The following essay is adapted from the introduction of a Lever Time podcast episode.

In March of 1968, incumbent Democratic president Lyndon Johnson announced that he would not run for another term. Though his approval ratings were better than President Joe Biden’s are right now, Johnson seemed to understand that he had lost the confidence of voters and probably could not win. 

Even though he had enacted the most robust legislative agenda in a generation, the Vietnam war had politically destroyed him. So he bowed out - and had Robert F. Kennedy not been assassinated, there’s a good chance Democrats would’ve prevented a Nixon presidency. 

Forty six years later, America seems to be at a similar inflection point. Through the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the American Rescue Plan, Biden has enacted some of the best economic policies America has seen since LBJ, and unlike Johnson, he got America out of a war. But polls show that Biden too has lost the confidence of the country because of his age and health issues that everyone saw on live television last night.

For those who do not want to experience another Donald Trump presidency, the question is: What should be done?

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Right now, Democratic Party powerbrokers are offering their answer to that question: They insist that nothing should be done, and the disaster should just unfold. 

Former President Barack Obama was one of the first to weigh in, declaring that “bad debate nights happen” and that the debate didn’t change the dynamics of the race. 

Silicon Valley megadonor Reid Hoffman soon after declared that “Joe is our nominee; any decision to step aside is up to him and his family, period.” 

Biden’s former White House chief of staff doubled down against some donors who said they felt gaslit by DNC officials. He told the New York Times that “big-money donors don’t get to dictate the nominee of the Democratic Party” - an attempt to pretend that Biden staying in the race is a selfless and brave act of defiant populism. 

Meanwhile, the Biden family channeled a “let them eat cake” vibe, gathering for a fashion magazine photoshoot after Biden attended a fundraiser in the Hamptons

If you feel like you’re being gaslit, that’s because you are - and it’s now getting worse. This same Biden cabal has also gone on the attack against the rest of the Democratic Party. Delaware Sen. Chris Coons appeared on ABC’s This Week to insinuate that all the governors and senators throughout the party are weak and pathetic - he asserted that the ailing Biden is “the only Democrat who can beat Donald Trump.”

The Biden campaign blasted out an email saying much the same thing: “The bedwetting brigade is calling for Joe Biden to 'drop out.' That is the best possible way for Donald Trump to win and us to lose.” 

That same email included a poll that showed other prominent Democratic governors and cabinet officials aren’t necessarily polling better than Biden against Trump.

Citing that poll was both a nasty attempt to torch the rest of the party, but also a self-own - those candidates haven’t even been campaigning for president and are not yet well known to most voters, and yet some of them are near the same level as the incumbent - which is an embarrassment for the president. 

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So when it comes to the question of “what happens now?” The Democratic Party machine’s answer is a reprise of George Orwell’s 1984: they are telling you to “reject the evidence of your eyes and ears.” They are playing that familiar game we’ve seen autocratic regimes throughout the world play - the game where the apparatchiks cling to power by pretending the incapacitated Dear Leader is still functional, and state-run media tells the population everything is fine.

Of course, these are not objective observers. Every Democratic Party politician and powerbroker saying “nothing to see here” stands to lose money, status & employment if Biden does the right thing and steps aside. They epitomize the dynamic Upton Sinclair described when he wrote that “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” 

Perhaps worse, these Democratic bosses don’t really seem to care if Trump wins the presidency - after all, in a new Trump era, they will still be in control of the Democratic Party and they’ll still be able to raise tons of money. The stakes in this election are low for them - so they are fine with staying the course. 

But risking another Trump presidency with an obviously incapacitated nominee is not fine for millions of women who want their reproductive rights protected. 

It’s not fine for millions of people who don’t want the livable climate incinerated

It’s not fine for millions of people who don’t want whatever’s left of democracy to be shredded under an authoritarian conservative regime. 

In light of that, when it comes to the question of “what should be done” a more legitimate answer is what a new poll shows nearly two thirds of Americans say: That Biden must step down, and the Democratic Party must finally allow its own democratic processes to operate.

What would it take to turn that popular desire for a change into a reality? The first answer is: Stop being sad. Instead, get angry.

