top of page

2 Ways Democrats can REPLACE Biden if he DOESN'T Step Down

Everything has changed in the Presidential Race since the debate. And maybe nothing has?

All eyes are on the Democratic National Convention on August 19th.

Do Democrats move on from Biden? Can they?

Parties aren't part of our federal government or our Constitution, so who decides how they operate?

And how do they operate?

We will answer all of those questions and more with today's video.

Join us as we bring you through a story with assassinations, secret plots, backroom deals, and not one but two Robert F Kennedys.

This history begins in 1968. Before 1968, Party insiders picked presidential nominees in sometimes quite literal smoke-filled rooms. Some states had primaries, and some states had caucuses, but they only existed to show those party insiders that candidates had popular support.

But the 1968 Democratic nominating contest changed everything.

First, let's introduce the cast of characters.

First, we have Lydon B Johnson, the sitting president. You need to know that he hated the Kennedys, and the Kennedys hated him. LBJ originally ran against JFK in the 1960 democratic primary, and JFK only picked him as Vice President to unify the party. You also need to know that he was pro-Vietnam War or just pro-war.

Second, we have Hubert Humphrey. He is Johnson's Vice President and is also pro-war.

Thirdly, we have Robert F Kennedy or RFK. He was the attorney general under his brother JFK, and he was anti-war.

Our fourth character is Eugene McCarthy, an anti-war Senator from Minnesota.

Finally, we have George McGovern, a pro-Kennedy, anti-war Senator from South Dakota.

At the beginning of 1968, McCarthy and Johnson were the only two candidates in the race, one anti-war and the other pro-war. Johnson led handily in polls at the time.

Only 13 states conducted primaries, and only 9 assigned their delegates based on those results.

In quick succession, Johnson's approval numbers plunged after the Tet Offensive in February. McCarthy won 42% of the New Hampshire Primary, and RFK entered the race in March. Johnson dropped out of the race on March 31st to get behind his Vice President, Hubert Humphrey, in April.

We have a three-way race, but we have two different races. Kennedy and McCarthy were running campaigns to convince Democratic voters to support them. Humphrey was running a race for delegates.

Humphrey didn't contest the primaries. He didn't join the debate with Kennedy and McCarthy. He sat down with influential people in each state and vied for their votes at the convention.

You know the next part of the story. RFK is assassinated after winning the California primary.

George McGovern decides to enter the race in Kennedy's stead, but the convention is what changes everything.

At the convention, Hubert Humphrey won an absolute majority of the votes in a three-way race.

In an environment where the left was overwhelmingly against the Vietnam War (and even Nixon ran against it in the general election), a pro-war candidate won without participating in any primaries.

The activists on the left were furious, and George McGovern gave them their victory.

Amid the chaos of the 1968 convention, George McGovern, who was on the rules committee, called for a commission to explore changing the nominating rules. As most delegates backed Humphrey, the rules committee voted this proposal down, but McGovern took a minority report to the floor.

A minority report is just a way to bring something to a vote of the whole convention if it fails in committee.

Historians disagree about this next part. Some say that McGovern whipped the votes using the same kind of backroom deals Humphrey made to secure the nomination.

Others say there was mass confusion on the floor, and it passed accidentally.

Either way, it passed, and McGovern went on to lead the McGovern-Fraser Commission.

This commission recommended many reforms, but the one that changed everything called for states to open their processes for assigning delegates.

In response, states moved in mass and adopted either primaries or caucuses. Twenty-five states passed laws implementing these reforms when the 1972 primaries came around.

One state created such a convoluted multi-stage caucus system that it had to move its first round earlier than any other state. More about that later.

Sixteen major candidates entered this primary because a person could win the nomination for the first time without establishment backing. The parties (yes, the Republicans, too) were now democratic for the first time. Since most of these reforms happened in state law, the Republican Party had to adhere to them.

McGovern won this race and lost to Nixon in a spectacular fashion.

He later said that he "opened up the doors of the Democratic Party, and 20 million people walked out."

Even with the failure, primaries and caucuses were here to stay, and the battle between the grassroots and the establishment was just starting.

In 1976, we had the first primary election, in which every state held a primary or caucus.

Jimmy Carter won the nomination as a grassroots candidate by pioneering the Iowa strategy. Carter proved that an unknown candidate could win the nomination by putting all his eggs in the Iowa basket and using the momentum from that win to take the nomination.

Since Carter, only Bill Clinton and Joe Biden lost both Iowa and New Hampshire and still went on to win their party's nomination.

