Step Aside Joe!

(formerly known as the Don’t Run Joe campaign)

(formerly known as the Don’t Run Joe campaign)

Don’t the 2022 midterm election results show that Joe Biden should be the Democratic nominee in 2024?

Actually, the sharp contrast between public support for Biden and for Democrats overall underscores that he should not run again. Biden’s dismal approval ratings have remained far below the public’s positivity toward the Democratic Party. The party did well in the midterm elections despite Biden, not because of him. While the electorate is evenly split between the two parties, there’s no such close division about Biden. As NBC reported from its exit polling, “two-thirds of voters (68 percent) do not want Biden to run for president again in 2024.” The large gap between approval of Biden and of his party indicates what a leaden weight he is on Democratic electoral prospects.

Why do you blame President Biden for a lack of progress in his first years, when Senators Manchin and Sinema and the Republicans were the real culprits?

We are in no way minimizing the pro-corporate / anti-environmental obstructionism of the GOP and conservative Democrats in Congress, but the Step Aside Joe initiative focuses on President Biden because he himself has been a roadblock to change. On issue after issue, Biden has offered “too little, too late” – from voting rights to abortion rights to student debt to the climate crisis – and he has spent nearly two years demonstrating that he is often incapable of using the power of the presidential “bully pulpit” to mobilize for victory. On many issues, he has failed to use his authority, including the power to issue executive orders, to defend working families – a failure that can’t be blamed on Congress. Biden’s foreign policy has too often emphasized bellicosity over diplomacy, and his bloated military budgets have soaked up funds that should instead be directed toward healthcare, education, environment and other pressing needs.

Don’t we owe a debt of gratitude to Joe Biden for having defeated Trump in 2020?

Biden’s victory over Trump in 2020 was indeed a crucial historic achievement – one that was made possible in large part by unprecedented organizing in swing states by racial justice activists, feminists, union organizers and progressive groups, many of whom did not support Biden within the Democratic primaries. (RootsAction, for example, focused its Vote Trump Out campaign in the battlegrounds of Arizona, Michigan and Wisconsin, which all went for Biden over Trump.)

If Biden were to announce he’s not running in 2024 or withdrawing from the race, wouldn’t that undermine Democrats and progressives by making Biden a powerless “lame-duck” president?

As a number of Democrats have pointed out, such an announcement would actually empower Biden to present himself as less political — interested only in the public interest and not his own personal ambition. The wise thing for Biden to do would be to say that he’ll concentrate on being the best president he can be until Inauguration Day in January 2025. The tone-deaf thing for him to do would be to soldier on — insisting that he should be president until January 2029 — while damaging the party’s prospects in the process.

Why does your petition statement omit so many pressing issues on which the Biden administration has failed the public interest?

Our statement is short. It’s not a laundry list. We see Biden as a logjam that has to be cleared away if Democrats are to look forward to election victories – and the enactment of big, broadly popular policies that could lead to even more election victories.

Is this Step Aside Joe initiative a stalking horse for a presidential candidate you support?

RootsAction does not have a horse in this race. We’ve urged a couple of individuals to get into the race, partly in hopes their entry would help get Biden to withdraw. If Biden doesn’t run again, that would hopefully clear the path for a progressive candidate with broad appeal who can defeat the GOP in November 2024. Our goal within the Democratic Party from the beginning has been to “dump Biden,” much as the anti-Vietnam-War forces among Democrats set out to “dump Johnson” in 1967, which led antiwar candidates Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy to enter the race.