It’s Not as Easy as Just Getting Biden to Drop Out

In a recent episode of his podcast, my colleague Ezra Klein made the strongest case yet for replacing President Biden on the ticket with a new Democratic nominee. After listening to it, I disagreed with a few key points, and after discussing our differences, Ezra and I agreed that it would make sense to take this to the page, as it were.

A good part of the strength of Ezra’s case came from the fact that he anticipated the most significant objection to any push to remove Biden — namely, that there wouldn’t be enough time left to select a new nominee. To that, he said, the Democrats could choose a candidate at their convention this summer in Chicago.

Here was Ezra on how to use the convention process rather than a primary to choose the nominee:

He went on to add that while one of the most infamous contested conventions ended in disaster — the 1968 Democratic convention, which was also held in Chicago — conventions have picked some of our greatest presidents, including Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt.

I should say that I am a strong skeptic of the idea that there is a viable path to replacing Biden as the nominee as long as he is capable and competent. Ezra’s case was persuasive, but I think he underrated the real odds that a brokered convention would end in political disaster for the Democratic Party.

Yes, the convention process still exists. There are still delegates and voting, and it continues to be possible to have a contested convention where the party chooses a nominee. The fact that we call this modern process a convention, however, does not mean that it is the same process as the one that chose nominees from roughly 1831 to 1968.

A large reason: The American party system of the past half-century is not the same system as the half-century before that. The political parties themselves were different, and their relationship to democratic legitimacy was different as well.

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