Opinion | Trump, Biden and Who Gets to Defy the Naysayers – The New York Times

A chronicle of Donald Trump's Crimes or Allegations

Opinion | Trump, Biden and Who Gets to Defy the Naysayers – The New York Times

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Ross Douthat

Opinion Columnist
In a way, we’ve been here before. A presidential candidate seemingly unfit for office but nonetheless in position to be his party’s standard-bearer. A media drumbeat demanding that somebody, somehow, step in and push him out. A raft of party leaders and important officeholders hanging around uncertainly with their fingers in the wind.
As with Joe Biden in 2024, so it was with Donald Trump at various times in 2016 — both during the primary season and then especially in the fall when the “Access Hollywood” tape dropped and it seemed the G.O.P. might abandon him.
For Biden and his inner circle, an arguable lesson of that experience is that they aren’t actually finished, they don’t have to listen to the drumbeat and they can just refuse to leave and spite all the naysayers by winning in the end.
After all, it didn’t matter that not only the mainstream press but much of right-wing media deemed Trump unfit for high office — that Fox News anchors tried to sandbag him in the early Republican debates, that National Review commissioned a special issue to condemn him, that longstanding pillars of conservative punditry all opposed him. It didn’t matter that his rivals vowed “never” to support him, that the former Republican nominee for president condemned him, that leading Republicans retracted their endorsements just weeks before the election. Trump proved that nothing they did mattered so long as he refused to yield.
But I don’t think history will repeat itself. I think Biden will bow out, his current protestations notwithstanding, because of three differences between the current circumstance and Trump’s position eight years ago.
First, while both political parties are hollowed out compared with their condition 50 years ago, the Democrats still appear more capable of functioning and deciding as a party than the Republicans. Biden’s own presidency is proof of that capacity: He became the nominee in 2020 in part because of a seemingly coordinated effort to clear the field for him against Bernie Sanders, exactly the thing the G.O.P. was incapable of managing four years earlier with Trump.
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