Joe Biden, Oval Office
President Joe Biden arrives at the Oval Office, on Friday, February 17, 2023. Photo credit: Adam Schultz / Flickr (Public Domain)

Decisions like that in North Carolina, and previously in Florida and Tennessee, do nothing to help convince Americans that Joe Biden is a champion of democracy.

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The North Carolina State Board of Elections, following a request from the North Carolina Democratic Party, unanimously voted on Tuesday that President Joe Biden will be the only Democrat on the Tarheel State’s primary ballot this year. 

Ostensibly, the reason for the party’s petition was that Biden is the only Democratic candidate who is seriously campaigning in North Carolina and raising money there. In addition, there are also signature requirements that the president’s challengers had to meet but apparently did not. 

Still, both the party’s request and the board’s decision are bad for Democrats… and democracy. 

One of the big reasons why the party outperformed the GOP in 2022 is that Republicans, and especially their standard-bearer Donald Trump, are viewed as a serious threat to democracy. 

And that is a theme that Biden, should he be the nominee, will certainly run on this fall if he is up against his predecessor in a rematch of 2020.

Obviously, the case against Trump as an anti-democratic force is strong. After losing by 7 million votes, he refused to concede, sowed doubt about the integrity of US elections without presenting any tangible evidence, plotted a coup to stay in power, and sparked an insurrection that led to a violent attack on Congress. 

However, the Democrats are shooting themselves in the foot if they do not run a primary that is viewed as completely above board. 

Decisions like that in North Carolina, and previously in Florida and Tennessee, do nothing to help in that regard. Many progressives already view the Democratic National Convention (DNC) as horribly corrupt for putting its thumb on the scale to help Hillary Clinton win the 2016 nomination against Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), so any action that reinforces that notion may end up hurting Biden in the general election.

It’s also completely pointless. Barring unforeseen circumstances, there is no doubt that the president will be the party’s nominee, so there is no harm in allowing other candidates to run against him in the primary… even if they did not meet all requirements. 

None of his challengers are a threat to him at all. What is, however, is diluting the message that he is a champion of democracy when his party is keeping other names off primary ballots in a closely contested state like North Carolina. 

That is a narrative that could end up costing votes when it matters.

Look no further than the scathing response from Marianne Williamson, who is also running for the Democratic nomination. 

She accused the state party of “circumvent[ing] democracy,” adding that the “crisis of Democracy in our nation is institutional.” Finally, Williamson argued that the “decision to protect political parties instead of voters is a failure to protect democracy itself.”

It’s tough to argue with that. 

The smart move for Biden would be to try to intervene and advocate that his rivals be placed on the ballots in North Carolina, Florida, and Tennessee after all to show he is not just paying lip service to democracy.


  • Klaus Marre

    Klaus Marre is a writer, editor, former congressional reporter, and director of the WhoWhatWhy Mentor Apprentice Program. Follow him on Twitter @KlausMarre.

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