Progressives' new year resolution: Primary Biden?

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

So says Politico’s Holly Otterbein, but this can’t be serious … can it? “He’s deeply unpopular,” the former comms director for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told her, and “he’s old as shit.”

Progressives are just figuring that out, eh?

“Will there be a progressive challenger? Yes,” said Jeff Weaver, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ former presidential campaign manager.

Weaver stresses that he is not advocating for such a primary campaign. But the chatter about a left-wing challenge to Biden, which was virtually nonexistent weeks ago, has suddenly burst into public view in the wake of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) killing the president’s climate and social spending bill.

“He’s deeply unpopular. He’s old as shit. He’s largely been ineffective, unless we’re counting judges or whatever the hell inside-baseball scorecard we’re using. And I think he’ll probably get demolished in the midterms,” said Corbin Trent, co-founder of the progressive No Excuses PAC and former communications director for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). “People will smell opportunity, and D.C. is filled with people who want to be president.”

People are certainly smelling something, but it’s probably not opportunity. In fact, what they might be smelling is betrayal. Biden blew up his presidency in 2021 by an overt decision to buy into that next-FDR nonsense in the face of an evenly split Congress and a voter mandate for calm and quiet. Progressives pushed Biden all year into becoming their champion, which Biden idiotically embraced despite clearly not having the votes to push their hard-Left agenda.

Now progressives want to replace Biden with one of their own, but without any of Biden’s ties to the centrist wing of their own party. How do they calculate that will improve their ability to pass legislation, especially in a future Congress that will almost certainly be under full Republican control by 2025, if not 2023?

The odds of that happening will increase if Democrats have a 1979-esque presidential primary fight. Remember Ted Kennedy’s progressive-wing challenge to Jimmy Carter? In 1979, Democrats had far too much of a lead in the House to lose it in the Ronald Reagan landslide, but the Senate results in 1980 are instructive on this point. In 1979, Democrats controlled the Senate 58/42. Two years later, Republicans took control 56/43, a swing of 29 seats in the gap. Of course, the country had extraordinary economic, cultural, and international challenges at the time, but … [looks around] … oh yeah.

Kennedy’s challenge to Carter was serious enough at the time. He was not just an acknowledged leader of the progressive wing among Democrats, but also the last scion of Camelot with a national following and massive sympathies among Democrats even after Chappaquiddick — and still fell short. What lion of that stature will arise to challenge Biden? Not Sanders, who’s also “older than shit” and only popular among progressives, and not almost-as-old Elizabeth Warren either, according to these progressive activists. Instead, these are the barely-cubs that progressives want to push for a Biden challenge:

Left-wing operatives and activists agree that if Biden declines to run for reelection, a more fulsome list of progressive candidates will consider a campaign, possibly including “Squad” members Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.). California Reps. Khanna and Katie Porter, Warren, former presidential candidate Julián Castro and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) also draw mention. If liberals fare well in next year’s midterms, that could also have an impact in shaping the 2024 field, particularly if the election goes as badly as expected for the party as a whole.

They’re joking, right? The last House member to win a presidential contest was James Garfield, and that was in the days of the smoke-filled rooms and party bosses. Not one of these people other than Merkley has even a statewide constituency, and all of them exist on the Leftist fringe of their own party, let alone the country. Good luck with that upset in the primaries.

And guess who’s name isn’t on this list?

With the exception of Porter, who has ties to Vice President Kamala Harris, progressives do not expect prospective candidates on the left to stand down if Biden decides not to run again and passes the baton to his veep.

Hoo boy. Biden picked Harris to pander to the progressive wing, and even they think she’s now a non-starter. They’re looking to challenge her even if Biden pulls out, a vote of non-confidence that might be the only progressive position shared by the rest of the country. Harris turned out to be the first of a pattern of bad decisions by Biden, and again one that bowed to progressive demands for diversity and inclusion, as well as a leg up in the next contested presidential primary.

The clear lesson from this for Biden would be to dump the progressives, the FDR aspirations, and start working with centrists and Republicans to get some tasks accomplished. Since Biden is completely incapable of introspection or wisdom, the only thing left is to stock up on popcorn for the next couple of years.