Opinion: Privileged Democrats endanger democracy, and Palestinians, by sticking with President Biden

President Joe Biden participates in the first presidential debate of the 2024 elections with former President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at CNN's studios in Atlanta on June 27.

President Joe Biden participates in the first presidential debate of the 2024 elections with former President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at CNN's studios in Atlanta on June 27. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP


Published: 07-06-2024 6:00 AM

Robert Azzi is a photographer and writer who lives in Exeter. His columns are archived at robertazzitheother.substack.com

In January 1968, inspired by anti-Vietnam War, pro-peace movements led mostly by young Americans agitating for change from Sea to Shining Sea — in my case from the Merrimack River to the Sea — I volunteered and became part of the “Clean for Gene” campaign, signing on in New Hampshire. Within days I was hired by Senator Eugene McCarthy’s press secretary, Seymour “Sy” Hersh, and I was appointed photographer for the national campaign.

I stuck with it until the Chicago convention, where party stalwarts gave away all we had fought for.

Those 60s, a decade both tragic and exhilarating, from JFK’s and Medgar Evers’ assassinations to Kent State, from My Fair Lady to Woodstock, from Greensboro to the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, changed life in America and we — you and I — would never be the same.

This past week, as I watched the beginning of the debacle today colloquially referred to as the Biden-Trump debate, I began to yearn for a moment in 1968 — Sunday, March 31 to be precise — and clearly recalled the transformative encounter when a reporter, I believe it was ABC’s Sam Donaldson, informed McCarthy, who was running in the Democratic primary against the incumbent, President Lyndon B. Johnson, that Johnson, just moments before, had announced in a radio address that he would not run for re-election.

We were ecstatic.

That moment, which I captured in a photo making McCarthy appear as though he was a cat who swallowed the canary, came to mind Thursday as I tried and failed to watch the Biden-Trump debate live from beginning to Shining Sea.

After LBJ withdrew that Sunday night Sen. Bobby Kennedy entered the race against McCarthy. Within days MLK was assassinated, within months Bobby was assassinated, within more months of turmoil and unrest, as the Democratic Party fell back on itself and nominated Vice President Humbert H. Humphrey, the country continued to collapse upon itself.

Ecstasy was short-lived. Nixon became president.

Last week Biden’s debate performance was so painful I couldn’t watch. After 20 minutes I hit the ‘record’ button and switched to ‘Castle’ reruns on Lifetime.

No one could save Biden; I needed to save myself.

I remembered 1968 and I decided I wouldn’t write about it right away, that I needed some distance, needed to see if others might have insights that had eluded me, that might ease my despair and disappointment.


We need to save ourselves.

Today, I fear, more strongly than I did that Thursday, that unless the Democratic ticket changes Donald Trump is likely to be America’s next president and he promises to do to this nation what Nixon aspired to accomplish but failed.

Trump has told us what he wants to do and now the Supreme Court gave him permission to do it, all of it, awarding him a bespoke laissez-passer to declare, as Louis XIV apocryphally said: ”L’etat c’est moi ,” “The State, it is I.”

Today, at a moment when more people work in America today than ever before, in good part because of President Biden’s economic policies, the state of our democracy is more precarious than ever.

Today, when America’s military might is unmatched globally, we’re unable to keep barbarians and authoritarians from deconstructing, for malign purposes, America’s fundamental beauty.

In 2020 Joe Biden was the right man at the right time and I am thankful, we should all be thankful, for that. He headed off MAGA at the pass and we survived. He promised in 2020 to be a one-term transitional figure. “Look, I view myself as a bridge, not as anything else,” he told a Detroit rally in March of that year.

Today he wants a second term.

I don’t like Joe Biden.

I still hold him in part responsible for Clarence Thomas. I hold him in part responsible for the invasion of Iraq in 2003, which irrevocably broke the Middle East.

Most dearly, and personally, I charge him and his administration as being deliberately complicit with Israel’s crimes of genocide and ethnic cleansing waged against the Palestinian people.

I want no part of him.

In the wake of Thursday’s debacle, many of Biden’s supporters have risen to try and save him, flooding social media and airwaves with lame rationalizations, urging him to stay in the race.

That’s a mistake, and a gift to Trump.

Biden’s only play is that he himself should announce he is stepping down; that, having set America up over the past four years for continued success and prosperity, he is ready to hand the baton on to a younger generation.

That’s his only play — and perhaps our only hope for survival.

I am tired of hearing that Trump lied about 30 times during the debate. So what. Is anyone surprised? Donald Trump lies, that’s what he does, and his most fervent supporters don’t care.

The only people who care are you and me — and I’m not sure about me.

When Biden accepted the debate challenge he knew Trump would lie, no one but fools expected Trump to act honorably or to follow Marquess of Queensberry rules. What no one anticipated was how incapable Biden was in rising to Trump’s challenge.

Biden’s hubris in accepting the Trump challenge was his undoing; today, his insistence on staying in the race threatens the very survival of a nation dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal.

I believe that just because Biden has devoted his life to serving this country doesn’t mean that the country should suborn its own interests to protect him, his campaign, or his legacy.

Critically, for me, post-debate, was the gulf in reality between Biden apologists and strategists on one hand and the reality we witnessed on TV.

Biden was not only unable to push back against Trump on fundamental issues from abortion to the economy but amidst post-debate hysteria neither he nor his advisors were able to convince me why they were so unprepared and incompetent.

Amid such hysteria I cannot be silent.

Today, in a post-debate environment almost entirely created by Biden’s incoherence and incompetence, Biden’s old-school political strategists — who both want to protect their institutional privileges and who don’t want us to believe our own eyes and ears — are building a delusional gulf between the Biden Administration and people like you and me.

We know better.

I fear that when we look back at this moment in history, people will look at Biden and his family, look at those influential Democrats deeply entrenched in the party, and ask why it was they lacked courage? Why is it inconceivable for them to consider whether Kamala Harris, Gretchen Whitmer, or Josh Shapiro would be worse for the ticket than carrying on with Biden?

If the Democratic Party, as it exists today, can’t put America’s interests, its strategic and moral interests, its constitutional interests ahead of its own personal and institutional privileges, what kind of nation do we have?

I remember when the Democrats in Chicago ignored all that had unfolded in America since JFK’s assassination and nominated Hubert H. Humphrey to be their standard bearer, ensuring defeat, and they are risking that same result today.

America has fought great battles in its history: it’s time now to fight to safeguard our own freedoms and independence.

That calls for courage, not for reliance on traditional courtesies and protocols and I believe replacing Biden as the Democratic nominee — as perilous as that may sound — gives America the best shot of defeating Donald Trump.

As they debate who that candidate might be it might be time to start drafting an aspirational and inspiring resignation speech for Biden that would outdo the one given by President Johnson that, after a surprisingly narrow primary victory over McCarthy in New Hampshire, foreshadowed prospects ahead.

Maybe I can help with that.