How the Democratic Party Can Emerge Unified Behind Their Best Nominee to Defeat Trump

[Not yet published anywhere, but sent in the hopes of getting the ideas here into the hands of Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) who was said to be gathering a delegation of Democratic Senators to support his effort to persuade President Biden to step down from the top of the ticket in this must-win presidential election against Donald Trump.]


The survival of American democracy – it is widely believed — depends on the Democratic candidate for President defeating Donald Trump in the upcoming presidential election.

With stakes as huge as that, no effort should be spared in maximizing the chance that the powers of the Presidency are kept out of the hands of Donald Trump.

Which means no effort should be spared in choosing our strongest possible champion in that battle against Trump.

A substantial majority of the most knowledgeable people, as I read it, believe that requires President Biden to withdraw from his place at the top of the Democratic ticket. In their reading of the American electorate, they believe we would increase our chances of winning this Presidential election by putting a new champion at the top of the ticket.

Only Biden can make that choice. But I am betting – even though Biden has declared that only God Almighty could persuade him to step aside – that he will yield sooner or later to the continuing pressure. Continuing—because people are not resigning themselves to a course they think risks losing the America we have always believed in.

If Biden does take himself off the ticket, some credible voices say that the replacement is fore-ordained. Jennifer Rubin, for example, writes in the Washington Post,  Opinion | Kamala Harris at the top of the ticket has risks and rewards – The Washington Post:

“A party that has long depended on the votes of Black Americans, especially Black women, could not — without unleashing a furious backlash and triggering massive defections — kick her to the curb in favor of a random, unvetted White politician.”

With the stakes of this election so high, such an assertion warrants scrutiny. If the Democratic world wrongly assumed it true and automatically replaced Joe with Kamala – when someone more likely to win might have been chosen – that would be a mistake that might resound through history.

I believe Rubin’s assumption – that nominating anyone but Kamala would produce a “furious backlash” – is false. A way forward can be devised that would get us to our optimal outcome, our best nominee – Kamala or someone else – while keeping all the constituencies of the Democratic Party feeling good and unified.

In this process, nobody gets “kicked to the curb.” Instead, what the Democratic Party would do, and would be understood as doing, if honor its democratic values by placing its faith in the Party’s collective wisdom to choose rightly.

Not an automatic decision, but a democratically deliberative one to consider the several prominent options (including Kamala).

Accepted as right and fair because everyone can agree that:

  • nominating the strongest possible contender is what we have to do, and that
  • it is appropriate for the Democratic Party to decide collectively (as best we can at this late date) who represents our best shot in this “must-win” election.

Here’s the process I propose will get us to an outcome that is reasonably optimal and that everyone will accept as fairly arrived at:

  • The Democrats – starting with a powerful “stepping down” speech by Biden – announce that because the stakes are so high, because Donald Trump represents such an existential threat to the America our founders bequeathed to us, we are obliged to use the best judgment we collectively can to come up with a replacement on the top of the ticket with the very best chance of defeating this would-be dictator.
  • With the stakes so high, nothing should be automatic. If the President died in office, his replacement would be automatically the VP, following the Constitution. But we get to make choices in this situation, and our obligation is find ways of coming to our best collective judgment.
  • Therefore we Democrats are setting up a special process which will include showcasing all our main options – Vice President Harris and a handful of others*– that will be visible to the whole nation. This showcasing will also be a pitch to the more than three thousand delegates to our national convention. It is they who will be called upon eventually – at the Convention – to choose our champion to defeat Donald Trump and thereby preserve our Democracy.
  • The “showcasing” will happen in the lead up to the convention, with the various potential nominees “trying out” for the part. The try-out will involve each one delivering a speech of 15-20 minutes to showcase their ability to persuade voters both to support them and to reject Trump. (No debating against each other; rather, each gives their best performance, like Olympic figure-skaters who leave it to the “judges” to judge who’s best.)

(I don’t think there would be any “furious backlash,” because the Democratic world will agree that we want to field our strongest candidate, and it’s no insult to Kamala to ask her to show that she’s our best choice for saving American Democracy in this political battle.)

  • At the convention, perhaps after more nationally televised presentations by potential nominees to show how effective they would be in getting Americans to vote for them, and not for Donald Trump, the delegates would all vote. Again, there’s no need for there to be a mess: ranked-choice voting can be used so that a consensus choice could be arrived at as quickly as we want, because ranked choice voting always leads to someone getting a majority.

No insult to Kamala. No infighting. No bruising combat among rivals for the nomination, but rather parallel performances (“try-outs”). These try-outs would be a great two-fer: not only would they give the delegates a basis for choosing, but in the meanwhile they would also be must-see-TV delivering to the American people the Democratic message for this campaign, combining the promise of future good for the American people with the attack on Trump as an existential threat to American Democracy.

Whether or not Kamala Harris would prevail – and she does have the skills of a good prosecutor that might make her effective in prosecuting the case against Trump with the voters – I expect the whole Democratic world would regard as fair and legitimate the decision of those three-thousand-plus delegates. (In their values, interests, desires and thoughts, that body of delegates is likely a good representation of the Democratic electorate as a whole.)

Good outcome. No “furious backlash.”


* About that list of potential nominees: I believe there should be a good-enough way to come up with a respectable handful of possible nominees, but I don’t have a particular way to propose. (Various people seem to come up with similar lists – Kamala Harris, Gretchen Whitmer, Gavin Newsom, Josh Shapiro, Wes Moore, and sometimes another one or two.) Under the circumstances, I think that any such list would be regarded as providing a legitimate way to proceed to the rest of the process.)

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