Editors’ Blog


One more thought on this dismal standoff between President Biden and many in his party. Democrats are now in this weird and sometimes jaw-dropping standoff in which major elected Democrats make statements criticizing their current de facto nominee in the hope he’ll stop being the nominee and make way for a better nominee even though they’re not really clear who that nominee will be. I’m not being as arch as I may sound. I get why they’re doing it. They think he needs to step aside for a more able nominee and this is their way of adding pressure. But to the extent it becomes a process with no clear end point it has some pretty obvious downsides. You have a damaged nominee and you damage him even further and he’s still your nominee. This has to go one way or another and fairly soon.

We’ve noted a few times that there are half a dozen or so Democratic party stakeholders with the clout and standing to force this issue. But among those Pelosi is at least the first among equals. There’s Schumer, Jeffries, Clyburn, maybe Obama. Large groups of officeholders would obviously speak with a force of their own. But I think this really comes down to her. She’s been very quiet over the last few days.

One way or another this has to be brought to a halt. In a very real sense the Biden v Trump contest has been replaced for the moment by a Biden v mostly, but not all, unnamed Democrats contest.

Names on Ballots – Micro-Explainer

This is another one of those focused, factual-question posts. As always, not trying to signal a larger point here. Just trying to address a specific question for the community which a number of TPM readers have asked me via email. Here goes.

There are suggestions out there, in some cases verging on urban legends, that no one is taking into account the fact that in many states the deadlines have already passed for switching the candidate names on the presidential ballots. Heritage has put out that they’ve got a team of lawyers ready to hit the courts. I’ve seen claims the the deadlines have passed in key swing states.

While I’m no election law expert and certainly no expert of individual state laws, I feel highly confident that none of this is accurate.

Here’s why.

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Don’t Believe the Hype, MoC Edition

Just a side or secondary point that I wanted to add to what’s below. As I said, a President can’t lose the support of his congressional party going into an election. Why that happens or whether it’s fair becomes secondary to the fact itself. It’s one thing in ordinary circumstances. But you simply can’t have or survive that going into an election, certainly not one where you appear to be running at least a bit behind. I wanted to mention something about members of Congress themselves. In my experience the vast number of members of Congress have no hidden insight or greater access to information than you or I do. They may in certain instances get access to party polling. But that usually leaks in some form or another fairly quickly. They’re basically just as prone to panic, the groupthink of their social sets or cocoons, wishful thinking as you or I am.

This isn’t universal of course. Some have better political instincts than others. Some have really good political instincts. But on balance they’re just not cut from very different political cloth. That’s my experience at least.

Groundhog Day But With Cognitive Exams Prime Badge
 Member Newsletter

I am going to try to write a few pieces today and tomorrow taking stock of the truly unprecedented and almost unimaginable standoff that is not so much wracking the Democratic Party as simply holding it in place, in limbo, for more than a week now. But before doing that I thought it was important to share some general thoughts on where we are with all of this. First I must say that I can’t think of many other or perhaps any political situation I’ve written about at TPM over decades that was more difficult for me to make sense of, either as a matter of what is happening or will happen, or what should happen. I’ve been mainly focused on the first question.

For the second half of last week I was basically certain that Joe Biden would be forced to end his candidacy and that it was simply a matter of time before he did so. Then, starting Saturday, things seemed to shift. These things work in waves. For any politician the best way to avoid being forced to resign (and here I’ll use “resign” as a proxy for Biden ending his candidacy, not actually resigning the presidency) is simply not to resign. It’s one of those truisms that contains more depth and nuance than one at first realizes.

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Wow, Now France

Shocking and shockingly good news out of France. A longtime TPM reader who I am in constant touch with is an immigrant from France. And through conversations with him over the last few weeks I was expecting — though by no means sure — that Le Pen’s National Rally party would come up short in the run off. But the actual results are even more dramatic. They appear to be coming in third. Not just behind the the parties of the left running as a consolidated new United Front, but actually behind President Macron’s centrist party too. A couple weeks ago I think the best anyone was hoping for was keeping National Rally short of an absolute majority. It was treated as a foregone conclusion they’d get a plurality of seats. But even the Republicans — the old center-right party of government which has been thoroughly marginalized — is over-performing relative to expectations. It’s really a stunning reversal.

