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Decline and Fall

· The Lede

Steve Erickson

What nobody seems to be considering & what everybody needs to come to terms with is the inevitability that what happened Thursday night will happen again. It may not happen in a debate and it may not manifest itself the same way, but it will happen somewhere & it will manifest itself in some way because old age has only one trajectory (I’m 74), and to think the President’s aging will not vividly & dramatically & very publicly make itself evident again is a massive collapse of the collective imagination. Does everyone think President Biden is going to recuperate from old age like it’s the “cold” his aides keep telling us it is? If President Biden doesn’t leave the ticket now, it’s as guaranteed as the ticking of time that we’ll be wondering why come October when he falls down, passes out, blanks on a question, gets lost in a speech, when the smallest lapse that we would forgive in anyone else takes on a fatal magnitude in the eyes of the electorate. Yes! by all means! let’s wait until October when the situation is absolutely untenable! Of course any other scenario will have its risks. Of course any other candidate will have weaknesses. Of course replacing the President will be messy. But some of the stated objections are just silly. “Name recognition”? Really? Sixteen years ago in a less connected age it took Sarah Palin 72 hrs to become world famous, and it will take Gretchen Whitmer or whomever else 24. These are myopic concerns compared to the growing inexorability of a looming American Reich that feeds off conventional thinking.

This isn’t “bedwetting.” The term “bedwetting” was coined by old-school pol James Carville and he thinks Biden needs to get out. This isn’t personal. I supported Biden four years ago in the Democratic Primaries when some of my same friends now balking at what must be done were supporting Bernie; I supported him because he was best positioned at the time to beat Donald Trump. That is no longer the case. Has anyone noticed who is not calling for Biden to drop from the race? Donald Trump, that’s who. Republicans, that’s who. Is it like Trump to be so discreet? Is it like him to be so delicate? Replacing Biden is the Republican nightmare.


Republicans are banking on running against Biden whose single greatest political handicap is one that, unlike inflation or even Gaza, has no possibility of getting better & every certainty of getting worse. And not recognizing that is to become an unwitting accomplice in the assassination of the American experiment.

Steve Erickson is the author of ten novels and a Distinguished Professor at the University of California, Riverside. His nonfiction includes the book American Nomad, about the 1996 presidential election.