Category Archives: political parties

“Kamala Harris Replacing Joe Biden Is Not Antidemocratic; Hey Republicans, No Coup for You”

I have written this piece for Slate. It begins:

With news of President Joe Biden’s withdrawal from the presidential race, some Republicans are claiming he cannot be removed from the presidential ballot in November and in any case it is undemocratic to do so. The first claim is legally unsupported and the second one is ludicrous. I fully expect the Democrats’ legitimate nominees for president and vice-president to be listed on the ballot in November….

To the extent that there’s even the hint of a legal issue, it’s not over whether it’s Biden or someone else who is the Democrats’ nominee, but about the timing of choosing the official nominee. The key is that nomination happens in time to get the candidate on the ballot in each state. For instance, Ohio originally had a ballot deadline that was before the Democratic National Convention, leading to a risk that no Democratic nominee would be listed on the ballot in that state. Ohio changed its law to a later deadline to accommodate the late convention. As I explained at Election Law Blog, there’s a hyper technical argument that Ohio could still contend that a nomination coming from Democrats after their convention would be too late. This was the purported reason Democrats were going to do an early virtual roll-call vote to choose Biden. (I think the real reason for an early roll call was for partisans to lock Biden in, not to avoid litigation)…

In a handful of other states, including Washington state, there is a different ballot access timing issue that could trigger a lawsuit. (The issue is even more technical and has to do with an election administrator’s power to extend a legislative deadline in a presidential election.) For this reason, Democrats would be smart to still do that virtual roll call by August 7 if they’ve coalesced around Vice President Kamala Harris or another candidate. That would avoid even the small risk of a serious lawsuit.

But even if the DNC holds an open convention and the nomination comes during the convention, I am confident that the Democrats’ nominee will be on the ballot in all 50 states, either because legislatures will change the rules to grant ballot access to the Democrats’ nominee or courts will require it.

And then this brings us to the complaints that there’s something anti-democratic about this whole process, that it is somehow overturning the will of the Biden voters in choosing a new nominee. This is a crazy complaint. Until the 1960s, it was not uncommon for party nominees to be chosen by party insiders. We even have the cliched “smoke-filled room” where this used to happen. The undemocratic nature of that process led to the party reform we have today where most delegates are chosen by the people and vote at the convention.

If Biden wanted to remain in the race and delegates who were chosen for Biden in the primary process decided to vote for someone else, there would be something to this small-d democracy argument. Voters wanted Biden and the delegates didn’t listen.

But Biden has withdrawn. He’s voluntarily decided he can’t go forward. The party has democratic procedures in place for such an eventuality, just as if a candidate dies before being nominated. The whole point of doing a convention is to have a safety valve for something like this. (And I always fear what would happen if a candidate dies after nomination and listing on the ballot, when things could get very dicey.)…

It takes a special kind of chutzpah for Trump supporters to say it’s a “coup” when Democrats conduct a fair and democratic process for replacing a withdrawn candidate. Trumpists could learn a lot about the democratic process in watching what’s happening on the other side of the aisle.

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The Virtual Roll Call and Harris’s Candidacy

After President Biden’s historic announcement earlier today, many people are wondering what will happen next. While no one yet knows for sure, there’s been speculation about the possibility of an open convention or even a “blitz primary.” But the process could turn out to be much quicker and simpler than that.

Before Biden’s withdrawal, the DNC had been planning to have delegates vote through a pre-convention virtual roll call. This was originally intended to address the Ohio’s early deadline for ballot access, but became unnecessary once the state changed its law to accommodate the Democratic Party’s relatively late convention (August 19-22). The DNC was nevertheless planning to conduct this virtual roll call — at first in July, before pushing it back to early August under pressure. It offered some pretty flimsy legal justifications, when the real reason appeared to be running out the clock on those seeking to replace Biden as the nominee.

Now that Biden’s out, it’s unclear whether the DNC will still proceed with the virtual roll call, according to Politico (which reports that it didn’t immediately receive an answer to this question from the DNC). The legal reasons for having this pre-convention vote are still flimsy. But with Democratic leaders and delegates quickly falling in line behind Vice President Harris, there are practical reasons why the party might want to proceed in that fashion.

