What Joe Biden Could Do: Resign and Make Kamala Harris President

Imagine it: The transfer of power, replete with a swearing-in ceremony, teary thank yous and encomiums and career retrospectives for both the departing president and the new, incoming one. Harris moving from her plain black and brown suits to the jewel-tones of a female president, emerging into a national spotlight that has already vetted her. Rather than a reprise of 1968 with protests in Chicago against a president weighed down by war, the convention would take on a poignant, electric, unexpected air.

Why should Democratic delegates back her and not such compelling high-profile governors as Gavin Newsom or Gretchen Whitmer? Because she is the only candidate other than Biden who was on the ticket that won the White House in 2020, and the only one who already has survived having the Eye of Sauron that is presidential-level national scrutiny alight on her. And because Harris today is no longer simply a former senator, she is the incumbent vice president of the United States, the next in the line of succession. There’s no clear-the-field Hillaryism about “it’s her turn” here; it is the constitutional order that if Biden steps down, Harris becomes the president. If he hands the reins to her, she would have been made president by the Constitution and the votes of 81 million in 2020. It is the democratically cleanest solution—much cleaner than a bunch of unelected delegates in Chicago or a pre-August 7 “virtual roll call” selecting a nominee who has never won votes or campaigned nationwide.

Harris could then run as an incumbent, along with a new vice president—a whole ‘nother bite at the excitement-generating apple on a Democratic side that has sorely lacked it. This choice could serve, just as Biden did for Barack Obama in 2008, as a reassuring presence. One option could be North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, should he pass a vetting process that would need to begin soon. Governor Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania similarly represents a critical voting state, although Shapiro’s presence would require threading a very complicated Israel policy needle. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Governor Whitmer of Michigan could work, although an all-female ticket might be a bridge too far under the circumstances.