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If Not Joe, Who?


Joe Biden speaks during 2020 primary election campaign.
Joe Biden addressing voters at Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina , Feb. 26, 2020. Photo by Bob Gatty.

With the 2024 presidential election campaign already in full swing, there is concern among fellow Democrats that Joe Biden could be defeated. Many cite his age as a factor while others are angry that, despite his promises, he hasn’t unified the nation that was torn apart under the Trump administration.


So, if not Joe, who?


Most would prefer another Democrat to run in his place, but no one is stepping up to challenge the current commander-in-chief for the nomination. This has some threatening to boycott the election rather than cast a vote for a candidate they don’t wholeheartedly support.


Of course, Republicans are salivating at this intra-party squabbling while they continue to search for any means to discredit Biden’s presidency. From Marjorie Taylor Greene’s multiple attempts to have him impeached simply because he isn’t Donald Trump to James Comer’s almost laughable claims to have finally found the smoking gun that will prove some sort of impropriety worthy of investigating, they aren’t at a loss for wasting taxpayer dollars on Quixotic efforts to gain some measure of revenge for the multiple investigations into the Trump administration.


Such antics are reminiscent of late-night comedian John Oliver’s shouting “We got him!” whenever another Trump scandal arose. Republicans have certainly shown the same chutzpah, although without the balloons, confetti, marching bands and tiger mascot (although they would surely find a way for taxpayers to fund this).


But if Joe’s age is a factor, why aren’t they also questioning the same of his potential challenger? If they want to argue Biden’s mental acuity, why don’t they demand the same of the man who thought a test to determine dementia was somehow a sign of his genius? If they want to hurl the unfounded slander of labeling him “Pedo Joe”, why don’t they hold the one found liable for sexual assault to the same standards? If they can investigate Biden’s son, Hunter, for allegedly profiting off his father’s position, why won’t they look into the millions made by Jared and Ivanka while they were White House advisors?


Oh yeah. They are hypocrites, that’s why.


As for failing to unify the country, as the old saying goes, it takes two to tango. So, even if it would be beneficial for the mass number of Americans who support it, Republicans would rather put up a fight rather than do what’s right. That goes for gun control, abortion, the environment and even the current battle over the debt ceiling limit. They see any roadblocks they can erect as a victory for their party.


So, it’s easy to see why Republicans welcome this bickering, even as Biden remains the lone Democratic presidential candidate. With no one opposing him, he is already the presumptive nominee even though a single vote has yet to be cast.


But what if Joe decided to step aside? What if a health issue or, Heaven forbid, something more serious befell him, forcing him to withdraw? Who would step up to the plate to take on the mantle of the leader of the party?


Here are some possible options in the event Joe is unable to run:


Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris campaigning in South Carolina
Then. Sen. Kamala Harris speaking to South Carolina Democrats July 7, 2019. Photo by Bob Gatty.

Being Vice President is often a crucial stepping stone to the highest office in the land. Our early history saw most of those chosen to be a heartbeat away from the Oval Office go on to become president. Had Biden run in 2016, it’s likely he would have prevented the chaos we currently endure. George H W Bush also succeeded, although only for one term as he failed to live up to the expectations set by his predecessor.


Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Richard Nixon all rose to the rank of president, although the former two first gained the office due to the deaths of their presidents. Yet, each was successful in getting elected to the in their own right even though Nixon was forced to resign following the Watergate scandal.


Just being vice president is not automatically a ticket to the White House. Nixon lost out on his first attempt to succeed Eisenhower. Other recent failures are Walter Mondale, Dan Quayle and Al Gore, who famously halted his fight with George W Bush to unify the nation rather than continue to battle over Florida’s decisive votes.


As for Harris, should she be the Democratic candidate, she would certainly be faced with some serious obstacles. There are some who question her style as Vice President while others want to go back to her role as a prosecutor to taint her reputation. Then there is the all-too-predictable backlash she will face for being both female and a person of color. While it should not be an issue, Republicans have already resurrected the birther controversy that dogged President Obama. Tied to misogyny and White Supremacists questioning her ability to lead, she would be a difficult choice.


Pete Buttigieg


Pete Buttigieg official portrait
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg

While he may always be referred to affectionately as Mayor Pete, his current role as Transportation Secretary has given him the national exposure he lacked in 2020. This has permitted him to witness the toxic political environment that is currently the norm in Washington. As Secretary of Transportation, he has been criticized for the holiday airport snafus and the train derailment in Ohio.


He has the military background as a member of the Navy Reserve and was stationed in Afghanistan for seven months during that confrontation. It’s a star in his resume that many of those who occupied the Oval Office can’t share.


He is the first openly gay man to seek the office of president, which has earned him the ire of the religious right who claim to have some innate ability to know the will of the Almighty. This has also resulted in his being mocked by both right-wing media and Republican members of Congress, who ridiculed his need to take paternity leave when his twin sons were adopted.


He has an excellent educational pedigree, graduating from Harvard and then on to Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. So, he can’t be faulted for lacking the background necessary for being president.


His youthful appearance and personal charisma make him an almost perfect candidate as some even draw comparisons to JFK, but those on the right, particularly Evangelicals, will likely oppose him due to his sexual preferences. Nonetheless, he could be a viable candidate.


Gretchen Whitmer

Gretchen Whitmer
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

That “Woman from Michigan” certainly has the political gravitas necessary to win over even those who would oppose her. She is not one to shy away from a fight, either. She called out the media who criticized her attire instead of focusing on her message during her state’s State of the Union address. She stood her ground when armed protesters stormed the state capitol building demanding she reverse COVID restrictions. She was even seen as such a threat that there was a plot to kidnap her.


