Civics: Notes on US Politics

Eugene Volokh

[1.] It seems to me that the current situation highlights the major problems with the Democratic Party. Many Democrats must have been aware of Biden’s cognitive decline. They must have been aware that it’s a danger to the country, and a danger to their own election prospects.

They had ample opportunities to press the President to step aside graciously in time for a substitute candidate who could exploit Trump’s vast political weaknesses. To the extent they were worried that Harris would be the obvious substitute, and that she would make a losing candidate, it didn’t take a masterful political chess player to anticipate in 2020 that this might be a problem. And even though it’s obviously difficult to get a President to step down—indeed, though it’s difficult to get most people to acknowledge their own cognitive decline—the job of a well-functioning party is to be able to accomplish such tasks.

[2.] The current situation highlights the major problems with the Republican Party. Even if you support Trump, and agree with his policies, answer honestly: Would you have, twenty years ago, wanted someone like him as your candidate? Set aside whether you think he’s the lesser evil: Do you trust him to be calm and collected in a foreign policy crisis? Do you think he’s an inspirational leader? Do you think he’s a worthy heir to the presidents you admire (whether Washington, Lincoln, Reagan, Coolidge, or whoever else)?

Even if you think his behavior on January 6, 2021 isn’t as bad as it was painted, do you think it actually speaks well of his character and his trustworthiness? Do you believe what he tells you?

And even if you just want to stop the Democrats, how good a job has Trump done with that? In his time as the de facto leader of the Republican Party, he had one victory (2016) followed by three defeats (2018, 2020, 2022). Much of the public, including not just the far Left but many swing voters (and even some Republicans), views him extremely negatively—surely not a great quality for a political candidate.

Say the Democrats do persuade Biden to step aside, and persuade Harris to do so as well, and the Democratic Convention chooses a successful purple-state Democratic governor or senator. How confident are you that Trump will win then? Wouldn’t there be some Republican candidates who would have been more effective at capitalizing on Biden’s historically disastrous debate performance?