Michelle Obama: A Potential Replacement For Biden In The Elections? – OpEd


In January 2023, US Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed lawyer Robert Hur to lead a special Justice Department investigation into Joe Biden’s potential improper use of classified government documents while serving as Barack Obama’s vice president from 2009-2017.

On February 7, Garland informed the US Congress that Hur had completed his investigation and that no law had been violated. Although Hur cleared Biden of potential indictments and legal trouble, his report seriously questioned Biden’s mental fitness to continue serving as president for his current and potential second term. Hur’s special report described Biden as an elderly man with “diminished faculties,” including memory loss. The report states that during a five-hour, two-day interview in October, Biden could not remember when his son Beau died (not even close) or when his term as vice president began and ended.

Biden’s ordeal

The White House said that Hur’s characterization of Biden is inappropriate and deviates from impartial legal analysis. Even the president himself, who usually ignores claims about his mental state and declining cognitive abilities, angrily commented on Hur’s conclusions. Biden attacked Hur for choosing to mention his deceased son. He emphasized that no one needed to remind him when his son Beau died (May 2015), but according to Hur’s team, it was Biden who brought up his son’s death in an interview with investigators.

The report’s shocking conclusions have given many critics strong new arguments that the 81-year-old president is incapable of serving a second term. Republicans immediately opened fire on Biden. “A man too incompetent to be held accountable for the mishandling of classified information is certainly not fit for the Oval Office,” House Speaker Mike Johnson said in a joint statement with other Republican leaders. House Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene and Senator Rick Scott called for Biden to be removed from office by activating the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution. Biden’s gaffes are daily, so recently he confused the Mexican and Egyptian presidents and Emmanuel Macron with François Mitterrand.

A real possibility of replacing Biden with another candidate

Although Biden is the unquestionable candidate of the Democratic Party in the presidential elections in November (his only formal challenger in the primaries is Dean Phillips, a member of the House of Representatives from Minnesota), there are increasingly loud claims that, given the unfavorable circumstances (age, gaffes and low ratings – approx. 38%) could be replaced by someone else. A majority of Americans (86%) do not want Biden to run again, including 57% of Democratic voters, and there is growing concern about his age and inability to motivate the liberal base.

In addition, his policies to strengthen the police and the FBI and strong support for Israel irritate the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Although the replacement cannot happen through the primaries that have already started and there is practically no time left to register new candidates, the Democratic Party will present its final candidacy at its convention in Chicago between August 19 to 22. Although Biden’s position is safe at first glance, it is realistically possible that the Democrats will deny him the candidacy at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in the event of a worsening of his health condition, which is not impossible since he is a person who is well into his ninth decade (in November he will to celebrate his 82nd birthday). Democrats face a choice: remain loyal to a political veteran or be politically pragmatic and replace Biden with a younger candidate who realistically has a much better chance of success with the electorate.

It wouldn’t be the first time something like that happened. Until 1968, the parties chose their candidates for the presidential elections at the party conventions, and only later did primaries become the main way of selecting candidates. Although the primaries have settled down, the parties have kept the possibility of replacing their candidate at the party conventions in extraordinary circumstances. The DNC has well-defined procedures for changing candidates if the need arises. However, in order to realize this, consensus and coordination within the party’s leadership is needed, which are very sensitive aspects that can result in discord if the party’s leadership does not agree, and then so do the delegates.

Potential substitutes

The most logical replacement is Biden’s vice president Kamala Harris, however her biggest weight is an extremely poor voter approval rate of only 35% at the beginning of February. Among the potential candidates, the Democratic governor of California, 56-year-old Gavin Newsom, who has been in this position since 2019, stands out. Despite his successful term as governor, although he is ambitious, powerful and energetic, he is inexperienced as a politician at the national level. His support for Democratic candidates in other federal states suggests that he is aiming for high office, but it is still too early for such an engagement.

The situation is similar with the 52-year-old governor of the state of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, who has been in the position since 2019. She is promising, but has not held office at the national level except as one of the vice chairs of the Democratic National Committee. The name of Elizabeth Warren, a senator from Massachusetts who is a hardened Democratic veteran, is often mentioned. The problem with her is not the experience of high politics, but her age – 74 years old.

In some analyses, the senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, who lost the primaries in 2016 and 2020, is still mentioned as a potential candidate, but in 2022 he pointed out that he does not exclude the possibility of candidacy in 2024 in case of open primaries. However, this is unlikely, given that he is a year older than Biden and has not been active recently.

Michelle Obama – a pragmatic replacement

One of the most mentioned potential replacements for Biden is the former first lady of the USA, Michelle Obama. Although at first many observers would laugh out loud and dismiss Obama as a candidate without much thought, when considered more thoroughly, her candidacy is by no means impossible. Michelle Obama is more profiled and more acceptable to voters than most of the listed potential candidates, and she is more politically experienced than many.

Back in May of last year, conservative publicist Kurt Schlichter stated that Republicans are “rightly afraid” of the idea that they could see another Obama in the White House. Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz said in September that he thought there was a “very significant chance” that Biden would be removed as the presidential candidate at the Democratic National Convention this summer and that Obama would be suddenly nominated in his place.

