16
Tue, Jul

Why Is the NY Times Calling for Biden’s Ouster?

POLITICS

ELECTION 2024 - The New York Times, long considered the “newspaper of record” in the United States, has in recent weeks made no secret about its chief concern: President Joe Biden’s ability to defeat Donald Trump in November 2024. And, it has done everything it can to promote the idea that the Democratic Party ticket needs a new headliner. For those of us who read the paper not only to understand how elites think, but to glean how elites—in the words of Ed Herman and Noam Chomsky—“manufacture consent,” the time since the debate has been sharply instructive.

A day after the June 27 CNN debate between the two candidates, the newspaper’s editorial board published a stunning essay seeking to persuade Biden to leave the race. When a paper’s editorial board takes such a clear position on an issue, it is an institutional consensus, and in its June 28 opinion, the Times revealed that it considered Biden to be “reckless” in remaining in the race. Further it concluded that “he failed his own test” by challenging Trump to an early debate and then crashing under the pressure.

Most stunningly, the paper’s editorial board proclaimed that replacing Biden with another candidate was, “the best chance to protect the soul of the nation …from the malign warping of Mr. Trump.”

But who will “protect the soul of the nation” from the New York Times? In the months leading up to the debate, the Times rarely, if ever, criticized Biden’s morally indefensible position of fueling Israel’s relentless genocide in Gaza. In February 2024 the editorial board published an opinion essay titled “A U.S. Call for a Humanitarian Cease-Fire in Gaza,” which certainly sounds anti-genocide. But the paper actually applauded Biden’s veto of a United Nations ceasefire proposal and justified his alternative proposal giving Israel full discretion—one that the editorial board admitted “does not have sharp teeth.”

The essay was more concerned with how the White House could “quiet the global outcry over the war’s toll on Palestinians,” and “silence the fierce criticism of Mr. Biden by the American left,” than actually take a moral position on human rights and against genocide.

The power the paper wields has been used in service of elites and even conservatives for years. For example, according to a 2017 analysis by Adam Johnson of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), the Times has “a clear emphasis on documenting and condemning perceived suppression of conservative voices at American universities, while rarely mentioning harassment campaigns against leftist professors and/or the criminalization of leftist causes such as the pro-Palestinian BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions) movement.”

Since October 7, 2023, the Times’ opinion writers have written a string of essays that don’t just straddle the fence on Gazans’ right to exist but take an unequivocal position on Israel’s right to kill them. In March 2024, Bret Stephens claimed “Israel Has No Choice but to Fight On,” and David Brooks asked, “What Would You Have Israel Do to Defend Itself?” By May, Ross Douthat was exploring “The Limits of Moralism in Israel and Gaza,” and in June, Nicholas Kristof offered his advice on “How to Think Through the Moral Tangle in Gaza.”

Now, as the paper claims to be concerned about the soul of the nation six months before an election that could lead us into a theocratic authoritarian dystopia, the editorial board wants Americans to know that it would essentially choose any Democrat over Trump: “If the race comes down to a choice between Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden, the sitting president would be this board’s unequivocal pick.” And yet the Times rightly worries that Biden is not up to the task.

This is indeed a position of conscience and echoes what some progressives have been saying for well over a year. But not only did the Times wait until after the debate to articulate what was obvious to many, but it was complicit in enabling Trump to an extent. The media watchdog group FAIR repeatedly called out the New York Times for covering the early years of Trump’s presidency as if he were leading just another conservative Republican administration.

It has also covered the Biden presidency poorly, failing to call the Democratic leader out on issue after issue. In addition to backing Biden’s unconditional support for Israel’s genocide in Gaza, the paper has embraced the president’s harsh anti-immigrant policies and criticized Biden on economic policy—one of the few areas where he has been a better president than his predecessors. It has also often urged Biden and the Democratic Party to shy away from popular progressive issues and to embrace centrist or even conservative positions.

When Senator Bernie Sanders ran for the Democratic nomination in 2020, the Times first ignored his platform, popularity, and viability, and then was eager to prematurely declare his candidacy over about halfway through the primary election cycle.

More recently, when progressive Democratic Congressman Jamaal Bowman was ousted in a primary election in spring 2024 as a result of an enormous cash infusion to his pro-Israel opponent, the Times implied in a screed by its opinion columnist Pamela Paul that to question the skewing of that race was antisemitic. The piece, titled “Jamaal Bowman Deserved to Lose,” was essentially a celebration of Democratic party centrism prevailing against progressivism.

Since June 27, 2024, the Times has demonstrated a stunning willingness to abandon its usual “both-sides-ism” and unequivocally beat the drum to push Biden off the Democratic Party’s presidential ticket. One wonders if Biden would have been a more progressive president had elite cultural institutions such as the New York Times pushed him to do so. Or, if he had embraced progressive populism, would the Times have called for his ouster far sooner?

We live in a politically fraught moment, on a precipice between a deeply flawed system that nonetheless has some very modest checks and balances on power, versus a potential future where nothing is off limits. The New York Times has not done everything it can to protect the health of our democracy and too often it has abused its outsize power to influence our political, social, and economic systems toward conservative positions. Given this context, its recent position against the incumbent president resembles a power play that happens to coincide with progressive concerns rather than being a legitimate fear for our democracy. In the long term, American democracy may be better off without interference from the so-called newspaper of record.

(Sonali Kolhatkar is an award-winning multimedia journalist. She is the founder, host, and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a weekly television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. Her most recent book is Rising Up: The Power of Narrative in Pursuing Racial Justice (City Lights Books, 2023). She is a writing fellow for the Economy for All project at the Independent Media Institute and the racial justice and civil liberties editor at Yes! Magazine. She serves as the co-director of the nonprofit solidarity organization the Afghan Women’s Missionand is a co-author of Bleeding Afghanistan. She also sits on the board of directors of Justice Action Center, an immigrant rights organization. This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.)