The Korea Herald


[Wang Son-taek] A third option for US President Biden

By Korea Herald

Published : July 4, 2024 - 05:21

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Since the surprising TV debate on June 27, the Democratic Party of the US has been heated with controversy as to whether President Joe Biden should renounce his reelection bid. Voices calling for Biden to step aside express severe frustration that the debate revealed the longtime politician’s lack of cognitive ability. They argue that if Biden runs in the election in November, he will surely lose, so he should be replaced as the Democratic presidential candidate in the form of resigning himself.

In response, Biden’s team and family took a stance that he would not resign because the lackluster performance at the debate was a one-off event and he can fully serve as president until January 2029, when he will be 87 years old.

Although the US presidential election is an American matter, I, as non-US voter, am interested in it because it will seriously impact South Korea as well. The outcome essentially affects many of the world's 8 billion people, including Koreans, so they should have an opportunity to present an opinion on the campaign.

The most indigestible thing from across the Pacific Ocean is that the US Democratic Party focuses on bickering over Biden’s withdrawal from candidacy. For the party, the situation is not just black and white. There could also be a third option.

More than 70 percent of US voters and many American media outlets argue that Biden should resign from the race. They say he should be replaced because the TV debate showed that he will lose against former President Donald Trump and is not capable of performing his duties anyway. However, the remaining problem is that replacing the candidate does not guarantee victory in the presidential election. There would be tremendous confusion about who the new candidate should be.

The Democratic Party's second option is to continue to the presidential election in November with Biden as its candidate. This would greatly reduce the likelihood of chaos during the campaign. However, the party will likely lose if it does so, as more than 70 percent of American voters believe Biden should pull out.

What could the third option be? A revote might be the answer. Things would be completely different if Biden were to propose to invalidate the results of the party’s presidential primary and hold a selection process again through an emergency party vote at the party convention in August.

If Biden wins by defeating other competitors, he will get the proof of legitimacy to go ahead and be relieved of the pressure to resign. The Democratic Party will be able to unite and focus on campaigning for victory in the presidential election. Biden, with the image of a brave man full of spirit, not that of a lethargic old man, can show how he proudly offers confidence and wins.

If he loses the vote, he needs to accept the result. In this case, he will not be remembered as a weak man forced to resign due to public pressure or a tenacious man who refused to resign to save face. Rather, he will be remembered as a wise, brave man who proudly and wisely solved difficult and complex problems following liberal democratic procedures.

Biden can take this option because there is still a chance of him winning the selection, as this is about the party members where opinions on the resignation are divided almost half-and-half. If a convention schedule for a confidence vote again is announced, there will be huge repercussions. Although the Republican National Convention will go earlier in July, media coverage will focus on the determined veteran and other younger competitors.

The convention to select a new candidate would allow the Democratic Party to adopt its presidential campaign strategy away from the Trump-led election frame. The Trump frame's core strategy is to emphasize the relative deprivation that is hitting middle-class and working-class families in the US and the responsibility of the elites with vested interests, while also fingering Biden as a leader of the establishment. The Democratic Party has been mired in this frame since Trump's appearance in 2016. Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election, and Biden struggled in the 2020 election because they failed to create their own frame. The Democratic Party is still unable to get out of the one Trump created.

The Trump frame has been successful because it identifies and makes the most of American voters' complaints. The embarrassing point is that American voters' complaints have always existed, and in the past the problems were softened by suggesting new goals and directions.

Although the economic difficulties and relative deprivation experienced by the working class in the US in recent years can be understood, the vested elite cannot bear all the responsibility, and blaming them does not solve the problem. In that sense, the Trump frame clearly manifests populism and only exacerbates the problem.

Biden and the Democratic Party need to build a new frame inspired by older American politicians in the past. In the context of dissatisfaction and anger, negative and regressive reactions could result in finding and punishing those responsible. On the contrary, a positive and progressive response is to initiate a new system that mitigates contradictions and spreads consensus that softens dissatisfaction and anger.

If Biden decides to fight for confidence again at the Democratic National Convention in August, people will be surprised by his decisiveness and boldness. Nobody will say he is too old or lacks the capability to lead the nation, whether he wins or not.

Democrats would break away from the Trump frame and get a bigger chance to win the November election. Many global villagers might welcome a man of wisdom or, at least, be relieved from the worry that a man of unpredictability might cause a lot of trouble to the people of other nations, disrupting the liberal world order as they experienced several years ago.

Wang Son-taek

Wang Son-taek is an adjunct professor at Sogang University. He is a former diplomatic correspondent at YTN and a former research associate at Yeosijae. The views expressed here are the writer’s own. -- Ed.