On the Republican side, Ford won as the establishment candidate after a hard-fought race with the upstart conservative challenger, Ronald Reagan. This race was the last time a major party nominee had not clinched the nomination by convention.

In 1980, Carter barely won as an incumbent who faced Ted Kennedy as his establishment challenger.

This time, it was the Republican's turn to have a grassroots nominee in Ronald Reagan.

In the first contest between two grassroots candidates, Republicans won in a landslide.

At the Democratic National Convention that year, however, the establishment struck back.

North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt started a commission on how to take power back from the grassroots.

That commission recommended Superdelegates. Superdelegates gained their status by position. The commission split these delegate slots between state party chairs, vice chairs, Democratic Congressmen, and other prominent elected officials.

At first, these delegates comprised 14% of the delegate count, but they grew to 20% at their peak.

In 1984, the Democratic establishment finally figured out the new system. After Ted Kennedy announced he wouldn't run, the establishment supported Walter Mondale with funding and endorsements. Even with the several challengers, he never trailed in the primary.

1988 would mark the first time since the 1968 reforms that both parties would have a competitive primary without an incumbent.

On the Democratic side, the presumptive nominee, Gary Hart, who was the grassroots challenger to Mondale, dropped out of the race after an extramarital affair became public. Then, a lesser-known candidate, Joe Biden, dropped out after plagiarising a speech, and the media uncovered past plagiarism from law school.

With no establishment favorite, Dukakis won out over second-place finisher Jesse Jackson.

On the Republican side, George H.W. Bush ran on Reagan's record and won handily.

A real estate developer named Donald Trump considered entering the Republican primary that year, making 1988 the first cycle that both of our candidates from this year started running for president.

In 1992, the Democrats once again had no establishment favorite. Because of Bush's 89% approval rating, no one thought he was beatable, and that pushed establishment candidates out of the race.

A little-known candidate named Bill Clinton came from behind and won a majority of delegates and clinched the nomination against Jerry Brown and Paul Tsongas.

On the Republican side, George H.W. Bush had a conservative challenger, Pat Buchanan, who never won a state but showed George H.W. Bush's weakness and encouraged Ross Perot to mount a third-party challenge.

In 1996, the establishment candidate Bob Dole won the nomination against Pat Buchanan and Steve Forbes, with the two grassroots candidates splitting the vote.

In 2000, the Democratic primary was barely competitive, and Al Gore won the nomination without losing a single primary.

On the Republican side, George W. Bush wrapped up establishment support and funding early and handily won the nomination.

2000 was the peak year for establishment control of the primaries. Republicans hadn't picked a grassroots candidate since Reagan in 1980, and the Democrats had finally coalesced early behind a candidate.

In 2004, the Democrats saw what was about to change everything.

Howard Dean gained early support as an anti-war candidate and started challenging the more establishment candidates in fundraising through the Internet.

Dean even led in many polls in 2003 and outspent every candidate in Iowa and New Hampshire.

However, through negative advertising and bad luck, he drove away enough support to lose both contests, ultimately handing the nomination to John Kerry.

In 2008, the Democratic Party saw the best example yet of the establishment versus the grassroots. The establishment lined up early behind Hillary Clinton, and Barrack Obama used the Internet and supporters like Oprah to gain grassroots support.

The primary was hard-fought the whole way through, but Obama clinched the nomination with the help of superdelegates in June.

On the Republican side, the advent of winner-take-all primaries shortened the race considerably. State parties could choose to allocate delegates however they wanted. So, several state parties moved to winner-take-all contests to increase the importance of their state's primary.

Although there was no clear establishment candidate in a competitive race, McCain wrapped up the nomination by March 4th due to these winner-take-all contests.

Despite being a competitive race, Mitt Romney, the second-place finisher in 2008, won the nomination in 2012 over a heavily splintered field.

In 2016, the Democrats once again got behind Hillary Clinton; this time, it worked.

The Republicans, on the other hand, had the largest primary field in history with no clear establishment consensus candidate. In all, there were 17 major candidates.

With such a diverse field and the winner-take-all states, Donald Trump won the nomination with the lowest percentage of votes since the primary process began.

Not to be outdone, the Democrats had 29 major candidates in their 2020 primaries.

Joe Biden led in the polls for most of the race but badly lost the first three contests to Bernie Sanders.

Nobody knows exactly what happened after that, but the two major, moderate candidates still running dropped out and endorsed Joe Biden. This consolidation occurred despite both candidates performing better than Biden in the early contests.

Biden then went on to win handily.

We have finally reached the present day and are seeing a rematch between Trump and Biden.

