Joe Biden looks disoriented during a debate.
(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

You’re Not the Only One Wondering if Joe Biden Can Be Replaced

Look. Debate Night 2024 was rough. Even if you didn’t watch the debate directly. Even if you just experienced it through clips and groans on social media, or through Jon Stewart’s reaction on The Daily Show or something. Rough. Shit.

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Trump was Trump. He did what everyone expected him to do, whether you hate him for it or love him for it. But Joe Biden … oh god.

Biden’s performance at the debate was abysmal. Many people on social media likened him to a “living corpse.” The man could barely string a sentence together. And when he did, it was almost worse—he somehow turned a question about protecting abortion rights into a baseless tale about an immigrant raping women, using anti-abortion rhetoric in the process. He said the phrase, “We finally beat Medicare.”

On the heels of a historically awful performance, even those within the Democratic party establishment are growing concerned. And everyday voters are worried to the extent that Google searches for “Can Joe Biden be replaced?” exploded around an hour into the debate. Not to mention other concerns around issues like Biden’s handling of Gaza and his inaction around protecting abortion rights.

For what it’s worth, Biden was much more lively at a rally he held less than 24 hours after the debate. But still. But still.

So, can Biden be replaced?

Yes, but—

The short answer is: Yes, Biden could theoretically be replaced, but don’t count on it. The long answer involves several bureaucratic twists and (yuck) delegate counting.

First of all, the biggest hurdle appears to be that Biden himself doesn’t plan to step down from the race. Various reports from the day after the debate said that Biden isn’t planning on dropping out. And that he still wants to debate Trump again in September. Spare me. Spare us all.

Stepping down seems like not only the best move for Biden’s personal health, but the best move for his party and his country. It’s almost as if pride or power is more important to him. Or getting to keep proxy-bombing people. Or something.

Anyway, if Biden doesn’t voluntarily step down, it means that the upper brass of the Democratic Party are both going to have to come to a consensus and then have a hard talk with him. Forcefully kicking him out doesn’t seem to be in the cards. Either way, the party has until the Democratic National Convention on August 19 to offer an alternative.

At the convention, delegates will officially vote on the candidate which will represent the Democratic Party in the November election. Through Biden’s primary and caucus wins earlier this year, 3,894 of 3,937 delegates are currently pledged to Biden. If Biden dropped out, they could vote for whoever. This is called an “open convention”—an ordeal where the candidate is chosen on the floor at the last minute.

This could be a whole ordeal, since while Vice President Kamala Harris should be the obvious frontrunner for who to nominate if Joe Biden’s not on the table, that’s not guaranteed. The “open convention” would probably be popcorn-worthy, at least.

Stop making excuses

The issue, depending on who you talk to, is that there’s no one in the Democratic party everyone could rally behind. Names commonly thrown out are Harris, California Governor Gavin Newsom, and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. But to most of us, this hemming and hawing feels like bureaucratic BS.

Back in November 2023, “generic Democratic” did better in polling than Biden. This plea for a different candidate is not new. It’s just that Biden’s debate performance was so objectively poor that the Democratic Party could finally be starting to take the concerns of its base seriously.

Here’s a taste of some viral tweets from during the debate, to give you a taste of how exasperated people are with the stupid, stupid choice we’re being forced to make in November:

Anybody else. Seriously. Most of us here have serious qualms with the other “frontrunner” candidates, if not the Democratic Party as a whole after all this. But dear god, just listen to your voters. Sure, an “open convention” hasn’t been done in modern times. But it’s better to make history than repeat it.

On the other hand, as much as many voters want someone else to take over this race, when it comes down to it, when presented with other options, none of them seem to be any more appealing. It’s almost like the whole system is broken!

So can Biden be replaced? Technically, yes. But I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for it to happen.

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