An Open Letter to President Biden from an Un-Elite

Burn after reading.

[A note: Normally I focus this site on historical presidents, but because I care deeply about this country, the Constitution, freedom, and democracy, I’m using this forum to express my personal thoughts.]

Dear President Biden,

You recently said that efforts to get you to drop out of the election are driven by Democratic “elites.”

Respectfully, that’s malarkey. 

You’ve got too much intelligence and integrity to honestly frame these concerns as an elite movement to overturn the will of the American people based on how they voted in the primaries, because whether you’ve come to terms with it or not, the Joe Biden you are today is not the candidate they voted for. 

And that’s not easy to say. I wish it weren’t true. Speaking as someone who is far from elite, I wanted you to come out swinging and have a strong two-term presidency. I see now—millions of people see now—that’s simply not happening. 

I attended a talk you gave in Los Angeles in 2018 while promoting your book “Promise Me, Dad.” At that event, you were asked if you might run for president in 2020. You demurred, saying the future of the party was with younger leaders, and it was time to pass the torch. Honestly, I was extremely disappointed that you didn’t run in 2016 though I understand the personal reasons you’ve given for why you didn’t. And you weren’t my first choice in the 2020 primaries, but I came to see that you were the right man for the time. A man who beneath everything cared about the American people, a man who understood their pain and grief.

As someone whose childhood was defined by grief and the love and support that carried me through it, that part of you resonated with me. And, I believe, with voters. Against the odds, you proved to everyone that you could still bear the torch of the Democratic Party with a fiery passion. 

But that was four years ago. Eons in our modern political times and basically dog years when it comes to the toll the presidency takes on a person. This might be hard to hear, but you’re tough so I’m not going to sugar coat it. I remember how I felt the moment it became clear that Donald Trump won in 2016. I remember how I felt when I heard the second World Trade Center tower had been hit on September 11th. And I can tell you that the most recent time I felt that same mixture of fear and despair and uncertainty was when I was driving in my car on June 27th and heard the first 5 minutes of your debate with Trump. What I heard from you that night, and what I’ve continued to hear and see since then, is but embers of that democratic torch you once bore so well.

Now is the time to pass that torch. If you were ever serious about giving it your all to preserve American democracy, you need to pass that torch before it goes out.

Let me be clear—I would still vote for you if you were in a coma or dead, if Trump were the other option. But we need a better option. We need to fight fire with more than embers and memories. The most powerful thing you could do for the world right now is to drop out of this race, before the Democratic Convention. Hell, doing it right before the Republican Convention would be a master gambit of stealing their thunder and killing their ability to attack you as their opponent. 

There is so much power in your hands. Right now, you might be the most elite person in the world. 

You still have the power to win this election. For the American people. Not for Joe Biden. Historians, myself verrry loosely included, will be touting you as one of the most effective presidents in the history of the United States for what you’ve already done following a global pandemic and for what you could do if you summoned the humility to put your country before your self and step aside. I’m terrified that if you don’t do that, your legacy will be a preamble to a dark chapter that comes next. 

This is about the Election of 2024, but it’s about more than that. It’s about the future. Even if Trump loses, the forces behind Project 2025 and America’s descent into totalitarianism aren’t going to pack their bags and disappear. They grow because their opposition has been weak. The American people will still need a strong, forceful, inspirational opponent of Trumpism to motivate us to keep fighting for our Constitutional democracy. 

I know the historian and author Jon Meacham chose the portraits that hang in your Oval Office above the fireplace, and they send a strong message—Washington and Lincoln on one side, Hamilton and Jefferson on the other. But the largest portrait, front and center, is of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

photo by Amr Alfiky, The New York Times

FDR’s placement there is meant to reflect how you both came to power in a moment of crisis, but I ask you to look at another aspect of his legacy. (Not the hidden medical condition or continual running for reelection.) Among his other talents, FDR was an absolute master at finding creative solutions to energize the American people and guide the country from isolationism to becoming an arsenal of democracy standing against fascism.

Please consider FDR’s big, fearless, and creative problem-solving in your decision.

Please give us the strongest fighting chance to take the wind out of Trump’s sails and keep this ship afloat.

Howard Dorre, un-elite American


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