The Democratic Party hoped the first debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump would showcase Biden’s vitality and Trump’s unfitness for office. Instead, it backfired spectacularly. Biden’s dismal performance shattered any illusion that his age was irrelevant, leaving the myth in tatters.

In Atlanta, it was pure agony – for Biden, the Democrats and anyone fearing another Trump presidency. Biden’s performance in the first of two scheduled presidential debates was utterly disappointing, despite weeks of preparation. With a raspy voice and a distant gaze, Biden’s early slip-ups ignited chatter about his viability as a candidate. Democrats are now eyeing the calendar, contemplating if Biden might withdraw before their convention in two months, allowing delegates to choose a different nominee. Biden’s debate performance showcased a frail leader, far removed from the capable president we’ve seen. His entrance onto the stage was shaky, his voice barely audible, and his responses were hesitant and jumbled, reminiscent of a confused auctioneer. This debacle risks ceding the presidency to Trump, leaving Democrats in a state of panic.

Since Joe Biden announced his 2020 presidential campaign, elite Democrats and parts of America’s media have engaged in a perplexing and ultimately unsustainable game. The Biden of past years, once quick-witted and confident in debates, has visibly changed. The 2020 version of Biden was often prone to strange statements, rambling responses and incessant verbal flubs. These issues went beyond the commonly cited “stutter,” raising concerns about his coherence. In contrast, the relentless barrage of Trumpian falsehoods oddly made Biden’s opponent sound more composed.

Even on issues where Democrats feel secure – abortion and women’s health, a growing economy and low unemployment – President Biden struggled to present a coherent stance. He failed to convincingly defend what many consider one of the most productive first terms since Lyndon B. Johnson. Moreover, he couldn’t effectively remind viewers that his opponent is a twice-impeached felon, facing further court reckonings, including a sentencing date on July 11. Biden’s inability to deliver effective rebuttals left a void, weakening his position. This performance raised questions about his readiness for the challenges ahead, leaving Democrats uneasy about their prospects in the upcoming election.

Should he step aside?

Should he step aside from this presidential race?

That’s the question many disheartened Democrats are now contemplating post-debate. They hope his advisers and family are urging him to consider this crucial decision. The Biden onstage was a stark contrast to the confident figure from the presidential debates four years ago or even his lively State of the Union speech in March. He appeared different – older, confused, with vacant stares and plastic expressions, his mouth sometimes hanging open. His campaign attributed it to a cold, but the toothy trademark smile was fleeting. While he gained some strength as the debate progressed, the initial impression of weakness was indelible. In simple terms, Biden got run over. The question now lingers: Should he continue this race or step aside for the sake of the party’s future? Worried Democrats take some small consolation in remembering that ex-President Barack Obama bombed during his first debate with Republican candidate Mitt Romney. Obama bounced back. Can Biden? After last night, does it matter?

However, what Democrats desperately need now is a candidate who can call Trump on his lies, forcefully argue against his unfitness to serve and plainly illustrate the existential threat this admirer of autocrats poses to our democracy. Biden’s incoherence, coupled with his inability to present a compelling reelection case, proved so damaging that many Democratic leaders questioned his viability. So disastrous was Biden’s performance – and so aggressive was Trump’s – that Democrats know they are headed for certain defeat and will be willing to do whatever it takes to prevent it. Biden certainly wasn’t that candidate on Thursday; maybe somebody else is. For the first time, it seems, Democrats are seriously mulling this possibility. The need for a strong, decisive leader to challenge Trump’s rhetoric has never been more critical, and Biden’s lackluster performance has sparked a critical debate within the party. For years, Democratic leaders have misled the public about Joe Biden’s fitness to lead. After his debate with Trump, it’s evident that the costs of maintaining this facade now outweigh the benefits of facing the truth and adjusting their course.

Behind Biden’s affable, folksy exterior lies a man with a formidable ego, deeply convinced of his historic significance. There’s no indication that Biden would willingly relinquish power. His presidency, after all, is a testament to the elite power brokers who salvaged his faltering campaign in 2020 and have sustained his administration since. Influential Democrats like Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi, Wall Street donors and compliant media personalities have all played pivotal roles in the Biden presidency. It’s conceivable that these same forces could dismantle his tenure if necessary.

This situation underscores a Democratic leadership so subservient to corporate interests and so determined to avoid substantive change that it misled the nation about Biden’s capability to lead. The facade of Biden’s administration has now cracked, revealing the underlying instability. This looming political upheaval is a stark indictment of a party willing to go to great lengths to maintain the status quo. As we brace for the unfolding political drama, the deep flaws in the Democratic establishment’s approach have become glaringly apparent, setting the stage for a potential crisis of leadership and trust.

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