After Disastrous Debate, Urgent Calls Grow for Joe Biden to Step Aside

Interview with Jeff Cohen, co-founder of the online activist group, conducted by Scott Harris

President Joe Biden called for one of the earliest presidential debates in campaign history, but when he and Donald Trump began their one-on-one match on June 27, over 51 million viewers were stunned to see Biden cognitively impaired, virtually unable to utter a coherent sentence or complete his thoughts. This, in the face of former President Trump’s endless stream of brazen lies, provoked panic among Democrats and all voters who desperately want to prevent another Trump presidency. A CBS opinion poll taken after the debate found that 72 percent of registered voters surveyed said that “Biden did not have the mental and cognitive health to serve as president.”

While the president’s allies, friends and campaign staff circled the wagons trying to minimize the damage done by Biden’s terrible debate performance, a growing number of Democratic legislators, donors and activists are now publicly calling for the president to drop out of the race — and for the party to choose a new candidate at the party convention in late August.

Political activist group has been calling for Biden to opt out of the 2024 election for two years. After the debate, they’ve reiterated their position, with more Democrats now in agreement. In the view of many, the U.S. Supreme Court’s July 1 ruling granting Trump and future presidents immunity from criminal prosecution for “official acts,” has made Trump far more dangerous and makes the task of replacing Biden critically more urgent. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Jeff Cohen, a journalist, media critic and co-founder of, who talks about what’s at stake in the 2024 presidential election, and why many now believe it’s imperative that Joe Biden step aside.

JEFF COHEN: In July of 2022, the New York Times asked Democrats under the age of 30 if they wanted Biden to be the nominee in 2024 or someone else, and 94 pecent said someone else. Young people are key to winning elections. They were key to 2022, where the Democrats didn’t do too bad. They were certainly key in 2020 when all of the progressive activists got together and united to vote Trump out and put Joe Biden in the White House.

So when you see a number of 94 percent of people under 30 that didn’t want Biden to be the nominee — and poll after poll has shown that — so it is a result of the clear understanding that Democrats wanted a different standard bearer. Not that they hated Biden, not that they love the right-wing. I’m talking about hardcore Democrats have been telling pollsters all along that they want a new standard bearer, someone who could run a forceful, coherent campaign against the threat that we are all facing, the threat of neo-fascism.

You know, we launched the campaign in earnest the day after the November 2022 congressional elections. And you will remember that those elections did not go as badly as people thought. And we argued at the time, this is why we need a new standard bearer.

Because when Biden’s not on the ballot and he was not on the ballot in November, 2022, and it’s just a contest between the Ds and the Rs between the Democrats and this extremist Republican party that is denialist on climate change, it”s denialist on gun control, it’s denialist on abortion rights, it’s denialist even on whether to believe election results. And so you have this extremism of the Republican party and generic Democrats will beat them.

Joe Biden can’t beat them. And that’s the argument we’ve made. His numbers have always dragged people and Democratic candidates down, and we’re up to this point where more than 50 million people witnessed Biden’s weakness, his inability to stand up against the lies and the vitriol and the neo-fascism of Donald Trump.

He’s always had this inability to put forward a coherent, progressive vision that could galvanize young voters, racial justice activists, climate activists. He’s just never been able to do it because he’s not progressive and also he’s never been particularly articulate. It’s not something that just happened last Thursday. So, in spite of all of our efforts, we’re still turning on the television set and we’re watching these people close to Biden telling us he had a cold or he had a bad night, or he had a bad debate. Or as President Obama said, It’s not uncommon to have a bad debate. It’s not a question of one bad debate. He’s leading our country to disaster because he cannot defeat Trump and almost anyone else can.

SCOTT HARRIS: Jeff, the question that’s urgently asked now, If not Biden, Who? That’s a question that has to be answered In your view, who are some of the possible candidates with only four months left that could unify the party and defeat Donald Trump? First and foremost, I want you to address the question of our vice President, Kamala Harris and her role in selecting a new candidate.

JEFF COHEN: The one thing about Kamala Harris is we know she can put coherent sentences together as a president. Would she be better than Joe Biden? I think so. I don’t think she could be worse. I mean, I know the candidate who’s most likely to really seriously defeat Trump is Gov. Newsom of California. He’s a brilliant debater. He’s incredibly articulate. Again, he has done things in California I’m appalled by. He’s also done some good things in California. I think Cory Booker would be an effective candidate. He didn’t do well when he ran for president in 2020. Julian Castro is another and he’s only 49 years old. I mean, I would love to see a ticket of two young people.

And again, the beauty of an open convention, even though these names I’ve just rattled off, those are not particularly progressive people. Those are not Bernie type representatives, or governors or senators. They’re basically, you know, slightly more progressive than Joe Biden, but they could defeat Trump. And if we don’t defeat Trump, then the ability of progressives to organize will be gone.

Learn more about‘s “Step Aside Joe” campaign at

Listen to Scott Harris’ in-depth interview with Jeff Cohen (19:52) and see more articles and opinion pieces in the Related Links section of this page.

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