Why Democrats Can’t Cancel Joe Biden

Have you ever wondered why some celebrities get permanently canceled while others escape almost completely unscathed? For every Kevin Spacey (canceled!), there’s a Chris Brown (not canceled!). Why is that?

It’s something PR professionals have pondered as well.

Since the advent of Cancel Culture and the #MeToo Movement, PR pros have struggled to develop “best practices” for helping clients in peril. Typically in the past, a well-crafted apology had three components:

1.   It sincerely expressed contrition and regret;

2.   A counter-narrative was introduced that was credible and believable;

3.   An explanation was provided that assured the target audience that this would never happen again.

So if a celeb was accused of misbehaving on a movie set, he might have released a statement that 1. expressed shock, confusion, and dismay; 2. apologized to the aggrieved party – as well as to his fans, coworkers, etc.; and 3. explained that a close relative (or whatever) had just passed away, or the transgressor been struggling for years with clinical depression, and now – finally – he was seeing a therapist so he could be a more productive ally to women in the workplace and the best possible dad to his adorable little daughter. (Plus, maybe a nice donation to an appropriately-aligned charity.)

But post-MeToo, this strategy just doesn’t work very well anymore. And because there’s no agreed-upon, go-to strategy to follow, you’ll notice that celebrity responses to MeToo allegations have varied wildly. Some ignore them completely. Others are almost comical with their groveling, sniveling mea culpas. But neither strategy has proven to be consistently effective.

So what does an accused celebrity do?

The American people have a built-in sense of proportionality: Bad deeds should be punished, but the punishment must be fair. If the punishment is too punitive and too draconian, the American people will start sympathizing with the “bad guy.” We’re okay with evildoers losing an eye for an eye; we start getting squeamish when it’s a head for an eye.

Mike Tyson is an example of this. He was accused of a violent, vile crime against a young woman, spent 3.5 years in jail, and is now a beloved cultural icon. He did his time, lost years of his athletic prime, and was humbled in front of the entire world. This, along with ongoing questions about his culpability, has let him move on. It’s not an issue for Tyson anymore.

Related: PR Primer for the Trump Convictions: Make Voters Understand Who the Real Monsters Are

But alas, fairness isn’t the overriding factor in today’s Cancel Culture. That’s why it’s still so controversial. We’ve all heard news stories about a comedian making a slightly off-color joke (or whatever) and then having his livelihood taken from him. The entire reason why there’s still an ongoing debate is because it’s unclear where the line should be drawn. It’s confusing.

In practice, Cancel Culture seems random. But it’s actually not.

And if Joe Biden doesn’t want to leave the race, he absolutely, 100% cannot be canceled.

Surviving cancelation isn’t about fairness. It’s not about the quality of the apology, either – at least, not primarily. It simply comes down to your relationship with the platform you depend on.

They can refuse to hire you again if your platform is a movie studio. Bam! You’re now canceled. And if your platform is a social media site, they can delete your account. Bam! Canceled!

But if you control your own platform – either because you own it, or via legal contracts – then you’re essentially un-cancellable.

Spotify couldn’t cancel Joe Rogan amidst the COVID hysteria because his contract protected him. So it really didn’t matter how many videos were circulated where Rogan used the N-word, and it really didn’t matter if some of his guests gave misleading medical information. That wasn’t the litmus test for Rogan’s survival.

If someone doesn’t want to leave and you can’t legally force them, then they’re not leaving.

(Sure, you might apologize anyway, but your apology would have a different PR purpose: Protect your secondary financial streams and provide juuust enough cover to your partners that they won’t instruct their lawyers to search aggressively for loopholes.)

The Democrats cannot legally compel Joe Biden to leave. Not even if most Democrats want him to leave. Not even if the number of congressmen begging him to drop out doubles, or even triples, in size.

And the reason why is that the Democratic Party is not democratic.

They were terrified of Bernie Sanders being the popular choice, so they created an arcane system of rules – complete with stacked primaries, convoluted regulations, and super delegates – that allowed the Deep State Cabal of Party Elders to circumvent the will of the people, so they could rig who wins the nomination. It’s as simple as that.

The same people who’ve destroyed the democratic process for their own voters are now arguing that they’re the only ones who’ll save democracy from Donald Trump. (Trust them, of course!)

But if the Democratic Party doesn’t even trust Democratic voters, why should anyone believe they’ll trust Republicans or independents? That’s not believable. As it turns out, Joe Biden didn’t just “beat Medicare” — he also beat the hell out of the Democrats’ credibility.

History will likely show that the smartest decision Joe Biden ever made was selecting Kamala Harris as VP. It’s not a PR trick but a Dilbert-era middle-management trick: If you don’t want to be replaced, make sure your subordinates suck more than you do. And now, the Democrats are boxed in: There’s no legal mechanism to cancel Biden; his most plausible replacement is unacceptable to the American people – but if you don’t select Harris, then you have the optics issue of jettisoning a black woman for someone like Gavin Newsom. Do that, and Biden’s most loyal block – African Americans and the Congressional Black Caucus – might walk away completely.

It’s a helluva dilemma.

No, the Democratic Party can’t cancel Joe Biden. But here’s the good news: This November, the American people can.

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