While she lacks experience on the Federal level, she would not be the first to go from the state house to the White House. Bill Clinton had two successful terms after being Governor of Arkansas, and there are many other examples on both sides of the aisle. Despite this, she was able to gain national attention when she was chosen to give the Democratic response to Donald Trump’s 2020 State of the Union address. She gained further fame by opposing his COVID policies, earning her the moniker, “that woman from Michigan”. What Trump viewed as a slight, she used as a campaign slogan to gain reelection in 2022 over a Trump-endorsed candidate.


Her views on abortion, gun control, the environment and many other issues are in line with the progressive wing of her party, which may alarm some moderates, but she certainly has that certain something that Republicans see as threatening, which makes her someone to look for, if not in the immediate future, then certainly a few years down the line.


Gavin Newsom

Gavin Newsome
California Gov. Gavin Newsome

Like Whitmer, Newsom is also no shrinking violet. He’s battled Donald Trump over COVID restrictions, the environment and drought and wildlife crises as he has guided his state through some troubled times. All the while, he also had to deal with a partisan recall effort that he defeated.


Newsom’s personal life is definitely a colorful one. He was once married to the hot-headed loudmouth, Kimberly Guilfoyle, who is currently engaged to Donald Trump Jr. He confessed to an extramarital affair with the wife of a staff member and has sought treatment for alcohol abuse.


So, he is certainly not without his flaws.


His political stance, like Whitmer’s is progressive, so he brings the same concerns as Whitmer with the moderate wing. He has regularly gone toe-to-toe with his Republican counterparts in Florida and Texas, along with perpetually Cancun bound Ted Cruz, and has emerged unscathed, showing he has the ability to take on any opponent.


Newsom’s everyman persona would definitely be appealing to a number of Liberal voters, however it’s that same appeal that has made him the target of right-wing scorn. He would certainly be a formidable candidate if he chose to run.


Oprah

Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey

One name recognition is a sign you have truly made it. Like Elvis, Cher and Beyoncé, the name Oprah evokes the image of only one person. Her rags-to-riches story is the stuff every American imagines when they envision the American Dream. Her enormous popularity has comedians joking that she is actually the most powerful person in the country.


From her humble beginnings she built a media empire from a single talk show. Her production company, Harpo (that’s Oprah spelled backwards) and her television network, the Oprah Winfrey Network, or OWN, have only furthered her image as both a media genius and a savvy businesswoman. It has spawned a multitude of similar talk shows as many hope to equal her success, but no one has come close.


Could such popularity transfer into politics? It happened to Donald Trump who was as much a political novice as Oprah would be should she chose to enter the race.


But, when it comes to the two of them, they couldn’t be more different. Oprah is known for her generosity while Trump is infamous for his grifting. While Trump undoubtedly sees himself as a media titan, his failing Truth Social is a mere blip on the radar when compared to Oprah’s. In fact, when someone suggested to him, in 2020, that Oprah would be a tough challenger, he welcomed the idea. He undoubtedly saw it as a battle between two media giants, when, in actuality, it would be a like putting a Hot Wheels car up against an Indy racer.


Thus far, Oprah has shown no interest in entering politics. And why should she? With White Supremacy on the rise, she would certainly be the target of racist attacks and most likely threats to her life. There’s little reason for her to get into the dirty world that is today’s political realm.


Still, it’s nice to dream.


Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama on The Tonight Show.

Michelle Obama has been named The Most Admired Woman in America multiple times. In a head-to-head poll, she was even voted more popular than Donald Trump. So, she would be the perfect choice to defeat him should Joe Biden step aside. She has an Ivy League pedigree with degrees from both Princeton and Harvard. Her sharp wit and quick mind shows she can stand up to any scrutiny and come out smelling like a rose while tactfully turning her opponent into fertilizer.


She is the first African-American First Lady, an best-selling author and won a Grammy for her book, Becoming. She has been a fervent activist for children’s health, LBGTQ rights, stamping out childhood obesity and many other causes that make her one of the most influential women in the nation.


As First Lady, she witnessed firsthand the trials and tribulations of being president, which is her primary reason for not wanting the job. Both she and President Obama confessed that the pressures caused by being president were also the greatest strain on their marriage. So, she has good reason not to run.


And why would she? With White Supremacy being named to greatest threat to democracy, Michelle has been the target of racial slurs, been misgendered, had horrific caricatures of her posted publicly and was even sharply criticized for having the audacity to wear a sleeveless outfit, thus showing off her well-toned biceps.


These very same simpletons fawned over Melanie Trump claiming she brought dignity and grace back to a White House soiled by the Obama’s mere presence. They obviously ignored her former career all the while committing acts upon themselves reminiscent of teen-aged boys who just discovered their manhood while drooling over images of the former First Lady in her previous profession.


Should she have a change of heart, she would undoubtedly move to the front of the pack. With the support of Democrats, Liberals and a large swath of the all important independents, she would easily defeat any opposition.


Being scandal free, Republicans would try to protest that her candidacy equates to a third Obama term, which is something they conveniently ignored when George W. Bush ran for president. The spirit of Rush Limbaugh would be invoked. Alex Jones and Steve Bannon would latch on to any perceived slight, conspiracy theory or outright lie to smear her. Qanon and the MAGA crowd would be apoplectic.


Having faced such treatment up in the past, it’s understandable why she is refusing to give in to the pressure to run. She, and other Democrats have determined that the honor goes to Joe Biden until his second term is up, or he decides not to run in 2024.


But, we can dream, can’t we?


So, If Not Joe...

As you can see, there are several viable options available to Democrats. Those who continue to urge him not to seek a second term hope one of them steps up to provide a reasonable alternative. Otherwise, they are threatening to remain home on Election Day, depriving Biden of the necessary votes the way they did Hillary in 2016.


And we all know how that turned out!

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