Biden’s in trouble — here’s a possible solution

Dan Perry
7 min readMar 5, 2024

Super Tuesday Thought: Biden should consider stepping aside and endorsing Michigan Gov. Whitmer, to save the world from Trump 2.0

In Chicago in 1968, amid toxic national divisions, on a sweltering August day, Democratic party leaders chose someone other than the sitting US president as their nominee. There is an argument worth considering that this should happen again. It’s risky, but the signs are mounting that President Biden is fatally hobbled, as Lyndon Johnson was in his day. And Trump 2.0 would be much worse than Richard Nixon.

Biden will obviously win Super Tuesday; the more interest contest is in the GOP. But the message delivered by primary voters in Michigan last week still resonates. Hilary Clinton lost the state by a few thousand votes in 2016, and Biden won it by about 155,000 in 2020. The state has 200,000 registered voters who are Muslim (more than in any other swing state), and they are livid over Biden’s perceived support for Israel in the Gaza war. About 100,000 voters in the Democratic primary in the state — 13% — cast “uncommitted” ballots so send a message to the president. If Trump flips Michigan and one more swing state versus 2020 he will probably win (see below discussion).

It would, of course, be absurd for Muslim Americans, many of them of Palestinian origins, to support Trump, who in 2017 enacted by executive order a random ban on entry from a series of Muslim-majority countries in order to seem to satisfy a campaign promise for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslim arrivals (see below). That’s the kind of sagacity we can expect from a restored Trump — but this time with the benefit of eight additional years of his intellectual growth and inquiry.

Another Trump presidency would be a global disaster. Trump is a criminal defendant who could well destroy NATO, encourage China and Russia to harm Western allies, mutate the US into an authoritarian country by continuing to sabotage democracy, and use the government as a tool for his enrichment.

Yet despite the risks, polls suggest Biden has an excellent chance of losing in November, with the main problem bring perceptions about how age has affected him.

Biden is perfectly capable of making good decisions, and on his worst day is infinitely more reliable a steward than the conman Trump. He has successfully shepherded a post-pandemic economic recovery, helped Ukraine to thwart Vladimir Putin’s imperial visions, and is finally moving to somehow ease the border crisis — despite a faction of House Republicans whose organizing principle is nihilism.

But having been born with a debilitating stutter, losing his first wife at 30 in a car accident and his older son — who was only 46 — to cancer, Biden knows the fates are fickle. Fairly or not, many voters believe Biden, already the oldest president, is too old. Maybe the televised glimpses of him sounding confused, seeming frail and looking tired are not representative. Maybe hostile media (and the mob on social media) are overly focused on it. But this is the time we live in.

Moreover, the Israeli response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre has saddled Biden with a particular problem. Again, fairly or not, progressive and Muslim-American voters demand he restrain Israel. Simultaneously, outraged at “progressive” antisemites and elite college hypocrisy, Jewish and moderate voters want the opposite. So, the Democratic coalition is split, and Biden struggles both in Michigan, as said, and also in my home state of Pennsylvania.

In fact, in all the swing states — the only ones that matter for America’s bizarre and antiquated Electoral College system — polls show Trump is generally ahead. Meanwhile, the same polls show Trump losing to almost any generic Democrat.

So, just as Biden’s case in 2020 was that he was the one who could beat Trump — a challenge because of the fanaticism of the MAGA cult — now he is the one who just possibly cannot. Like Tony Stark in Avengers: Endgame, Biden can decide to sacrifice himself for the good of the universe.

By following President Johnson’s example, and endorsing someone else at or just before this year’s Democratic Convention, he could cement a great legacy. Despite the hiccups a la Michigan’s primary, there’s no question he will arrive at the convention — again in August, and again in Chicago — with the nomination locked up. But by attempting to pledge his delegates to another, he would fulfill his original promise to be a transition figure and model for future generations the importance of choosing country over personal ambition.

Though Biden would have avoided a costly and debilitating primary fight, there would still be some uncertainty. Delegates could nominate a new candidate from the convention floor, and behind the scenes there would likely be maneuvering. Vice President Kamala Harris might factor in (but she has failed to impress). California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom will be heard from (but he is hobbled by his state).

