Lynn Schmidt is a syndicated columnist and Editorial Board member with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Democrats need a shot in the arm. No, not a vaccine, rather a dose of energy and enthusiasm.
If one considers Donald Trump, who is almost certainly going to be the 2024 GOP nominee and is certainly a threat to our democratic republic, then you know that the fate of our democracy remains in the hands of the Democratic Party. While President Biden defeated Trump in 2020, Biden is not going into 2024 with the strength needed to do it again.
A July New York Times/Siena Poll showed a tie between Biden and Trump, each with 43%, when respondents were asked if the 2024 presidential election were held today, who would you vote for. That the two men are tied should give all Americans who think Trump’s behavior after the 2020 election was disqualifying, great pause.
In the same poll when Democratic voters were asked if the Democratic Party should renominate Joe Biden as the party's candidate for president in 2024, 50% of Democrats said they should nominate someone else.
Even though Biden’s legislative successes are piling up the data shows that the economy is improving, Biden approval ratings are not. They remain steady at 40% and not getting better over time. Many blame this weak opinion of the president on his age, polarization, an even more unpopular vice-president, or a combination of all three.
I propose an additional theory: Biden seems unable to inspire the American people.
Could an aspirational leader, a younger Democrat, someone with political talent galvanize the electorate to find common ground, change the direction from the wrong track towards the right, and break up our hyperpolarized quagmire? It certainly seems quite feasible.
One such skillful politician, a Democratic backbencher, is former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Landrieu deserves to be brought up from the minors to the big leagues and be allowed to show the country what he’s got.
Landrieu served as the 61st Mayor of New Orleans from 2010 to 2018 during which time he played a key role in helping the city rebound from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He previously served as Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana from 2004 to 2010. In 2021 President Biden named Landrieu a Senior Advisor and Infrastructure Coordinator who is responsible for coordinating and implementing the bipartisan infrastructure law.
Beyond his impressive executive skills and resume, Landrieu may be most widely known for a speech he gave in May of 2017 when he removed the last of the city’s several Confederate monuments. Landrieu’s rhetoric was hopeful and nonjudgmental. Here are a couple, potent stanzas from the speech.
“And I knew that taking down the monuments was going to be tough, but you elected me to do the right thing, not the easy thing and this is what that looks like. So relocating these Confederate monuments is not about taking something away from someone else. This is not about politics, this is not about blame or retaliation. This is not a naïve quest to solve all our problems at once.”
“This is however about showing the whole world that we as a city and as a people are able to acknowledge, understand, reconcile and most importantly, choose a better future for ourselves making straight what has been crooked and making right what was wrong. Otherwise, we will continue to pay a price with discord, with division and yes with violence.”
Landrieu’s words offered a promising future while not alienating those who disagree with him. They also illustrate his commitment to public service and his leadership style. It is also worth noting that he used the word “truth” 13 times in the speech.
Many presidents have brought the country together during crises with their moving oratory. Washington’s Farewell Address, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Inaugural Address, Reagan’s Berlin Wall Speech, and George W. Bush’s Post-9/11 Speech comes to mind.
The country should be grateful to Biden for his leadership out of the pandemic and restoring normalcy to our civic discord. But it is important that the Democratic Party look towards the future and elevate a younger voice; an energetic leader with good communication skills, and an inspiring vision. Someone who can inspire a broad coalition plus add new voters. Someone like Landrieu.
The same poll as mentioned above shows there is about 14% of the electorate that is up for grabs. This section of the electorate tended towards Biden in 2020 but now are recoiling at the idea of voting for either Trump or Biden again and are even unsure of whether they should even vote at all in 2024. This group is up for the taking, for a leader with skills, talent, and vision.
A resounding win by a bold and visionary leader is what our nation needs to address the serious problems facing our nation.