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Opinion: Colorado Democrats not named Bennet need to be more honest about President Joe Biden

July 11, 2024, 10:52 am

President Joe Biden in the Oval Office of the White House, Wednesday, June 7, 2023. (Detail of Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz).

The United States is approaching the most perilous moment in its history since at least the Civil War, and there has rarely been so much need for elected leaders to be transparent with the people they represent.

High-ranking Colorado Democrats are failing to meet this need, appearing to prioritize their own political interests over the country’s survival. Some are behaving as if they owe the people little but platitudes, and, given that the stakes are so high, their featherlight rhetoric is a form of dishonesty. Constituents have a right to demand more.

It has been clear since June 27 that President Joe Biden is not fit to serve in the most powerful office on Earth. It wasn’t just that he was sometimes incoherent during a debate with former President Donald Trump, his opponent in the 2024 presidential race. It was that his performance only reinforced the view already common among many Americans that he is experiencing physical decline and is prone to confusion.

Quentin Young

We don’t need a doctor’s diagnosis to tell us what we can see with our own eyes. It’s apparent almost any time Biden appears in public. There’s little doubt that he’s much less sharp compared with his own previous abilities just four years ago. People who have been in his presence, including a Newsline reporter, often remark how old he appears in movement and speech. It’s no wonder that the president has given so few news conferences and has so assiduously avoided interviews with independent journalists.

That Biden is at the helm of a nuclear-armed superpower is unnerving. That he is heading toward electoral defeat at the hands of a fascist menace is terrifying. Democracy depends on a Trump defeat, and if there were ever a time for elected leaders to speak hard truths, this is it.

What have we gotten instead?

“I think the question of, is he capable of getting through four years of the presidency or becoming president again, that’s up to the voters,” U.S. Rep. Yadira Caraveo of Thornton told Colorado Politics. Not helpful.

“No matter who is our Democratic nominee, losing to Donald Trump is not an option,” U.S. Rep Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood said in a statement. We know.

“Obviously, President Biden is our nominee. I’ve heard nothing to suggest that he’s made a decision to the contrary,” U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse of Lafayette said Wednesday during a press conference. Empty words.

“We’ve had almost four years of a Biden presidency … passing gun violence prevention laws, climate crisis bills, and on and on. That’s what I go off of. I’m willing to defend that record any day of the week,” U.S. Rep. Jason Crow of Centennial said on CNN. The record is not the issue.

Evasion and equivocation. That’s mostly what we’ve gotten.

Many Colorado Democrats, echoing colleagues around the country, cast the debate as a bad night that doesn’t generally reflect Biden’s strengths. But that’s hard to square with repeated glitches in recent months.

Some of their rhetoric sought to shift focus from Biden’s health to the profound MAGA threat, and many Biden defenders have accused doubters of downplaying signs of Trump’s own cognitive lapses and the damage he would do during a second term in the White House. But concern about Trump doesn’t preclude concern about Biden. It deepens it. And the complaint that Trump should be the one called on to exit the race misses this asymmetry: Trump is performing exactly the way Republicans want him to perform, lies, criminality, authoritarianism and all, but Biden’s candidacy falls short of Democratic expectations.

One top Colorado Democrat, however, has begun to level with the people. U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet appeared on CNN Tuesday and offered a searing account of the risks of Biden staying in the race. He said Biden is now in danger of losing to Trump in a “landslide,” adding that the U.S. House and Senate could also be controlled by Republicans after November.

“For me, this isn’t a question about polling, it’s not a question about politics. It’s a moral question about the future of our country, and I think it’s critically important for us to come to grips with what we face if together we put this country on a path of electing Donald Trump again,” Bennet said.

Though Bennet stopped short of calling for Biden to step aside, he didn’t have to. The message was clear, difficult as it might have been to deliver: If Biden remains the Democratic candidate, the United States will likely be lost to MAGA malignancy.

It’s a moral question. Bennet is right. That’s why it’s so exasperating when his congressional colleagues deflect or spin or go silent. At such a fraught time, they owe constituents decisive, fearless, frank communication.

In May 2023, I wrote that Biden is “hardly the best possible Democratic candidate for president” and called for other Democrats to challenge him in the primary. It was clear even then that the survival of the U.S. could depend on a candidate not just defeating Trump but also exhibiting enough vigor and character to obliterate Trumpism.

There are indications that people close to Biden knew for a long time that his vigor has diminished, and it appears they concealed his condition and protected him, doing a disservice to the nation and leaving it dangerously vulnerable to a Trumpist takeover.

Will leaders finally fulfill their moral obligation to speak honestly about who is the best Democratic candidate for president? They must be straight with constituents who despair for the nation’s future.

Editor’s note: This opinion column first appeared on Colorado Newsline, which is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: info@coloradonewsline.com. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and X.

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