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Four Genuinely Positive Developments To Come out of Biden's Debate Performance

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | July 8, 2024 |

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | July 8, 2024 |


The state of the presidential race is as interesting as I’ve seen it on the Democratic side in a long time, and not necessarily in a bad way. Labour’s trouncing of the Tories in the UK and the center and left’s unexpectedly strong showing against the far right in France have renewed many’s hope that, regardless of who the Democratic candidate in the United States is, voters will come out to vote against Donald Trump and fascism.

Polls are likewise mixed, for whatever they are worth. Many polls had Biden down after the debate last week, but a new Bloomberg poll shows him up now in Michigan and Wisconsin (but still behind in the other swing states). The polls are going to move this way and that over the next four months, and if Biden can keep his head about him, his debate performance may not matter much by November. Meanwhile, while everyone is focusing on the fact that there is a large percentage of Americans who think Joe Biden should drop out, discounting MAGA Republicans, there’s a very high percentage of Americans who think the same about Trump.

But more importantly, what I have noticed over the past week are some interesting and mostly positive developments, in spite of the debate.

Biden Has a Seriously Motivated Base — There wasn’t a lot of rabid-dog enthusiasm for Biden before the debate — he was the guy that we were going with — but the backlash to the debate backlash has been fierce. Biden supporters are protective as hell, and they are coming for anyone who dares to speak against their guy (as I can attest to, personally). Some of it, granted, has come in the form of whataboutism — as in, “Yeah, but what about Trump? He’s a real threat to democracy” — but the fervor has been passionate. A lot of it, too, has been about Biden’s record, which defenders have been promoting a lot over the last week. Maybe not in the media, but among voters I see on social media, at least, there has been a lot of excitement about Biden’s accomplishments.

Kamala Harris Has Gotten Renewed Attention — Whether Harris ultimately replaces Biden at the convention — an increasingly unlikely prospect — she’s gotten a lot of positive attention over the last week as Democrats, the media, and voters have taken a second look. From what I have seen — and I spend a lot of time following this — most people have been of the mind that Harris got a bad rap, that she is a formidable opponent to Donald Trump (if it came to that), and if not, she’s at least someone with whom we could feel comfortable taking over the presidency if Biden cannot finish out his term. I wouldn’t be surprised if polls showed in the coming weeks that her favorable ratings have shot up. It cannot be bad for the ticket for voters to think more highly of the VP.

Democrats Have Turned on the Mainstream Media — The major news outlets — and the NYTimes, especially — have been consumed by this story since the debate. A lot of Democrats, however, think that — compared to the threat that Donald Trump poses, especially in light of the latest Supreme Court rulings — Biden’s age shouldn’t be the story that it has become. Many people think that the media — and the NYTimes, in particular — are pushing the narrative. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen social media users say that they’re blocking certain outlets or canceling their subscriptions because of all the coverage.

I have mixed feelings about this. I think that the narrative is being partially driven by Democratic leaders and polls, but I also think that the Times and other outlets are giving outsized attention to bit players and they’re not emphasizing at all the real grassroots effort to support Biden and keep him on the ballot. I do, however, have some concerns that liberal readers are sometimes rebelling against news they simply do not want to hear. It is the NYTimes’ job to report on Biden’s weaknesses, the polls, and efforts within the party to replace him but, it is also their job to report on the efforts to keep him on the ballot and the enthusiasm his base has for him, in addition to the threat to the country that Donald Trump poses. The NYTimes has a lot of resources. There’s no reason they can’t cover it all, and it feels very one-sided at the moment.

Project 2025 — When I mentioned whataboutism earlier, much of it is focused on Project 2025, as in, “Who cares about one bad debate? This campaign isn’t about debates and interviews. What about Project 2025?” Every single time Biden’s weaknesses are mentioned, Democrats volley back with Project 2025, and there is immense pressure now on news outlets to cover it, which they are starting to do. We’ve known about Project 2025 for months, but now it’s omnipresent. For those who have been under a rock for the last week, here are the main points:

Tax cuts for the wealthy; the abolishment of the Department of Education, cutting funding for climate research, cutting Medicare and Medicaid funding; rejecting abortion as health care, defunding Planned Parenthood, criminalizing pornography, removing legal protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, establishing partisan control of the DOJ, FBI, FCC, FTC, and DHS; arresting and deporting millions of undocumented immigrants, building up nuclear weapons as a safeguard against China, reclassifying federal employees as political appointees, opposing civil liberties, and establishing a Christian nationalist government.

It’s terrifying. Trump knows how unpopular it is, and last week tried to distance himself from it. That’s not going to fly. The project was built by his supporters around his presidency. Donald Trump doesn’t know shit about policy; he just wants to be President. He leaves policy up to his supporters. That’s the problem. This is what they want.

It’s also important to remember that efforts to replace the Democrat on the ballot are not new; nearly half thought that Obama should be replaced on the ballot in 2012. Whether it’s Biden (probably), Harris, or someone else, Democrats will rally around the nominee. The question is whether enough independents will as well, and the more they read about Project 2025, the more likely it is that they’ll vote for a guy with a good record and a solid VP in place over a guy threatening to imprison his political enemies, outlaw abortion (and the abortion pill) everywhere, cut the Dept. of Education, and criminalize pornography.