Puck for the win! (Yes, it can happen)

At the velvet-roped publication Puck, Peter Hamby has a good article pointing out the insane chatter that Kamala Harris will or should be replaced as Joe Biden’s vice presidential running mate. It’s a sort of subgenre of the “Biden stand down” speech, a sort of small-batch craft whiskey from a thinking man, composed of ideas that almost certainly won’t come true. Hamby actually discovers that there is a political scientist, George Sirgiovanni, who has done a formal study of the history of the Dump the Veep speech: the bottom line is that chatter essentially occurs whenever things seem fragile for the outgoing president and that the Veep absolutely never gets. abandoned. Yes, it happened in the distant past. But not in the modern history of the presidency or vice-presidency. This doesn’t happen. So stop trying to get something back.

This to me is a slight statement against interest as I am generally skeptical of Harris’ political skills on the national stage. This comes from first thinking she might be a candidate in 2020, then seeing a series of fatal flaws reveal themselves and ultimately knock her out of the race. In other words, I was chastised because my first impression of the strength of his candidacy turned out to be completely wrong. Maybe she’ll be a great running mate in 2024. Maybe she’ll be a great candidate in 2028. I have no idea. I’m not at all invested in the opinion I got from observing him during a single national campaign. I mention this opinion only to emphasize the much more important fact that it absolutely doesn’t matter. Kamala Harris East Vice President and running mate of Joe Biden. Only an act of God will change that. The entire conversation โ€” to the extent that it exists โ€” is nothing more than a tacit conspiracy of bored columnists and nervous Democrats, whose sound and fury mean nothing of what will ever happen.

A few more factual points while we discuss them.

There is absolutely nothing about Joe Biden’s character, his treatment of and relationship with Harris during his presidency, or anything else that gives even the slightest indication that something like that is anywhere in the cards . We have had more cynical and complicit presidents who might have been tempted if they thought it would help them. As far as I know, this guy is absolutely not Joe Biden.

There is also the fairly obvious dimension of Democratic coalition politics. Let’s play this. Joe Biden, a white man who just turned 80, has low poll numbers and decides the solution is to make his black running mate? This should go well. And for or who exactly? Gavin Newsom? JB Pritzker? Gretchen Whitmer? I don’t want to go all out on race, gender, or coalition politics, but it’s just too obvious to miss.

This goes back to a larger question about the idea that you’re going to reshuffle the incumbent president’s cards a year before the election. This can be a fun thing to think about. But the modern presidency and vice presidency are very different from the way things worked in 1832, 1864 or even 1944. The two items on the list represent and in turn set a whole series of coalition agreements, compromises and delegations of power. Start dismantling this and it will destabilize the entire coalition.

Equally important, unlike in the distant past, these are coalition agreements and negotiations negotiated on the terrain of mass opinion. When Democratic powermen forced FDR to abandon Henry Wallace in favor of Harry Truman, the Veeps were generally ignored and they were not people the public saw on their television screens and computers almost daily. The public does not have direct access to the vote on the choice of a presidential candidate’s running mate. But remember that at that time they also did not have a direct vote to determine who was the presidential candidate. The whole modern system of popular choice of candidates is only 60 or 70 years old and probably not even that old.

Sometimes when I write these articles, I hear readers say things like “Oh, so we should just shut up?” ยป Do what the party elders say we should do, right? But it’s not really about what should be, what’s right, or anything like that. It’s about understanding why these things never happen, the dynamics of parties, coalitions and public opinion that keep these things in place. There are only certain things that it makes sense to worry about or question, things that don’t change. You might as well start trying to remember if you packed your parachute correctly once you’ve already jumped out of the plane.

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