Should Biden drop out of the race?

As per court rules, Donald Trump remains in the race, but can Biden successfully outcast him again

Farrukh Khan Pitafi March 09, 2024
The writer is an Islamabad-based TV journalist and policy commentator. Follow his WhatsApp channel ‘Farrukh K Pitafi’ for the latest updates


The US Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that the state of Colorado (or for that matter any state) cannot disqualify Donald Trump (or any federal presidential candidate) from running for the office of the president. That is not all. Five out of nine justices then went a step further and ruled that the insurrection clause of the 14th Amendment could not be invoked without Congress laying out a process. This last demand is just as simple as asking for the moon given the gridlocked state of the US Congress. Result? Donald Trump remains in the race. No technical knockout.

This verdict has resulted in many things. It crushed the hopes of Nikki Haley who was hanging on in the vain hope that if the popular choice (Trump) got knocked out based on a technicality despite losing popular support even in her own state she would automatically become the presumptive nominee. It also had a destabilising effect on some Democrats who were demanding that either President Joe Biden drop out of the race or replace his running mate. This second effect interests us more even though Ambassador Haley may also feature a little in the discussion later.

Say what you will about Donald Trump but he has not wasted his decades in the limelight as the carnal embodiment of the American dream. When it comes to exploiting the media the man is some kind of a genius. While cultivating an interesting rapport with the media throughout his career he exchanged favours with many media men and women without much ado and these media persons, regardless of their political leanings, now function as embeds in his vast network of anonymous surrogates. In 2016 without spending a dime on coverage he ran a unique campaign with the help of this network that made it impossible for the media to look away. Others, like Bannon, would later try to take credit for his victory but in truth it was Trump all along who knew how to sell his dark charisma by exploiting America’s deepest faultlines and keeping everyone transfixed. Once it was clear that even the most conservative Republicans were ready to look beyond the ‘Access Hollywood Tape’ scandal, it was very difficult to check his progress.

I am spending this much time reminding you of this campaign to help you evaluate what changed in 2020. It would be unfair to leave out the mention of foreign influence. Given the state of polarisation America was in, the country’s friends and foes alike took advantage of this vulnerability. While American media spent most of his term in office focusing on the alleged Russian election meddling stories, in many respects this proved to be a misdirect because it took attention away from what America’s most championed allies were doing at the time. Trump was still holed up in his New York towers after victory when Japan’s late Shinzo Abe came calling. Israel’s Netanyahu had already established contact through the Jared-Ivanka connection. Then came Trump’s Indian business partners who, in the words of a fly on the wall, were so desperate that they would have resorted to Johnny English-like mode of entry into the Trump Towers had they been denied an audience. The finalisation of Nikki Haley’s name as America’s permanent representative to the UN reportedly was an outcome of this meeting.

Needless to say, both friends and foes soon soured on Trump. Despite the rhetoric otherwise, Trump did not seek a direct confrontation with China or North Korea to the great dislike of Abe. The rightwing Indian diaspora did not get the Muslim ban which would include Pakistan among other countries. And his engagement with the Afghan Taliban and for facilitation, with Pakistan was a deal breaker in many Indian eyes. To Netanyahu’s great chagrin, Trump soon declared an end to the global war on terror which for all practical purposes ruined his decades-long effort to keep the so-called clash of civilisations as the dominant international narrative. And even Russia wasn’t happy because it could not find the stamp of approval at the UN for its annexation of Crimea and plans for Ukraine.

Along came Biden. A white working-class maverick with long congressional and foreign policy experience, rock-hard African American support after spending almost a decade as Obama’s loyal veep, a grandpa called back from semi-retirement to defend his nation against anarchy despite his tragic family losses. His being white and mainstream is important because then it isn’t easy for his opposition to take him down through conspiracy theories. Ask the proponents of the QAnon conspiracy theory. They tried and failed miserably. I mean if the best theory you can come up with is that the actual Biden has passed and an automaton has taken his place you have lost the battle already. Then the choice of Kamala Harris as his running mate and an ability to win over support from Bernie Sanders and the Squad further solidified his candidature. In 2020 therefore he managed to unite the disparate wings of a divided party and cobble together a coalition even greater than Obama’s.

Since his victory, he has managed to deliver on many of his campaign promises. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law of 2021 (read Biden Infrastructure Law) has laid down a solid foundation for economic recovery. He has also brought down the prices of medicine. The job numbers speak for themselves. With the Black vote solidly behind him he remains the only candidate who can win over Bernie, the Latin American vote, and the Squad once again.

Needless to say, the same international forces alienated by Trump soured on Biden soon too. India lost its enthusiasm when he stayed the course in Afghanistan. His insistence on a two-state solution offends Netanyahu who in turn seems to have started a forever war in Gaza among other goals also to ostensibly weaken Biden’s prospects in the presidential election.

But here is the best-kept secret. If Trump’s detractors don’t know how to bring him down, Biden’s critics are at an even greater loss. They have tried everything. From snide comments regarding his age and mental health to his son’s misfortunes. But nothing seems to work. The new trick is about Gaza. But here is the thing. Would you let Trump or Haley be in charge who are ready to oversee the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in Gaza?

The truth is that Biden and Kamala Harris remain the only two people who successfully defeated Trump and can do it again. The idea of Biden dropping out now is just preposterous. As is the notion of replacing his running mate.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 9th, 2024.

Like Opinion & Editorial on Facebook, follow @ETOpEd on Twitter to receive all updates on all our daily pieces.



Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