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UK Election Musings

I’m going to put almost all of this post under the fold because it’s just some general observations about the UK election. See below for U.S. stuff.

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Couple Thoughts on What’s Next

In one of the DC newsletters this morning, Mike Allen largely streamed the Trump campaign’s inner monologue about the “brutal attack” they plan to unleash on Kamala Harris if and when she becomes the nominee (and I really think it’s very likely when, not if). Meanwhile, he writes, Republicans are asking why they weren’t told about the Biden situation. Voters will ask. Democrats will ask! I really hope people won’t be stage managed like this, or led into dramas of self-doubt and self-wraithing. One thing that Trump is good at, really good at, is the cadence and roll out of public drama, maintaining the tempo and initiative, the mix of threats and bombast.

There’s a tableful of taunts and attacks just waiting there for Harris or another Democratic nominee to pick up. Obviously this isn’t where Democrats wanted or expected to be. But if they are here or will be here soon they should see and jump on all the opportunities it opens up. And there are a lot.

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Yes, Hamilton Thought John Roberts Was Full Of it Too

I noted earlier how Thomas Jefferson very clearly disagreed with the idea that the President was or should be immune from prosecution under the law, or above the law in any way. I also mentioned that as a general matter virtually every aspect of the authorship and debate over the Constitution was at war with the concept of presidential immunity outlined in the recent Supreme Court decision. A TPM reader reminded me further of this passage from Federalist 69, authored by Alexander Hamilton, certainly the Constitution architect and author most friendly to executive power.

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Where We Are on July 4th and One Week After

I wanted to take a moment to share with you, as well as I’m able, where I think we are with President Biden, the 2024 nomination and the fallout from last week’s debate. Not where I think we should be, but where we are.

My sense is that as of this moment the critical stakeholders in the Democratic Party, elected officials, party officials, prominent voices out of office, funders, opinion columnists, etc. remain behind President Biden on the most tentative and contingent of bases. They are waiting to see how Biden manages in his sit-down interview with George Stephanopoulos which will be taped tomorrow and now, in a change of plans, will actually be aired tomorrow as well. There’s also a couple rallies in swing states over the weekend. Those will tell the story of whether Biden can regain confidence of these people, not only in his health status and wherewithal but also in whether he is able to run the kind of vigorous campaign required for victory.

My own sense, based not on any secret information but just taking stock of all the information out there, is that this is as much a matter of giving Biden the courtesy and respect of trying as it is based on a confidence that he can. It seems critical to note that I don’t think the standard here is any level of performance. It’s in the result. He needs to show up in a way wherein people who had decided or feared that he simply wasn’t able and vigorous enough to continue on the ballot say, “The debate was terrible. I thought he should step aside. But based on what I see from him I think he’s good to go, I think he’s ready to fight this campaign and win.” If they say that and mean that then that’s kind of it. And I think saying that and meaning that means whoever is saying it is confident Biden can shut down this conversation.

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Thomas Jefferson Disagrees with John Roberts About Presidential Immunity

Thomas Jefferson played no direct role in authoring the federal Constitution. He wasn’t even in the country at the time. He was living in France as the U.S. Ambassador. Indeed he was at least equivocal about key elements of the document, despite the fact that much of it was the work of his friend and protégé James Madison, who kept him informed about the progress of events by post from the United States. But Jefferson was of course a central figure in the creation of the American Republic and a critical figure in defining executive power under the federal Constitution both as Secretary of State and one of two principal advisors to George Washington and then, later, during his two terms as President. He spoke clearly to the question at the heart of the Court’s immunity decision and very clearly disagreed with the reasoning and any idea that Presidents weren’t subject to the law.

I should start by saying that we don’t have just Jefferson to go on. You can’t read any part of the discussions of the Constitutional Convention, the discussions leading up to it or the debates over it, without seeing that the idea that the President would be immune from the criminal law over his conduct in office would have struck these people as simply absurd. But Jefferson himself came at the question later from a different perspective, not as a theoretical matter but as a retired chief executive who had actually wielded presidential and prerogative power and believed that at least in some cases he had exceeded his powers in the interests of the nation.

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