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The speech Joe Biden won’t give, Part II

Joe Biden on stage
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Opdycke is the founder and president of Open Primaries, a national advocacy organization working to enact and protect open and nonpartisan primaries and enhance the visibility and power of independent voters. His monthly column, Brash Tacks,offers insights into how a people-powered, non-ideological democracy movement can be most effective in revamping our political process and culture to meet the needs of a complex and ever-changing 21st century landscape.

After the debate on June 27, it seems like the Democratic Party consultant class is starting to catch up with the American people on the question of whether President Joe Biden should run for reelection.

The concern has focused on his debate performance and his physical and mental capacities. But the American people — particularly independent voters who swung to Biden in 2020 — have been expressing a deeper concern for some time: “Hey, Joe, we voted for you to get Trump out of office and take a break from the drama. Your job was to stabilize things and then turn it over to the next generation. We don’t need you to be a transformational president. Are you listening to us?”

Independent voters, now 45 percent of the national electorate, broke for Biden by 14 points in 2020 after having backed Donald Trump by 4 points in 2016 — an 18 point swing. But independents didn't hand Biden the presidency to coronate him four years later. That’s not how independents think and it isn’t how they vote.

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Here’s the irony. The Democrats who are panicking are the same folks who made sure that Biden didn’t face a primary challenge. They drove Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a lifelong Democrat, out of the party and ridiculedDean Phillips, who had the guts to give up a promising political career to enter the presidential primary because he believed a Biden coronation would help Trump. For his troubles, Phillips was lambasted, kept off the ballot and driven out of Congress. The Democratic Party swaddled Biden in bubble wrap, demonized anyone suggesting that a competitive primary was a good thing and now are stuck with a presumptive nominee whose capacity to perform the basic duties of a presidential candidate is in question.

The 2024 Democratic presidential primary is Exhibit 1 in the case to change how we conduct primary elections. We the people pay for them. Our state election administrators conduct them. But small bands of partisans determine who is allowed to vote and who is allowed to run. This construct doesn’t work. It concentrates power in the hands of people who want less competition, not more. We need public primaries, not partisan primaries, to make sure the voice of the people is heard.

The Democratic Party believes Biden can win simply by pointing out that Donald Trump lies. But many Americans believe it’s all lies. Biden lies. Trump lies. Washington lies.Some lies are more polite than others, as Yasha Mounk points out. But it's all lies. Arizona State University’s Center for an Independent and Sustainable Democracy justcompleted a survey of 1,315 Gen Z voters in Arizona, half of whom are independents. Eighty percent of respondents said that both major parties are out of touch with people their age and that all politicians are corrupt. Democrats yelling “Trump doesn’t tell the truth” is not a strategy, it's a hail mary.

So once again(click here for part I), here is the post debate speech Biden could (but can’t and won’t) give:

Boy, I really screwed that up. I’ve forgotten how much energy it takes to run for president and debate at a high level. First, I need to acknowledge that most Americans voted for me in 2020 to vanquish Trump. I did that and I'm proud of that. I am also proud of the policies we pursued during and after the Covid crisis. But I forgot why you elected me — to be a bridge. Last year, I should have demanded that we have a vigorous primary. It was a mistake to protect me from the voters. We should have had a 10-candidate Democratic primary for president. But we didn’t. That’s my fault.

But we still have time. I’ve asked six polling firms to do a poll unlike any poll ever done. They are going to talk to 50,000 independent voters and 50,000 Democrats and ask them if they think I should bow out and use the convention to decide who our standard bearer should be. If the people prefer I step aside, I will release every delegate and every superdelegate pledged to me.

At the convention, let’s debate and audition candidates. Let’s make up for the fact that we didn’t have a primary. Let’s apologize to Congressman Phillips and then get down to work. Let’s improvise, debate and create a ticket that will inspire. It’s a short time frame but let’s have the discussion.

Biden could say that. But partisan politics is all he knows. And partisan politics is always about what’s good for the party, not good for the country.

Here’s the good news: Independent/reform politics is booming — it’s where the action is! Nonpartisan primaries and nonpartisan redistricting will be on the ballot in eight states this November. Voters in red states and blue are fed up with the parties running the process. The Democratic convention should vote to stop opposing and endorse each and every one of these reform campaigns. If democracy is on the ballot in 2024, as the Democrats say it is, then let's use the ballot to expand our democracy.

Expanding democracy is how we get out of this pickle.

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