While pundits focus on the GOP’s supposed intra-party battles, Democrats face a major dilemma.

Their current 80-year-old leader lacks a clear or competent successor.

And while President Joe Biden plans to run for reelection, this is far from certain, and any surprises will send Democrats desperately searching for answers.

Democrats’ rising stars — Govs. Jared Polis, Josh Shapiro, and perhaps Wes Moore — are not ready for national campaigns. The bench is filled with unpalatable far-left retreads like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg, a favorite of upper-middle-class white progressives, is overrated, to put it kindly. His Obama-esque, smug style may impress insular folks, but his crisis management skills are atrocious.

In late 2021, he quietly went on paternity leave as a supply chain crisis and negotiations over a crucial infrastructure bill transpired. Last summer, as railroaders threatened to strike and cripple the U.S. economy, he vacationed in Europe. The 41-year-old was notoriously inept when Southwest Airlines canceled thousands of flights and destroyed holiday travel plans for many Americans.

His current handling of the massive train derailment in eastern Ohio has been haphazard and, as importantly, ineffectual.

For over a week, Buttigieg said nothing about the catastrophe other than bemoaning the lack of racial diversity among construction workers. Then, like any tone-deaf ideologue, he played petty politics, blaming the Trump administration for lessening regulations on rail carriers. Next, as a slap in the face to concerned Ohioans, he claimed train derailments happen often. Finally, he bashed Norfolk Southern Railway— because they’re a rapacious corporation or something — and caved to demands that he go to East Palestine, Ohio.

His aberrant and inconsistent responses play into the waiting hands of Donald Trump and propagandists like Tucker Carlson, who predictably turned East Palestine into a conservative grievance version of Flint, Michigan, a neglected community whose population suffers from environmental contamination.

Buttigieg’s aloofness also became evidence to right-leaning populists that the Biden administration is more interested in Ukraine than what’s occurring at home. This is a total non sequitur but has merit with certain podcasts and cable TV audiences.

Now back to the Democrats. If you compare Buttigieg with Kamala Harris, he is Ronald Reagan. Despite every advantage, the affirmative action vice president has been as disastrous the last two years as her failed presidential campaign.

She is currently undergoing fallout from a devastating New York Times story about how her incompetence has squandered her political future. Indeed, Democrats are so fearful of Harris being on the ballot next year or 2028 election that they are trying to sideline her without inflaming key racial/gender constituencies that would possibly ignore reality and take umbrage.

Without Biden, the Democrats have scant options.

The party loves running senators for president. Of the senators who ran last time, is anyone enthused for Amy Klobuchar 2.0?

As for veteran governors, Gavin Newsom runs the most embarrassing state in America, and corpulent J.B. Pritzker combines hard-left politics and elitism with zero likability.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who won reelection last year, may have a decent future, and Biden probably regrets not choosing her as his running mate when he instead picked the worst option.

And no, Michelle Obama will not leave her life of privilege and opulence to save the party.

Biden’s approval rating has recently improved, and he remains the man who defeated Trump. He undoubtedly believes he will do it again. But if Republican primary voters wise up and ensure Trump is not the nominee, Biden will lose.

So while a major onus falls on the GOP to reject their own losers, Democrats need inflation and the border crisis to cool, and elites like Buttigieg must demonstrate proper concern for people — many of them erstwhile Democrats — in rural America.
Consider me skeptical.
Ari Kaufman is a correspondent for several U.S. newspapers and magazines from Minnesota and Ohio to Tennessee and Virginia. He taught school and served as a military historian before beginning his journalism career. The author of three books, he is also a frequent guest on radio programs and contributes to Israel National News and here at The Lid.