Sen. Peter Welch calls for Biden to step aside amid concerns of Trump victory

Vermont Senator Peter Welch urges President Joe Biden to withdraw from the 2024 race, citing potential harm to Democrats’ chances and concerns over Biden’s age and performance.

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Senator Peter Welch of Vermont has become the first U.S. senator to urge President Joe Biden to drop his 2024 reelection bid. On Wednesday, Welch joined a growing list of Democratic lawmakers who believe that the party’s best chance of defeating Donald Trump lies with a different candidate at the top of the ticket.

In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Welch painted a dire picture of the political landscape. “Trump is a felon. He is a pathological liar. He is a menace. And he is sure to be emboldened by his activist Supreme Court, which granted him near-total immunity,” Welch wrote. He further warned that the national conversation focused on President Biden’s age and capacity, a distraction that only Biden could change.

Welch pointed to post-debate polling trends indicating that Biden’s performance and continued presence on the ticket could harm down-ballot Democratic candidates and jeopardize the party’s hopes of keeping both chambers of Congress out of Republican hands. “The latest data makes it clear that the political peril to Democrats is escalating. States that were once strongholds are now leaning Republican. These new shifts—in Minnesota, New Hampshire, Nevada, Arizona, and Georgia—must be taken seriously, not denied or ignored,” the senator wrote.

Welch emphasized that President Biden had united the party and created a deep bench capable of defeating Trump. “Vice President [Kamala] Harris is a capable, proven leader, and we have other electable, young, energizing Democratic governors and senators in swing states,” Welch continued. He highlighted that these leaders have experience running and winning in tough political environments, along with fundraising networks, media experience, charisma, and the ability to inspire voters across generations.

Welch’s call has sparked a range of reactions within the Democratic Party. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) on Wednesday became the ninth House Democrat to urge Biden to drop out of the 2024 race, stating, “This is not just about extending his presidency but protecting democracy.” Blumenauer acknowledged the difficulty of his conclusion but stressed that the nation would be better served if Biden stepped aside and managed a transition under his terms.

Despite these growing calls, many Democrats, including progressive lawmakers who have at times been sharply critical of Biden’s presidency, continue to support the incumbent. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said earlier this week, “I support him and I am focused on making sure we win in November,” a sentiment echoed by Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). Omar, the deputy chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, declared, “He’s been the best president of my lifetime, and we have his back.”

Vermont’s other senator, Bernie Sanders, has also declined to join those urging Biden to step aside, even as he has criticized the president for failing to articulate a positive progressive agenda. “I think he’s done better since [the debate], and I think he’s gotta do better again,” Sanders said in a television interview Sunday. “He has gotta say, ‘I am prepared to take on corporate greed, massive income and wealth inequality, and stand with the working class of this country.’”

Welch and other Democrats advocating for Biden to step aside believe that the party has strong alternative candidates. Vice President Kamala Harris is frequently mentioned as a viable successor, noted for her leadership qualities and electability. Additionally, other young and energizing Democratic governors and senators in swing states are seen as capable of inspiring voters and running effective campaigns.

These potential candidates are praised for their fundraising networks, media experience, and charisma. Welch emphasized the need for a candidate who can connect with voters across generations and unify the party’s diverse base.

The upcoming Democratic convention in Chicago adds urgency to the discussion about Biden’s candidacy. Some party members are worried about the potential consequences if Biden decides to step aside too late. Political writer Susan Milligan warned in The New Republic about the dangers of a deeply divided party and the challenges of quickly coalescing around a new candidate.

Polls since the debate have shown Biden trending downward, especially in critical swing states. Many Democrats fear that Biden’s presence on the ticket could drag down other Democratic candidates, potentially leading to Republican gains in Congress.

“We have asked President Biden to do so much for so many for so long,” Welch wrote. “We need him to put us first, as he has done before. I urge him to do it now.”

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