A few weeks ago, Bernard-Henri Lévy, one of France’s most famous public intellectuals, was interviewed by The Times about his new documentary, “Slava Ukraini”, as I turn 70 On my birthday, what he said helped me understand why I still wanted to be a reporter.
Asked why, at the age of 74, he dodged rockets in Ukraine and brought home the brutality of the Russian invasion, Lévy said, “In Ukraine, for the first time, I felt the world I knew, the world I grew up in. The world, the world I want to leave to my children and grandchildren, could crumble.”
I have the same fear.
That’s why my column focus is pretty tight these days. Three things must not be allowed to happen: Israel cannot be turned into an authoritarian state like Orban’s Hungary; Ukraine cannot be allowed to fall into the hands of Vladimir Putin; and Donald Trump cannot be allowed to return to the White House.
If all three happened, the world I want to leave to my children and grandchildren could completely collapse.
Israel, the only functioning pluralistic democracy in the Middle East, imperfect but tempered by the rule of law, will disappear.
The European Union — the United States of Europe, the world’s other great multinational center for free markets, free peoples, and human rights — will be at Putin’s mercy.
The United States of America, with the return of a vengeful Trump to the White House effectively pardoned for his many attacks on our democracy and the integrity of our elections, will never be the same. Trump is going to be released – a downright chilling thought.
It is through this lens that I want to talk about Joe Biden announcing on Tuesday that he is running for re-election and Kamala Harris re-entering the race. Biden’s ability to complete his current term and successfully navigate his next term is critical to all three of the above scenarios. That’s why now that Biden has announced his candidacy, he absolutely must win.
But while you might think that the 2024 election is likely to be a repeat of 2020, that’s not the case for the Democrats. This time, Biden’s running mate really matters.
We’re always told that, in the end, people vote for the presidential candidate, not the vice president. But since Biden will be 86 at the end of his second term — and thus the possibility of his failing health — people will be asked to vote for him as much as his vice president, probably more than any other in the United States. No other election has more American history.
The latest FiveThirtyEight average of all Biden-Harris support polls found that 51.9 percent of Americans disapprove of Harris’ job performance and 40 percent approve, about the same number as Biden.
Let me be clear: I voted for Joe Biden and I don’t want my money back. He’s a good guy, he’s been a good president, better than the polls give him credit for. The Western alliance he formed and maintained to counter Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been a master class in alliance management and defense of the democratic order in Europe. Ask Putin.
The way Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he would not be fooled — and not indifferent — by Netanyahu’s judicial coup masquerading as “judicial reform” was for thousands of people brought great encouragement. Israelis who took to the streets in defense of democracy.
On my top domestic concerns – rebuilding America’s infrastructure, ensuring American leadership in manufacturing the most advanced microchips that will power the AI age, and incentivizing market forces to provide the massive clean energy we need to ease The Worst Effects of Climate Change – Biden has exceeded my highest expectations.
Joe Biden will be my candidate no matter what age he is, as long as he is physically and mentally able, because I don’t think any other Democrat has the core of his political skill, his necessity and possibility of national unity conviction, his foreign policy shrewdness and his ability to disagree with Trump supporters without trying to humiliate them. He really wants to get the poison out of our political system.
But… I am acutely aware that many Americans disagree with me. I realize that roughly 30% of Republicans are Trump loyalists, which is likely out of reach — and nothing Biden can say will win them back. However, they will not decide the next election.
As Axios reported on April 17, a Gallup poll in March “found a record 49 percent of Americans consider themselves politically independent — the same as the two major parties combined.”
This means that there are many moderate, principled conservatives and independents who will not or will not vote for Trump again. Enough of them show up just as much in the 2022 midterm elections to prevent nearly all of the major Trump election deniers running for state and national office from gaining power. Their vote helped save our democracy.
If the 2024 race again comes down to Biden vs. Trump, we’re going to need those independents and moderate Republicans to show up again. But this time, because of his age and the possibility that he may not complete a second term, Biden’s vice president will be more important to them.
As we all know, Vice President Harris has not promoted his status in more than two years. I don’t know what the problem is – whether she has a series of impossible issues to deal with, or it’s in her head, or being the first woman of color to serve as a deputy is working with a mix of sexism and racism fight for president. What I do know is that voter skepticism about her ability to serve as president has not gone away, and that skepticism was enough to disqualify her as a presidential candidate even before the 2020 Iowa caucuses.
Given the stakes, Biden needs to make a case to his party — and more importantly, to independents and moderate Republicans — why Harris is the best candidate to succeed him if he doesn’t complete his term. He can’t ignore the issue, because it’s an issue that will be on the minds of many voters going into the election.
In the meantime, Harris must defend herself, preferably with a more forceful display of what she’s capable of. One thing Biden might consider is putting Harris in charge of ensuring America’s transition to the age of artificial intelligence strengthens communities and the middle class. It’s a big theme that could take her across the country.
A little over two years ago, I wrote an op-ed advising Biden to make Harris “his de facto secretary of rural development, charged with closing the opportunity gap, connectivity gap, learning gap, entrepreneurship gap — and anger and alienation” Gap – The gap between rural America and the rest of the country. That would be a substantive challenge that would allow her and the administration to build bridges with rural Republicans. It never happened.
I am afraid that running this election on a Democratic ticket will give moderate Republicans and independents — who desperately need a replacement for Trump — any excuse to go back to him.
careful. Trump is no fool. If he were the Republican nominee, I could easily see him asking a more moderate Republican woman, like Nikki Haley, to be his running mate, knowing that her presence on the ballot could be an incentive, At least some Republicans and independents will use Trump as an excuse to plug their noses and vote for him next time.
Make no mistake, the vice presidency really matters in a really important election. Because I don’t want Biden to win this election by 50.1%. I want it to overwhelmingly reject Trumpism and the politics of divisiveness. I hope it sends a resounding message to the world – to Putin, Netanyahu and Orbán – that there are far more of us center right and center left Americans ready to work together Much more for the common good, without haters and dividers.
This is an America worthy of handing over to our children and grandchildren.