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50 ways to leave your leader

Leave your leaders, party members. “Just listen to me,” the lyrics advise.

Former Vice President Joe Biden answers a question as President Donald Trump listens
Former Vice President Joe Biden answering a question as President Donald Trump listens during the final 2020 presidential debate at the Curb Event Center at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 22.
Morry Gash/Pool via REUTERS

Paul Simon may have been speaking prophetically about our political parties’ front running 2024 presidential candidates when, a half-century earlier, he wrote and sang these words in his No. 1 hit, “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.”

The problem is all inside your head, she said to me.
The answer is easy if you take it logically
I’d like to help you in your struggle to be free
There must be 50 ways to leave your lover

Substitute the word “leader” for “lover,” and the familiar chorus goes on to provide a helpful summary of ideas for what both Republican and Democrat voters should do over the next year.

It is somewhat odd that Simon’s song promises “50 ways” and then provides only a fraction of that number. Unless you count “just get yourself free” and “you just listen to me,” the lyrics actually include only six “ways to leave your lover.” Was he up against a word limit? Were shorter songs more popular? As both singer and songwriter, was he trying to save his vocal cords?

Nevertheless, here is a current political application of the methods the song’s chorus suggests.

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“You just slip out the back, Jack.” Applied to how Republicans should leave Donald Trump and Democrats should leave Joe Biden, the recommendation is as follows: Don’t take their phone calls or open their emails and mail. Don’t “like” anything they post on social media – don’t even follow them at all. Don’t attend their rallies. Certainly, don’t send them any donations.

“Make a new plan, Stan.” Get together and coalesce around someone else as your parties’ candidates.

“You don’t need to be coy, Roy.” Directly send Biden and Trump the message, “I’m just not that into you.” You can do this via telephone to their campaign offices, posts and replies on social media, conversations with party leaders, comments on the campaign and party websites, and through any politician who knocks on your door or appears at an event near you.

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“Hop on the bus, Gus.” Make your way to where your local caucus or primary is being held, and support another candidate.

“You don’t need to discuss much.” It is not clear this was good guidance for leaving a lover, nor may this approach work as to President Biden or former President Trump, either. It may be better to discuss (in writing or orally) with anyone who will listen that your party needs to find someone else to lead its ticket in 2024.

“Just drop off the key, Lee.” Unfortunately, our political parties are slow to get the message that the general public wants change. It may be that the only time they will take notice is when citizens who have supported their leaders in the past do not vote for them again in the next general election. This is the ultimate “dropping off the key” breakup method. It may take this for our parties to realize and learn from their mistakes.

Just get yourself Free. This is a message to anyone who strongly prefers blue or red over the other: There is an extremely high chance your party will suffer in this and future elections if you re-nominate your current “leaders.”

Republicans, that means by continuing to shackle yourselves to Donald Trump, you will lose the 2024 race for the White House, you could give up your majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, and you will forfeit any chance of developing a strong majority in the U.S. Senate.

Democrats, if you tie your hands with the Biden-Harris duo again, your only hope of a second term is that your opponent “trumps” your mistake by repeating the one it made in 2016 and 2020. Even if that happens, you will lose in the post-Trump/Biden era, as American voters will be so displeased by a second Biden term that whoever the GOP nominates in the 2026 midterms and 2028 presidential election will win.

As Paul Simon wrote, it is past time to use any and all of the “ways” listed to “get yourself free” from the albatross hanging around your party’s neck. Leave your leaders, party members. “Just listen to me,” the lyrics advise.

Quentin R. Wittrock, is founder of Principle Based Politics.