Having a virtual roll call in early August would avoid a contested convention, with all the risks that entails. If Harris’s nomination is a done deal by then, it will allow for the convention to be a more scripted event celebrating the nominee, as has become the norm. It would also avoid a public intra-party fight, for which I suspect few Democrats have an appetite after the last few weeks.

So while an open convention would undoubtedly be entertaining to watch, I doubt we’ll see that. It’s possible that delegates will vote to nominate Harris before the convention even begins.

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“Stop panicking. Replacing Biden on ballots isn’t a problem.”

Andy Craig in MSNBC: “There is no credible basis for the claims that the Democratic Party’s candidate for president, whoever that may be, will be kicked off the ballot in any state. As things stand currently, no relevant deadlines have passed. The party remains perfectly free to choose its nominee however it wants, and to choose whomever it wants.”

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Breaking: Biden Out — What Happens Now?

First of all, wow! His “My Fellow Americans” letter may be found here. The key paragraph:

It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve as your President. And while it has been my intention to seek reelection, I believe it is in the best interest of my party and the country for me to stand down and to focus solely on fulfilling my duties as President for the remainder of my term. 

Democrats now have to choose a nominee, and we’re in uncharted territory (at least in the modern era). The Washington Post has this graphic explanation of what could happen next this morning, Jeff Greenfield this piece in Politico yesterday, and Vox this one just a few minutes ago. More to come, I’m sure . . .

Update: Biden has issued a second statement, endorsing VP Harris to be the party’s nominee.

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“Republicans could file challenges if Biden replaced, Speaker Johnson says”

Politico on the Speaker’s smoke blowing: “Technically, Biden has not yet been formally nominated to be the Democratic presidential candidate and won’t be until a vote of the delegates selected to the Democratic National Convention. Still, Johnson said there might be grounds for a challenge, given that Biden was the overwhelming winner of the party’s primaries.”

No, there wouldn’t.

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“Ohio’s Phantom Menace”

Politico reports that the DNC is forging ahead with its plan for a pre-convention virtual roll call, originally planned to address the since-resolved Ohio ballot access problem: “The Democratic National Convention Rules Committee met virtually on Friday to outline plans for the virtual roll call vote and announced they would meet no later than next Friday, July 26, to vote on the rules. Virtual voting by convention delegates is scheduled to start no earlier than Aug. 1.” More background on the pretextual (in my opinion) basis for forcing an early delegate vote here and here.

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“Biden and Trump Have Succeeded in Breaking Reality”

From M. Gessen in NYT, an astute commentary on where we’re at:

Biden and Trump represent entirely different values and policies…. Biden is right: Trump poses an existential threat to democracy.

But both campaigns are creating a sense of unreality, in presenting politics as formulaic spectacle, abstracted from the actual politics each candidate represents and from people’s lived experiences….

Autocrats and aspiring autocrats, whatever their political orientation, have been telling this story for a long time. They say that the country is on the verge of catastrophe and that only one person — the great leader — can save it. They use this rhetorical strategy because it works. That is, it works in times when a critical number of people are feeling insecure, precarious, frightened, as many Americans clearly are….

It’s tempting to say that Trump’s autocratic movement has spread like an infection. The truth is, the seeds of this disaster have been sprouting in American politics for decades: the dumbing down of conversation, the ever-growing role of money in political campaigns, the disappearance of local news media and local civic engagement and the consequent transformation of national politics into a set of abstracted images and stories, the inescapable understanding of presidential races as personality contests.

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“Joe Biden, Kamala Harris or Someone Else? The Convention Rules Might Decide.”

Jeff Greenfield’s deep dive into party rules and procedures, in Politico Magazine:

Whether or not President Joe Biden drops his bid for reelection amid rising pressure from party leaders, there’s a very good chance that the Democratic convention will be more contested than any in more than a half century….

