We need to talk some more about Joe Biden.
I was on here a couple of weeks ago denigrating the former Vice President for floating the idea that he could make up for a lack of diversity in his own self by bringing Stacey Abrams along for the ride if (when) he announced his candidacy. I was not alone in brushing that idea aside; Stacey Abrams didn’t like it much either. I can’t say for sure what her plans are, but they apparently do not involve hitching herself to someone else’s wagon.
So, now we’re left with Joe solo. We are mere days away from the beginning of the second fundraising quarter of the political year and this is the most likely moment for a Biden entrance into the field. His polling numbers look solid, I’m sure he can find big donors to bankroll this, and the media is getting bored with their Buttegieg love-fest and need a new object of affection. I fully expect Biden to join the primary race and, as I said in my last essay, I fully expect him to lose.
The primary. I think Biden will lose the primary. But I still believe that Joe Biden could beat Trump in the general.
Here’s the deal with Biden. He is a 100% vetted candidate. We know the Ballad of Biden from intro to outro, and if he launches a presidential campaign as a coda to his already long career, we still won’t be surprised by him. We all know the story of the death of his wife, his trips back and forth to Delaware on the train so his kids could stay in their schools. We know about his childhood in Scranton and the death of his son Beau to cancer. We remember him coldly questioning Anita Hill and we know he has been part of the machinery of many military actions over the years. We know that he added his name alleged reforms that ended up hurting people in poverty and people of color for generations. We know that he may know more about foreign policy than any other candidate and we know he’s more politically tone deaf on social issues than any other candidate.
We know Joe Biden. Right, left and center knows Joe Biden.
That knowledge is why the left is justifiably skeptical of Biden. For all his true blue Democratic bona fides – and he has plenty – he’s also an old, white, man with a lot of mistakes in his lengthy political past. He’s committed the kinds of sins that progressives don’t want to forgive any more. We are ready for the next generation of leaders and that’s why we are likely to pass over Biden on the road to the 2020 election.
But as a candidate in a general election? Our familiarity with Biden is his biggest strength. Trump could hire the best opposition research firm money can buy and he still won’t be able to find a single fact about Joe Biden that isn’t already common knowledge. There’s not chance of an October surprise when we’re talking about a candidate who’s a completely open book. Unless it turns out that Biden secretly killed Jimmy Hoffa, there’s nothing new that Trump can throw into the discourse that will change the entrenched public perception of Joe Biden.
Moreover, Biden doesn’t have a soft underbelly. He’s not afraid of making mistakes and he’s not afraid of apologizing. He’s not terribly good at apologizing, based on his latest half-hearted attempt to do so regarding Anita Hill, but he’s willing to try. He’s not controlled by shame or fear. He owns his past. He lets his record stand for what it is.
In those respects, Biden is Trump’s opposite. Trump is a man controlled by secrets and lies, terrified of being caught out, and reckless in his attempts to deflect criticism. There’s a new revelation about him at every turn and he can’t control his own emotional responses to them. He’s defensive, petty, and cruel and his record? Well, his record speaks for itself and all it says is “I put babies in cages”.
I’d wager that the general electorate would look at Biden v. Trump and see their way clear to putting Biden in the White House. He’s imperfect in so very many ways, but he’s also everyone’s favorite Uncle Joe and no one can deny that he’s qualified for the job. Donald Trump is more like Uncle Fester and his incompetence is quite plain.
As for whether or not Biden can bring home a crowd just through personality alone, well. Go back and take a look at his convention speech from 2016. Now think about this story I can share with you: my husband was seated behind the stage in the arena that night and could see the TelePromptrs. The text wasn’t scrolling for a lot of Biden’s speech. This wasn’t a canned message. This was the heart of Joe Biden, on stage for all the world to see.
There’s a lot for Democrats to think about on their way to the primary polls next year and everyone should vote their priorities. But if one of your priorities is the magical formula of electability, consider Joe Biden. I think he has it, even if I don’t think he’ll get the chance to use it.