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The Democratic Taboo

U.S.The Democratic Taboo

The Democratic Party has had no shortage of argument and dissent over the years. Internal battles and backbiting are part of what it means to be a modern-day Democrat.

But over the past few months, Democrats have been distinctly inhospitable to the public airing of concerns about President Biden — particularly the question of whether, at age 81, he is too old to run for president again, but also criticisms of the day-to-day strategic decisions by his campaign.

This has played out on platforms large and small, most recently after Jon Stewart, on his return to his former Comedy Central show after a nine-year hiatus, mocked the “objectively old” President Biden. “Please make it another nine years,” Keith Olbermann, the former MSNBC host, said on X.

Prominent Democratic strategists like David Axelrod and James Carville who criticize Biden are facing a barrage of pushback on social media and from the White House — and sometimes, reportedly, from Biden himself. They are accused of lifting the prospects of Donald Trump, and of being disloyal alarmists (or, in a phrase from the 2008 campaign that has come back in vogue this year, bed-wetters).

There are critics of Trump on the Republican side, too, but they have been relegated to the sidelines, more likely to be ignored than seriously engaged, reflecting the party’s devotion to Trump and to the increasing conviction among his supporters that he will win.

What is happening among Democrats should not be a surprise. The political environment has changed starkly. Politics is more of a team sport — you are with me or against me. Olbermann assailed Stewart as a “bothsidesist fraud.” Mary Trump, the former president’s niece and one of his biggest critics, called Stewart “a potential disaster for democracy.” And platforms like X have grown into organizational tools, halls for rallying attacks on anyone who might be viewed as a heretic.


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