They Will Unseat Him: The Plot Against All Precedent

Last year, Joe Biden mulled and mooted a pledge to serve, if successful, just one term in the White House.

Biden campaign aides discussed airbrushing the primitive reality—the man would be older on his first day in office than President Reagan had been on his last. At 78, their candidate would be the oldest president in history.

According to four Biden insiders, the one-term pledge would vaccinate the whispers of rival campaigns and the murmurs within the Democratic eco-system suggesting Biden’s age disqualified him from the nomination.

The campaign compromised: Biden signaled to aides he’d serve just one term, yet rejected an official pledge as a “gimmick,” fearing the risky amplifications—a literal admission he was too old for the demands of the world’s most demanding of jobs.

John Podesta agreed. “That’s a weak play,” said Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign chairman. “I think who his vice president is will be very important because people will be thinking about that. But I don’t think I would make a one-term pledge. You’ve disempowered yourself as president,” adding, “I don’t think it helps you as a candidate. It accentuates your weakness. It doesn’t fix it.”

Instead, Biden settled on an alternative—he’d nod quietly, assure party leaders silently that one term was his lot, declining any official pledge.

Speaking to Politico, prominent advisers worried Biden’s age turned off legions of young Democrats—especially on the surging left-wing—insensate to his candidacy and its moderate animation.

An 82-year-old President Biden running for reelection in 2024? Advisers said this notion “is virtually inconceivable.”

“If Biden is elected,” one prominent campaign adviser said, “He’s going to be 82 years old in four years and he won’t be running for reelection.”

The Biden campaign straightened the fork in the road. Biden was a placeholder, a bridge from his Democratic Party to that of the fresh progressive wing, touting himself as the best chance to unseat President Trump.

Then, he’d transfuse the party’s new blood into the arteries of power—“That makes Biden a good transition figure,” the adviser said. “I’d love to have an election this year for the next generation of leaders, but if I have to wait four years [in order to] get rid of Trump, I’m willing to do it.”

As the nomination fight burned bright, that adviser almost skipped the four-year wait.

In February, Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) led the pack, the progressive wing’s keen favorites to snatch the nomination, and the party’s very soul.

It was not to be. The Democratic establishment’s billionaire class repulsed by the Sanders-Warren confiscatory rhetoric, dominoed Bernie’s rivals ahead of Biden’s Super Tuesday resurrection.

The Democratic establishment scotched the Bernie-Warren guerrillas, yet the discomfiting reality remained: Biden is too old.

President Obama reportedly bemoaned Biden as an outmoded relic, insensate of today’s Democratic electorate, telling one Democratic candidate in Iowa: “And you know who really doesn’t have it? Joe Biden.”

Obama’s glacial endorsement came only after the establishment stitched Biden’s nomination together. Obama warned another Democrat: “Don’t underestimate Joe’s ability to fuck things up.”

The establishment’s discomfort mollified only when Biden winked and nodded he’d serve just one term, and his vice-presidential pick would satisfy their desire for a modern Democratic Party face.

Another Biden adviser said the nominee’s thinking settled on finding such a running mate whom he could “turn things over to after four years.” If that proved not possible, Biden would run for reelection.

Over the course of last year, Biden’s thinking shifted. In April, he firmly attested “No,” when asked of his one-term plan. By October, he said: “I feel good and all I can say is, watch me, you’ll see.

“It doesn’t mean I would run a second term. I’m not going to make that judgment at this moment.”

Biden’s strategic ambiguity hasn’t survived contact with Americans. Nearly half of Democrats and two-thirds of Americans believe Biden won’t serve even four years, elevating his running mate, Kamala Harris, whom just four percent of primary voters preferred, to the presidency.

Kamala’s perceptible good fortune betrays the Democratic establishment’s careful and considerate grooming of the junior senator for California.

Starting out as a 29-year-old attorney, Kamala’s rise relied on the Pacific Heights coterie of Democratic power brokers, her ascendancy punching through immutable barriers erected in the paths of the unanointed. From junior senator, Harris rose in just three years to serious candidate for the Democratic nomination, infused with the financial and familial wishes of the Bay Area machine and the San Franciscan billionaire’s row.

The “Tony Blair of San Francisco,” Kamala connects to every synapse of the Democratic Party’s nervous system. Before faltering, her “For The People” campaign magnetized the party’s billionaire backers, and brahmins like Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)

If elected, a Biden-Harris Administration would place Kamala within one heartbeat of the presidency.

As prominent Democratic insiders speculated last year, concerns with Joe Biden’s age seeped beneath the grassroots, and vined atop the party’s canopy. Only when Biden’s nomination was of convenience, did those concerns mute.

Indeed, a subject now verboten among Democratic elites is the question of their nominee’s mental fitness. Biden’s cognitive slowing again once uttered, now shushed, despite more than half of Democrats saying it is important their nominee publicly addresses questions about his cognitive health.

Biden has assured his party that he is a placeholder, his presidential tenure limited to one term, his job: unseat President Trump and hand the party over to new blood.  

Yet, the question must be asked: Why would the Democratic establishment wait four years to anoint their preferred Kamala Harris not only as party leader but as the first female president?

If Biden is elected, the qualities which attracted the Democratic establishment to his once unlikely candidacy would be made defunct. Kamala Harris would be one step from the presidency.

Allowing Biden to serve a full four years would mean the establishment’s deeply unpopular candidate then having to fight and win the 2024 election in which the Pacific Heights set, for all its financial might, gets the same number of votes as an electorate with whom Kamala is wildly unpopular.

A higher percentage of Americans believe shape-shifting lizards control mankind than the percentage of Democratic primary voters convinced Kamala Harris is suited to the White House.

For good reason. Kamala’s worldview shoots far beyond middle America. Kamala is for decriminalizing border crossings. She wants to ban fracking, nixing 6 million energy jobs—600,000 of those in Pennsylvania alone. She helped bail out rioters. San Francisco is not America.

Over the last four years of official “resistance,” the Democratic establishment cooked phony Russian and Ukrainian fables and unsuccessfully impeached the duly elected president of the United States, all in a bid to overturn the 2016 election.

Would this suggest with considerable logical force that the establishment, giddy on Trump’s defeat, would remove an addled President Biden and install Kamala Harris before the first kindling of spring?

Americans would do well to ask: Why not?

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About Christopher Gage

Christopher Gage is a British political journalist and a founding member of the Gentlemen of the Swig. Subscribe to his Substack, "Oxford Sour."

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images