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Opinion | James Carville: Biden Won’t Win. Democrats Need a Plan. Here’s One.


Mark my words: Joe Biden is going to be out of the 2024 presidential race. Whether he is ready to admit it or not. His pleas on Monday to congressional Democrats for support will not unite the party behind him. Mr. Biden says he’s staying in the race, but it’s only a matter of time before Democratic pressure and public and private polling lead him to exit the race. The jig is up, and the sooner Mr. Biden and Democratic leaders accept this, the better. We need to move forward.

But it can’t be by anointing Vice President Kamala Harris or anyone else as the presumptive Democratic nominee. We’ve got to do it out in the open — the exact opposite of what Donald Trump wants us to do.

For the first time in his life, Mr. Trump is praying. To win the White House and increase his chances of avoiding an orange jumpsuit, he needs Democrats to make the wrong moves in the coming days — namely, to appear to rig the nomination for a fading president or the sitting vice president or some other heir apparent. He needs to be able to type ALL CAPS posts about power brokers and big donors putting the fix in. He needs, in other words, for Democrats to blow it.

We’re not going to do that.

We’re going to nominate a new ticket in a highly democratic and novel way, not in the backrooms of Washington, D.C., or Chicago.

We’re at the stage where we need constructive ideas for how to move forward. Representative Jim Clyburn and the Times Opinion columnist Ezra Klein have spoken about a Democratic “mini-primary,” and I want to build on that.

I want to see the Democratic Party hold four historic town halls between now and the Democratic National Convention in August — one each in the South, the Northeast, the Midwest and the West. We can recruit the two most obvious and qualified people in the world to facilitate substantive discussions: Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. They may not represent every faction under our party’s big tent. But they care as much about our democracy as our nation’s first president, they understand what it takes to be president, and they know how to win.

Town halls — high-stakes job interviews for the toughest job in the world — would surely attract television and cable partners and generate record numbers of viewers. Think the Super Bowl with Taylor Swift in the stands. The young, the old and everyone in between will tune in to see history being made in real time.

How will potential nominees be chosen to participate in the town halls? There is no answer here that will satisfy everyone, but hard choices must be made given the tight timetable, and I think leaning on the input of former presidents makes good sense. So I would advise Presidents 42 and 44 to select eight leading contenders out of the pool of those who choose to run, with Ms. Harris most definitely getting a well-earned invite.

I believe the vice president would be a formidable opponent to Mr. Trump. She has spent the last four years crisscrossing the country and the globe, serving the American people. She has a hell of a story — one that more people should know. She stood up for ordinary Americans against big banks. She locked up sex predators. You want the prosecutor or you want the criminal? Not the worst question to put to the American public this November.

Maybe Presidents 42 and 44 can make the candidate selection even more democratic by consulting the nation’s 23 Democratic governors in the town hall selection process. Governors deal in the practical, not the theoretical. But I’m not a details guy. I say we leave it up to 42 and 44.

To be clear, we have a lot more than eight Democrats who could beat the pants off Mr. Trump. But if we don’t limit the town halls to a manageable number of people we’ll get sound bites, not substance.

Town halls will give Americans a fresh look at Ms. Harris and introduce them to our deep bench of smart, dynamic, tested leaders. In addition, Democratic delegates will get to further grill and stress-test these leaders in public and private meetings before a formal vote of all the delegates at the Democratic convention.

A word about those delegates: I trust them to reach a majority decision at the convention after a public and substantive process like this one, and you should, too. Sure, we’ve got some folks on the fringes, God love ’em. But the overwhelming majority of Democratic delegates are pragmatic patriots. They work hard and care deeply about their communities and our country. They come from small towns and big cities and everywhere in between.

I’m not worried about our delegates. They’re in it to win it.

I’m not worried about our talent. We have a staggeringly talented new generation of leaders.

I’m not worried about the money. Americans will be fired up by this open process, and many are already fired up to beat Mr. Trump.

I’m not worried about time. We have excitement and momentum on our side.

And our opponent? The one born with a platinum spoon but no moral compass? The pathological liar? The convicted felon? The predator found liable for sexual abuse? The wannabe dictator? The Putin lickspittle?

I’m not worried about him, either.

It’s been an agonizing time for those of us who think President Biden more than earned a second term but isn’t going to win one. But now we’ve got to move on.

Although my friend Rahm Emanuel usually gets credit, I’ve heard more often that it’s Winston Churchill who is said to have advised, “never let a good crisis go to waste.” A super democratic process — the opposite of what Mr. Trump and his MAGA minions would do — is how we’re going to honor that wisdom in our own “will democracy prevail?” moment.

James Carville is a veteran of Democratic presidential campaigns, including Bill Clinton’s in 1992, and a consultant to American Bridge, a Democratic super PAC.

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