Biden should not just drop out of the race. He should resign.

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President Joe Biden should not just leave the presidential race. He should resign the presidency. Now. 

The New York Times editorial board and a host of other non-partisan voices have called for Biden to announce that he will no longer run for president. But in this particular race, it is not enough. Biden’s departure from the race this summer would kick-off a tumultuous, bitter fight for the nomination in an open convention that is already in jeopardy of crippling protests. The infighting would leave bruises or wounds among the likely Democratic contenders and the constituencies that have been loosely united behind the incumbent until his unfortunate debate performance. Biden’s remaining in the race would most probably ensure a return of Donald Trump to the White House.  

These are not the musings of a Trump supporter. I actively campaigned for the Obama-Biden ticket twice and appeared on stage at the Democratic National Convention in 2008 and in a convention video in 2012. I served in a low-level appointive position in the first Obama administration. I campaigned for Joe Biden in 2020, and I have a picture of him on the wall of my office. I think history will remember him as an extraordinarily effective president in a time of incredible peril. 

Joe Biden does not get anywhere near the credit he deserves for his performance. He came into the presidency with the economy wrecked by Donald Trump’s malfeasance in handling the COVID-19 pandemic. Biden was able to overcome embittered partisanship to deliver the infrastructure bill with $1.2 trillion in investments to bridges, roads, waterways, broadband and energy. The infrastructure bill also paved the way to record-breaking job growth. 

The CHIPS Act bolstered strong jobs with an industrial policy that ensures national security and a reliable supply chain. His Inflation Reduction Act has actually helped reduce the inflation caused by Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic and the Trump tariffs, which drove up prices for Americans. There are many other examples. At this time in history, no one else could have achieved this except Joe Biden. Whatever mistakes Biden has made, these achievements shine brightly. 

But his greatest achievement was his first one, the one that caused him to run in 2020: saving the nation and the world from the disaster of another Trump term. 

Biden has the judgment and the character to be president again, two things that Donald Trump does not have and never will. But judgment and character will not defeat Donald Trump. If President Biden stays in the race, I will vote for him, but we may look back at this moment and wonder whether Biden’s judgment and character should have led him to leave the race and the presidency. 

If the goal is once again for Joe Biden to save the nation and the world from the disaster of another Trump term, there is no dishonor if Biden passes the baton, of his own accord, having run the good race. If he resigns the presidency now, he will give the Democratic Party a fighting chance to beat Trump. He will create the first female president, the first African American female, the first multi-racial female president in history. In one fell swoop, he will have enlivened many of the constituencies that the media have claimed are disaffected. Kamala Harris will have the first first gentleman in history, one who is Jewish. She will be able to unite the party with a strong running mate.  

This will not keep the Democratic National Convention from being a chaotic, open convention, but it will be a strong move that could lead to unity and victory. It will be Joe Biden that provides that victory.  

There are drawbacks, there are counterarguments to such a bold move. One is that Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) would be second in line to the presidency, and the minority-controlled Senate would be unlikely to confirm a new vice president before the election. Biden would be criticized for choosing his successor, but he already did in choosing Harris as his vice president. 

Biden is no quitter. He has overcome many, many tragedies and challenges. But despite his weakened presentation as a campaigner, he is a truth teller, and he has good judgment and good character. He has said over and over: This is not about him. 

It’s about the country. It’s about the democracy. It’s about the people. 

Jamie Barnett is a retired rear admiral in the U.S. Navy, serving 32 years in the Navy and Navy Reserve. After he retired, he served as the chief of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission during the Obama administration.

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