Progressive pundit Cenk Uygur will challenge President Biden for the Democratic nomination, offering himself as an alternative to an incumbent who “is definitely going to lose” if he makes it to the general election.
“I’m going to do whatever I can to help him decide that this is not the right path,” Uygur, 53, told Semafor, as he prepared to file for the 2024 Nevada primary. “If he retires now, he’s a hero: He beat Trump, he did a good job of being a steward of the economy. If he doesn’t, he loses to Trump, and he’s the villain of the story.”
The founder of The Young Turks media channel had repeatedly urged Biden to quit the race, calling his re-election bid “intensely selfish,” and warning that it made a Trump victory likelier.
He’d urged “at least a dozen people” to enter the race before deciding to try for it himself, as “proxy” for Democratic opposition to Biden, focusing on “popular issues” like a higher minimum wage, a “public option” for healthcare, and paid family leave.
“It isn’t like I have giant policy disagreements with Biden,” Uygur said. “I actually intend to fight for those incredibly popular policies and pass them. Biden hasn’t tried that, because his donors don’t want him to.”
Uygur was born in Istanbul, and immigrated to the United States from Turkey in 1978, but believed that the Constitution’s “natural born citizen” clause wouldn’t disqualify him from running. The issue would end up in the Supreme Court, he said, and be a “slam dunk” victory.
“That’s another good reason to run,” he said. “I’m tired of 25 million Americans having this albatross around their neck.”
Democrats have ignored the president’s primary challengers, and that won’t change for Uygur.
He won just 7% of the vote in his first bid for office – a longshot progressive run for Congress in southern California. And early polling of the first primary states, which found a majority of Democrats ready to support a Biden alternative, didn’t entice anyone else into the race. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who on Monday bolted the party to run as an independent candidate, was trailing Biden by between 45 and 70 points.
But Uygur said that he could “break through” in a way that Biden’s other challenger, Marianne Williamson, had not. (“She’s a terrific person with great policies,” he added.) He’d learned from his House campaign that “the mainstream media, generally speaking, are grotesque liars,” and wasn’t afraid of scrutiny of his brash or suggestive on-air comments — a problem that cost him the endorsement of Bernie Sanders in his congressional race.
“I don’t believe in traditional campaigning,” he said. “I will do almost all my campaigning in the media. I love diners. I love meeting actual voters. But that’s mythology, and you’re not going to diner your way into beating an incumbent president.”
Uygur has a different audience than Kennedy or Williamson. He worked briefly as an MSNBC commentator, but parted ways with the network 12 years ago, focusing on building his progressive video news channel, which has 5.6 million YouTube subscribers.