"Time for it to end": Defiant Biden tells congressional Democrats to stop questioning his viability

Biden has resisted pressure for him to leave the presidential race despite alarming polls and prominent defections

Published July 8, 2024 2:43PM (EDT)

US First Lady Jill Biden (L) looks on as President Joe Biden speaks to supporters and volunteers during a campaign stop at a Biden-Harris campaign office in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on July 7, 2024. (SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
US First Lady Jill Biden (L) looks on as President Joe Biden speaks to supporters and volunteers during a campaign stop at a Biden-Harris campaign office in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on July 7, 2024. (SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

Joe Biden, resisting pressure to step aside from the presidential race in wake of a series of alarming fumbles, sent a defiant letter to congressional Democrats on Monday in hopes of quelling a potential revolt on Capitol Hill.

"I want you to know that despite all the speculation in the press and elsewhere, I am firmly committed to staying in this race, to running this race to the end, and to beating Donald Trump," he wrote, making the oft-repeated claim that he was "the best person to beat Donald Trump in 2024."

The growing sentiment among top-level Democrats and a wide swathe of American voters is that Biden's confidence in his ability to defeat Trump — and to last another four years as a competent president — is gravely misplaced. After a disastrous debate performance against Trump last month, Biden did little to allay concerns with a halting ABC interview in which he dismissed his tumbling poll numbers as fake, a performance that came amid a series of White House leaks suggesting that he was being cloistered from reality by his family and a circle of yes-men.

As of Monday morning, at least nine House Democrats — including senior figures like Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y. — have openly called on Biden to step aside, with many others expressing the same wishes in private or, in the case of Trump impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., nudging the president to exit without pushing too hard.

But Biden insisted in his letter that questioning his viability was tantamount a "weakening of resolve or lack of clarity about the task ahead" that would only "help" Trump and hurt Democrats. Casting himself as a champion of working people and families, Biden claimed that he could run on a strong economic record and portray Trump and MAGA Republicans as "siding with the wealthy and big corporations" by giving a $5 trillion tax cut for rich people so they could cut Social Security and Medicare and repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Some Democrats, who largely agree with the message but are skeptical that Biden can deliver it effectively, have said that while finding a replacement atop the ticket is risky, keeping Biden as the nominee would ensure defeat against Trump. But the president can count on support from lawmakers such as Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., who has told Biden's critics to "grow a spite or grow a set."

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Biden, for his part, claimed in his letter that although he "heard the concerns that people have," by winning the Democratic primaries earlier this year he had already been entrusted by his party's voters with carrying their banner in November.

There is nothing you can do now, the president told his fellow Democrats.

"We had a Democratic nomination process and the voters have spoken clearly and decisively," he wrote. "I received over 14 million votes, 87% of the votes cast across the entire nominating process. I have nearly 3,900 delegates, making me the presumptive nominee of our party by a wide margin ... Do we now just say this process didn't matter? That the voters don't have a say?"

The nominating process, in which an incumbent president is rarely challenged, was largely seen as a coronation for Biden rather than a serious contest, despite the entry of Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., into the race. Critics of Biden's refrain have said that the decision of several state parties to cancel primary elections and the refusal of the Democratic National Committee to sanction debates render his claims of a party mandate meaningless. Some polls now show that a plurality of Democratic voters, and up to three-quarters of all registered voters, think Biden should step aside.

Biden says it's his critics who should step aside. If anyone wants to step forward now, Biden said in a Monday morning call with MSNBC, they will have to fight him at the Democratic National Convention.

"The question of how to move forward has been well-aired for over a week now. And it's time for it to end," Biden's letter concluded. "We have one job. And that is to beat Donald Trump."

By Nicholas Liu

Nicholas (Nick) Liu is a News Fellow at Salon. He grew up in Hong Kong, earned a B.A. in History at the University of Chicago, and began writing for local publications like the Santa Barbara Independent and Straus News Manhattan.

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