Get angry because what’s been perpetrated is a cover up. 

Remember: Joe Biden and his aides did everything they could to prevent a serious contested Democratic primary - and according to Axios, they did this as White House aides were well aware of his declining health but said nothing. Even worse, Biden refused to engage his long-shot primary challengers in a debate that might have let Democratic voters see his frailties early enough for more established candidates to jump in. 

Instead, Biden and his aides defrauded the country. They tried to hide it all so they could get into a general election and now blackmail us with an impossible choice: vote for an incapacitated Biden, or get Trump and the end of democracy.

But being angry alone won’t fix this. Anger channeled into relentless pressure might.

Biden insisting on running for reelection is selfish, but it is also the iron law of politics: Most politicians are narcissists with god complexes, and therefore will not give up power out of any sense of altruism or any sense of duty to country. As the old saying goes: Power concedes nothing without demand. 

In this case, Biden will step down only if there is sustained public demand – demand by you reading this essay, by all your friends and neighbors, by everyone. 

So you’re thinking, sure - this all sounds great. But it’s impossible. And that may end up being true - Biden and his family may be willing to sacrifice all of our futures for their venal attempt to cling to power.

But insisting that nothing can be done is a cheap cop out - especially at this moment when there’s still actually time for something to be done. As Nelson Mandela said: “It is always impossible until it is done.” 

If your elected Democratic official is pretending things are fine, call them up and tell them they are not fine. 

If your social media feed is full of liberals who have been brainwashed by MSNBC and are telling you that Biden is the nominee and shut up, tell them no - it doesn’t have to be that way. 

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If your friends and family have given up trying to speak out and are resigned to this disaster, yell at them and tell them that the whole world is on the line here.

It’s certainly true that Biden stepping down is risky. But knowing what we now know about his frailties and his poll numbers, sticking with Biden is even more risky. 

It’s also true that an open convention might be unpredictable and messy and a bit chaoti. But that’s the thing: Democracy is unpredictable and mess. That’s a feature - not a bug - of a functioning healthy democracy. Let Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg and all those rising star Democratic governors compete for the support of the delegates who were elected to represent their communities at the convention. That is democracy.

The stakes here couldn’t be higher. This is an age of the so-called polycrisis - multiple emergencies unfolding all at the same time. But this crisis right here, right now, is the biggest of all - because it’s about not even just preventing another Trump presidency, it’s also about whether we can ever actually envision any positive change at all.

Since Barack Obama transformed his rhetoric of hope and change into a policy of more of the same and then we got MAGA and mayhem, the Democratic Party and its media machine have wrung any sense of hope for a better world out of its voters mind. 

Where rank-and-file voters could once envision steady progress toward a better society, those dreams have been replaced by cold, bloodless calculation - and resignation. In interviews and tweets and Facebook posts and conversations at the bar, Democratic voters today often sound like demoralized political strategists, obsessed only with what some pundit on TV told them is “politically realistic” – but not obsessed with what might actually improve the country. 

Party leaders propping up Biden are now relying on that demoralization to try to stay the course. They want voters to believe the die is cast, the fix is in, and that we cannot even deviate from a worst case scenario. 

They want you to believe that there is no alternative to the nomination of a declining 81-year-old man poised to lose to a cartoonish fascist who threatens to ruin your future and your children’s future. 

They want you to believe that there is no possible way to turn the page and nominate any of the number of talented potential candidates across the country. 

They want you to believe that the Democratic Party that once passed the New Deal and civil rights laws and Medicare and Medicaid and voting rights laws can do absolutely nothing other than be a hollowed out vessel for a declining shell of a president -  even though there is still time to make a change. 

Is America really going to just accept that? 

Facing the prospect of another Trump presidency, are we just going to lay back and allow this slow-motion debacle just because Biden’s family likes being on fashion magazine covers and enjoying the perks of the White House?

Facing the entire Project 2025 agenda, are we going to do nothing just because Democratic politicians are too polite or too afraid to say the obvious to the elderly president withering away before our eyes?

Is this really how it ends - not with a bang, but with barely a whimper?