But an experienced politician like Biden should know how to manage this — as did Johnson in his day (sure, the eventual nominee Hubert Humphrey lost, but we had other problems then). My recommendation is that he throw his support behind Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Why Whitmer? Well, for one thing, she would be the first female president, and it’s about time. She would not be hobbled by the baggage of Clinton, and has executive experience, a centrist mindset, decency, relative youth, and evident intelligence. She could also be reasonably expected to salvage her critical home state from flipping.

Prior to serving as governor, she served in the Michigan House of Representatives and later as a state senator, crafting and implementing policies aimed at improving health care, education, and infrastructure, among other areas. As governor, she garnered national attention for handling the COVID-19 pandemic and the Flint water crisis.

She has advocated for science-based approaches to public health and has worked to expand access to health care for Michigan residents, and prioritized investments in infrastructure and education. A pragmatic and bipartisan approach, track record of results, and lack of glaring absurdities, make her the ultimate anti-Trump.

Like Biden himself, the 52-year-old Whitmer can point proudly to not having attended Harvard (as Elise Stefanik has), Yale (JD Vance), Stanford (Josh Hawley), or Princeton (Ted Cruz). After law school, she did not clerk for a Supreme Court justice. Like many Americans, she’s had to navigate divorce. Unlike Trump, she appears to have found success the second time around.

If suburban moms and centrist Latinos, who will determine the result of this election, had any doubts about his state of mind, Trump’s inevitable sexist rants on Truth Social should serve to underscore the case for Whitmer. Or, to be fair, almost anyone else.

To further push the GOP back on its feet the Democrats could nominate someone from Texas for vice president; former Tennessee Titans linebacker Colin Allred would offer yet another contrast to the lickspittle Trump will chose as his sycophant. Or they might try to lock up a classic swing state — like aforementioned Pennsylvania, whose Gov. Josh Shapiro might become the first Jewish veep.

One might ask: What about the issues? The issues are always important, and they point in all directions. The Democrats are more aligned with American majorities on gun control, abortion rights, and healthcare — but the Republicans can benefit from the culture wars and have a strong case on immigration. But 2024 is simply not about the issues. It is about preventing enormous damage to America and the world.

Yes, the calls to step aside can seem unfair to Biden. Nearly 11 million jobs have been created, including 750,000 manufacturing jobs, under his watch. Inflation is coming down. Entrepreneurs have started a record number of small businesses and the stock market is booming. He’s overseen an array of achievements, from preventing discriminatory mortgage lending to forcing Chinese companies to open up their books. Even his signature failing — the chaotic and disastrous pullout from Afghanistan — was essentially decided on by his predecessor, the same Trump.

Moreover, he is not running against some spry young person. While Trump does exude a satanic form of energy, he too can also seem quite confused, and his speech is often incoherent. And when it is coherent, that’s more disturbing still, as we know.

Yet because of the Electoral College, which over-represents rural areas that these days are solidly conservative, the Democratic candidate needs to win big to win at all. In 2020 Biden won over 7 million more votes than Trump for a margin of almost 5 percent — yet a few thousand ballots in a handful of swing states could have kept Trump in the White House.

And that was a different Biden. Anyone who views his speech at Clinton’s 2016 coronation cannot fail to notice the dramatic difference (here’s a lampoon on Italian TV). I am very sensitive to ageism, having called it one of humanity’s greatest and most idiotic scourges in these very pages. But this is not ageism — it is a reasonable concern. It will be increasingly an issue in politics, because of expanding lifespans.

Despite the challenges fate has thrown in his way, Biden found spectacular success; he has had a fantastic run and is now a part of America’s history. He could attach true greatness to that part by pulling out of the race at the right moment. What was once unthinkable may be a must to save the country. The world as well.



Dan Perry

Journalist and comms professional who led the Associated Press in the Middle East, Africa, Europe & Caribbean. Author of Israel & the Quest for Permanence.