That means that the convention rules, including who can vote on what ballot and how free the delegates are, will play a crucial, even decisive role. It requires a close look at a process riddled with tricky issues: delegates who are “pledged” but not necessarily “bound”;party insiders who cannot vote on the first ballot, except when they perhaps can; delegates who are free to vote their choice except when they can’t.

And all of these factors will lead to different outcomes depending on whether the convention will see an embattled president fighting a serious challenge to his renomination or a convention that must choose a successor to a president who has chosen to stand down. Further putting things up in the air is the early virtual roll call to nominate Biden that the DNC currently has planned, but which is being fiercely resisted by those who do not want a Biden nomination locked up before the convention even begins.

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“Republicans say they will trust the election results as long as Trump wins”

From the Washington Post:

Despite the brimming confidence of Trump supporters, the campaign is preparing them to question the results if things don’t go their way. Trump has preemptively questioned the outcome of the election, sowing doubt in the results long before votes have been cast. In his convention speech on Thursday, he falsely said Democrats “used covid to cheat” in the 2020 presidential election.

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“Jan. 6 committee members leverage Trump in pleas for Biden to step aside”


Democrats who played prominent roles on the House Jan. 6 committee — which concluded that Donald Trump poses a unique danger to democracy — are at the forefront of the latest push by members of Congress to call on President Joe Biden to consider dropping his reelection bid.

It’s an effort driven by their fears of a resurgent Trump.

On consecutive days this week, Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) — three of the Jan. 6 panel’s seven Democrats — urged Biden to reconsider his candidacy in light of the party’s eroding confidence in his ability to stave off another Trump presidency. Their statements echoed their assessment of Trump drawn from their work on the select committee.

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“Indicted election deniers from several states are Republican Convention delegates”


… GOP Arizona state Sens. Jake Hoffman and Anthony Kern, as well as Nancy Cottle [all Arizona delegates], are among the 18 people indicted by an Arizona grand jury for their roles in an alleged scheme to upend the 2020 presidential election by throwing their state’s 11 Electoral College votes to former President Trump.

Hoffman, Kern and Cottle aren’t the only people in this situation who are at the convention in Milwaukee. Three delegates from Georgia, five from Nevada and two from Michigan also face charges for similar “fake elector” schemes in their respective states, according to an NPR review of delegate rosters and news reports.

Election deniers from Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Wisconsin are also present as delegates at the RNC.

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“DNC sticks with Biden virtual roll call, despite doubts that it’s necessary”

The Washington Post has the latest on this story:

The Democratic National Committee pressed forward Wednesday with a plan to hold a virtual roll call to nominate President Biden for reelection during the first week of August, a process that could short-circuit a burgeoning effort from within the party to replace him amid questions about his acuity.

Party leadership cited the risk of a legal quagmire if Biden is not formally nominated before the party’s convention in Chicago, which begins Aug. 19. DNC officials said looming ballot deadlines in a handful of states could give GOP-aligned groups the opportunity to challenge in the courts any nominee whose status is not formalized by those dates.

But officials in several of those states said in emailed statements that there are processes in place to ensure that Biden — or another Democrat — would appear on the ballot even if the deadline passed before the nomination was official. And some experts say the notion that a Democratic nominee would be kept off the ballot is far-fetched.

“If there were a challenge, courts side with giving ballot access for major candidates.,” said Rick Hasen, an election law professor at UCLA. “It’s not realistic that this would happen.”

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“Democrats aim to nominate president in first week of August, as some push Biden to quit the race”

From AP, the latest on this developing story:

Democrats will look to hold a virtual vote to make President Joe Biden their party’s nominee in the first week of August, as Biden has rebuffed calls from some in his party to quit the race after his disastrous debate performance against Donald Trump.

The Democratic National Convention’s rules committee will meet on Friday to discuss its plans, according to a letter sent to members obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, and will finalize them next week. The letter from co-chairs Bishop Leah D. Daughtry and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz states that the virtual vote won’t take place before Aug. 1 but that the party is still committed to holding a vote before Aug. 7, which had been Ohio’s filing deadline.

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