there would be a far bigger problem if another candidate stepped in.

Another dilemma is that Harris’s is approval rating. It’s about equal to Biden’s which hovers at 36 percent among likely voters. No President has ever been re-elected with a rating that low.

And, aside from figuring out who would replace Biden, there’s another sticky issue with early filing deadlines. If those are missed, do Democrats just write off those states?

The national conventions, particularly the Democratic one, will be must-see viewing, much like the contested 1968 convention which, I should point out, was also in Chicago. I remember watching it the summer I turned 14 with unease. There were riots. Mayor Richard Daley yelling across the crowded hall, of reporter Dan Rather being ruffled up by security officers.

I see more drama coming. The fumbled debate and the current hubbub are only the warmup.

---Tammy Wilson is a writer who lives near Newton. Contact her at  [email protected]


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