Both handily won their primaries but haven't yet had their convention that would make the nomination final.

That's the backdrop under which the worst debate in history occurred.

CNN hosted a debate between Biden and Trump, and Biden melted down. Biden stumbled over simple concepts and, at times, was utterly unintelligible.

Since then, support for Biden has plummeted in the polls, and major Democrats have called for him to step down and free delegates to vote for whoever they want.

This convention would be the first time the party's nominee had not been decided before the convention since 1976 with Ford and Reagan. It would also be the first time a party would pick a nominee without the assistance of primaries since 1968.

But that's if Biden steps down before the convention on August 19th.

What happens if he doesn't?

The crazy thing is that anything could happen.

Before the Democratic National Convention votes on its nominees, it will vote on its rules.

That's right. Delegates set the rules for a primary after that primary occurs.

The rules committee could decide that delegates could vote for whoever they wanted to in the nomination fight. As long as most delegates agree, the nomination will be open.

Even if the convention keeps the rules the same, delegates are allowed to "in all good conscience reflect the sentiments of those who elected them." This rule means that delegates could vote for someone else in extreme circumstances, creating a contested convention.

Those options are extreme but possible after the debate and subsequent interviews.

The past week has shown just how fragile our nominating process is. So, let's spell out the problems.

The first problem, and the one that all future problems flow from, is that the primary process was not thought out. The process was born from the chaos of 1968, states using their power over ballot access to control state parties, and reforms that offered small fixes for structural problems.

The second problem is predictability. With delegates setting rules at convention, presumptive nominees have to count on the delegates keeping the rules the same before the nominating contest.

The third problem is a lack of purpose. The structure of the nominating process doesn't accurately optimize for democratic voters' opinions, swing voters' opinions, electability, ideological purity, or any other goal that a party might want to optimize for.

So, how do the parties fix this?

The first thing they need to do is decide what they want to optimize for. They can choose multiple goals, but they do need to choose.

Then, they can design a system.

If they want to emphasize electability, they can add weight to voters in battleground states and allow swing voters to vote in primaries.

If they want to emphasize ideological purity, they can set a small donation requirement for voting in the primary that goes to the party and require debate attendance for candidates.

If they want to emphasize fundraising, they can send that money to the eventual nominee.

Here's my solution, at least for the Republican Party.

I want the party to optimize for the long-term growth of the party. Here's how we do that.

We give everyone one vote that is weighted the same. If we only focus on battleground states, we will slowly lose the red states and never pick up the blue ones.

Then, we require voters to be registered to vote in the general election and charge them something like $10 to participate in the process.

Make the dollar amount small enough to where it's not a burden but significant enough to prevent saboteurs from participating.

Then, you set a timeline of six months over which candidates will compete from July 1st to New Year's Eve, allowing the nominee to run a general election campaign over ten months.

The party will set up an online voting system to track real-time vote totals while preserving a secret ballot. Cryptographic technology exists today to make this possible.

Voters will be able to cast their votes as soon as July 1st and change their votes until December 31st, enabling the measurement of real-time support and not relying on polls.

Then, on August 1st, the field is narrowed to candidates who have reached 1% of the vote totals, and the RNC hosts the first debate in early August, producing the debate and collecting the profits from it.

The RNC would host monthly debates, and the field would winnow down candidate by candidate, ending with two candidates on December 31st. The leading candidate would then be the nominee.

The schedule could look something like this:

Aug 13 - 20 Candidates

Aug 20 - 19 Candidates

Aug 27 - 18 Candidates

Sep 3 - 17 Candidates

Sep 10 - 16 Candidates

Sep 17 - 15 Candidates

Sep 24 - 14 Candidates

Oct 1 - 13 Candidates

Oct 8 - 12 Candidates

Oct 15 - 11 Candidates

Oct 22 - 10 Candidates

Oct 29 - 9 Candidates

Nov 5 - 8 Candidates

Nov 12 - 7 Candidates

Nov 19 - 6 Candidates

Nov 26 - 5 Candidates

Dec 3 - 4 Candidates

Dec 10 - 3 Candidates

Dec 17 - 2 Candidates

The slow winnowing would prevent a factional or establishment candidate from just walking away with the nomination and would reward candidates who brought people into the party.

The eventual nominee would then have the backing of a well-funded party with a strong base of supporters that it could turn out in November.

The only thing left would be a safety valve in case of emergency. The party could keep the voting open, and if four-fifths of the body at any time supports reopening nomination, they could.

So, what do you think? Would that system be too convoluted?

Let me know in the comments.


bottom of page