If Joe Biden does not step aside, his legacy will be a second Donald Trump presidency (2024)

  • Linda Peek Schacht worked in communications and leadership in the White House, American presidential campaigns, the U.S. Senate, corporate America and academia.
  • She works in Nashville, Tennessee, and resides in both Nashville and Atlanta.

Forty years managing political, government and corporate crises have taught me that if you are explaining yourself, you are losing.

Since June 27, the Biden campaign has been explaining the president’s debate performance. They have tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to turn the public conversation back to a focus on former President Donald Trump’s own record and demagoguery in the debate.

Particularly in this campaign, if the focus is on the other guy you win, if the focus is on you, you lose.

The Biden campaign and some Democrats seem to be leaning on a hope that President Joe Biden can still defeat Donald Trump in November. But “hope is not a strategy,” as a corporate CEO I worked for often reminded his crisis management team.

Americans do not want a Trump vs. Biden rematch. Even less so now.

Some polls do indicate voters were listening to Trump and are as concerned about his past and future autocratic actions as they are Biden’s frailty. Democrats can argue that Trump is unfit to be president and cite concrete examples of the former president’s own comments and actions as evidence.

If Joe Biden does not step aside, his legacy will be a second Donald Trump presidency (1)

They can warn he will continue to be a threat to democracy. But by doing so, Democrats are not making an affirmative case that Joe Biden should continue as their candidate. In fact, they are doing the opposite.

After the first presidential debate, the argument that democracy is on the ballot underscores that Democrats cannot simply hope that Joe Biden can prosecute the case and prevail over Trump in 2024.

The recent Supreme Court ruling on presidential immunity and its implications for a second Trump presidency raise the stakes even more. A Democratic loss with President Biden as the standard bearer could have an outsize impact on down ballot races and the Democrats could lose the Senate and not win back the House, giving one party control of the country.

American needs more 'Lincolnites'or citizens who emulate Abraham Lincoln's benevolence

One finding is significant that Democrats cannot ignore: Biden’s performance led to 72% in a CBS/YouGov national poll believing he does not have the mental and cognitive ability to run again. That's a increase from 65% before the debate.

Democrats should worry that President Biden will reinforce that belief between now and the election, even if he is successful in a few off-teleprompter interviews. Americans have told pollsters for over a year they dislike both candidates and want another choice. Democrats should give them one. And that’s where love comes in.

Biden is accomplished president, but the first lady must help him retire

Fifty years of public service have shown Joe Biden’s love for his country. As a senior staffer to the Senate Majority Leader in 1980s, I saw that love and that service from Senator Biden. People who have known him love him.

But right now, in this historic moment when the future of our democratic institutions hangs in the balance, there is only one love that matters: First lady Jill Biden’s love for her husband and for the country.

If Joe Biden does not step aside, his legacy will be a second Donald Trump presidency (3)

She has been at his side building his legacy. She can argue that the crowning achievement of his legacy is his consequential first term leading the country out of the pandemic, passing historic bipartisan jobs, infrastructure and climate change legislation, and expanding NATO for a more secure future for the country and the world.

To protect that legacy and because of her fierce love for him, it is up to her to do the right thing for her country, and for her husband, to persuade him to step aside for a new generation to take up the campaign mantle.

Many people watching the presidential debate saw and heard echoes of their own aging parents and grandparents who initially had more good days than bad. They reluctantly and lovingly took away the keys to the car, anticipating more bad days.

First lady Jill Biden must help the Democrats take away the keys to the nomination from President Biden, with the thanks of a grateful nation for a life of service celebrated at the convention. His inner circle, White House staff, and Democratic leaders must do this for their love of country and for him. But it starts with the first lady.

If Trump wins, that will be a part of Joe and Jill Biden’s legacies

Four months out from the election, a change at the top of the ticket is a risk, but a risk worth taking for Democrats to make a generational argument and prosecute vigorously the case against Donald Trump.

If Joe Biden does not step aside, his legacy will be a second Donald Trump presidency (4)

There is the danger Democrats lose either way. But if first lady Jill Biden encourages President Biden to continue his candidacy and that choice ushers in a second Trump presidency, that will be his legacy.

There will be three people held accountable in history for what happens next. History will hold not just Donald Trump, but also Joe Biden and Jill Biden accountable.

And just as history will judge Republican leaders who enabled Donald Trump by putting loyalty to a man over loyalty to their country, it will judge Democratic Party leaders who do the same.

Because by doing so, they have only the hope that President Biden will prevail. And hope is not a strategy.

If Joe Biden does not step aside, his legacy will be a second Donald Trump presidency (5)

Linda Peek Schacht worked in communications and leadership in the White House, American presidential campaigns, the U.S. Senate, corporate America and academia. She works in Nashville, Tennessee, and resides in both Nashville and Atlanta.

If Joe Biden does not step aside, his legacy will be a second Donald Trump presidency (2024)
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