Ultraconservative MP Taylor Greene said something similar in January. Recently, media speculations that the former first lady could become a candidate are getting stronger, and where there’s smoke there’s fire. The symbolism is interesting: the DNC will be held in Chicago (Illinois) – the birthplace of Michelle Obama, which only adds to the suspicions.

The position of first lady during the tenure of her husband Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017 is not Michelle’s only reference for the candidate position. Popularity, political insight and experience are her main assets. Michelle LaVaughn Robinson was born on January 17, 1964. She graduated from Princeton and Harvard. She started her career as a lawyer. At the start of her legal career, she worked at the law firm Sidley Austin where she met her future husband, Barack, but soon after moved into the public sector. She has worked in various non-profit organizations and as Associate Dean of Student Services at the University of Chicago. She later served as vice president for community and external affairs at the University of Chicago Medical Center. She got married in 1992 and had two daughters. Michelle actively participated in her husband’s campaign for president in 2007-08 and at the DNC in 2008 she gave an extraordinary speech that motivated the membership to vote. After that, she regularly gave speeches at the DNC in 2012, 2016 and 2020.

An extremely popular first lady

While she supported her husband in his political career, she was under a great deal of media scrutiny, but her popularity grew more and more during her time in the White House. Although Michelle avoided direct involvement in politics, she strongly supported her husband’s policies and helped promote legislation passed by the Obama administration. She was extremely active in charitable events, gaining national attention for her advocacy for education and the public health campaign “Let’s Move!” that encouraged healthy lifestyles for children.

In addition to promoting education and a healthy life, Michelle Obama advocated the fight against poverty, promoted the LGBT agenda and was active in trips abroad with or without the president, where she mostly pointed out the importance of education for girls and women. She strongly supported domestic US fashion brands and was considered a fashion icon by the public. In Gallup’s poll on America’s most admired woman in 2020, Michelle Obama won first place for the third year in a row. While she was first lady, she had an approval rating of around 60-65% in polls, while her husband as president was around 40-45%.

Arguments for candidacy

​The arguments for Michelle Obama’s candidacy are strong. In the past, Obama has always been protective of her private life and regularly dismissed media speculation that she would run for president. However, there are real reasons why she might change her mind. Although she has said in the past that her goal is primarily to be a mother, her youngest child, Sasha, is now 22 years old, while her eldest, Malia, is 25 years old. Now family reasons are not an obstacle. She has been politically active in recent years. For example, in January 2021, she encouraged Georgia residents to vote in the US Senate runoff election and to contact VoteRiders, a non-profit voter ID educational organization, to make sure they have a valid ID to vote.

Secondly, she repeatedly emphasized the importance of the victory of the Democrats in the upcoming elections. In January, she said that she was “terrified” by the potential outcome of the election, referring to the triumph of Donald Trump. It is becoming clear that she would be among the best Democratic candidates to defeat Trump, who seems unstoppable unless his candidacy is suspended by the US judiciary.

Thirdly, one can assume that Obama would be highly motivated to meet Trump since she described his 2016 election victory as a “direct blow” to her husband’s legacy. Michelle would take the electoral confrontation with Trump as a personal confrontation due to Trump’s unequivocal intolerance of Obama and his legacy. In her book, she revealed that Trump’s victory hurt her.

Fourthly, the Obamas are clearly interested in continuing political life in some way to maintain their political legacy. This is shown by the fact that instead of leaving Washington D.C. after their tenure in the White House ended in 2017, the Obama family bought a lavish home in the historic Kalorama neighborhood of the capital, which is a neighborhood of wealthy Americans. The Obamas’ luxurious 760-square-meter estate is only 2 miles from the White House. Their property has been described as the “nerve center” of resistance to the Trump administration in the US capital.

Fifthly, Michelle Obama seems almost the ideal candidate around whom liberal and progressive voters would rally. She is a black woman, a political star, a media darling, more than two decades younger than Biden, and behind her is the political support of her husband, who is adored by the party base. Allegedly, Barack Obama was already checking the possibility of his wife’s candidacy by surveying wealthy Democratic donors.

Good election chances for Obama

Even if Joe Biden does not give up his candidacy due to health reasons, there is a certain possibility that Michelle Obama’s strong support within the Democratic Party will lead him to withdraw. In addition, low rating could force him to give up his candidacy if it continues to fall. Biden wants to remain president, but he certainly wouldn’t want that internal party divisions help Trump or another Republican to take the White House.

The status of a star on the American and world stage definitely ranks Michelle Obama among the most promising potential Democratic candidates. As many as 62% of Americans think that Trump is too old to be president, so a younger candidate, especially a dark-skinned, certainly has a good chance of winning the election. Even if Trump were not the candidate but someone else, Michelle Obama would have a great chance due to the support of the mainstream media and the American (deep) state in general, from the Pentagon to Hollywood, which almost unanimously supports the candidates of the Democratic Party while demonizing the Republican candidates. Obama might see her chance.

Matija Šerić

Matija Šerić is a geopolitical analyst and journalist from Croatia and writes on foreign policy, history, economy, society, etc.

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