BONNIE GREER outlines why Joe Biden is the USA’s best hope to run as president.
Former vice president Joe Biden finally entered the race for the Democratic Party nomination for US president and immediately became the front runner. This was capped by an almost immediate attack from Donald Trump, which must have made the Biden camp very happy.
Since announcing he would run, Biden has immediately swept all before him, and the other candidates have had to re-calibrate. Elizabeth Warren, for instance, has re-heated their old feud over the financial services industry and Biden’s apparent dependence on them for support. (He was a senator for Delaware, where much of the industry is based, for more than 30 years).
Online, you can see a young and eager professor Warren being congratulated on her ferocity by Joe Biden during a Senate committee hearing at the beginning of the century. His condescension is evident. In politics for over 40 years, Biden has the kind of baggage that only such a long career can provide.
Yet the man known as ‘Uncle Joe’ sees himself as the White Knight to defeat the Evil Dragon. And his first video announcing his candidacy did ring a bell.
He referenced his article for the Atlantic in August 2017 which denounced that month’s white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, the one that led to the death of a counter-protestor. Heather Heyer, 32, was mowed down in a rage by a white supremacist. Trump’s response to the rally, of course, was that there had been “very fine people” on both sides.
Everyone knew this was untenable, but it was Biden who dug up Trump’s statement and brought it out again, in his campaign video.
Americans have an extremely strong and passionate idea about their country, even if they fail to live up to it. Biden’s anti-Trump video went right to the man himself, bypassing all of the platform proposals of the other candidates. Joe went to the feelings of people. The question is: why and how did it work?
The place Biden hunts in is the same place Trump does: The Rust Belt and the state of Florida. The 87,000 votes that gave Trump the Electoral College in 2016 lie there and Trump knows it.
These are the people who voted for Biden and Barack Obama twice, in 2008 and 2012, and they are a swing vote. They are also the Democratic rank and file, and they embrace the general themes of unionisation and the sense of an America that has left them behind.
They are the other side of the party’s so-called ‘Diploma Divide’ – the contrast to the formidable CV and education of Hillary Clinton. By inclination, they do not actually like Donald Trump, one of the reasons that his poll numbers are such a disaster. The president fails the ‘would you like to have a beer with this guy?’ test which dooms women candidates and anyone like Trump, a man literally from a gilded tower.
Biden is aware that this ‘guy with a beer’ trope hampers all of the women candidates. He will have to confront this, as he will have to confront many things that his generation never had to face.
But he has the ‘base’ of the Democratic Party by virtue of his steady partnership with Obama. This base is African American women. We tend to be 97% Democrat voters and we vote ‘up-and-down’ for the party’s candidates. We vote straight Democrat.
Biden’s hiring of the young African American PR maven, Symone Sanders – and her acceptance of the job – tells you a lot about which way the real wind is blowing.
Sanders was Bernie Sanders’ PR person in 2016. She has stated, before she worked for Biden, that black women simply did not warm to Sanders – one of the reasons he did not win the presidential nomination.
And you may ask the question as to why African American women are not affected by the callous treatment the now professor Anita Hill, a black woman, suffered at the hands of Biden during the 1991 Senate confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Biden was the chair of the Senate committee tasked with confirming Thomas and his line of questioning towards Hill, who accused Thomas of sexual harassment, is the stuff of legend.
The answer lies in Biden’s canny video, in which he implies that some things are bigger than that. And that thing that is bigger than anything now is defeating Donald Trump. It is as simple as that.
And what of the super-progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the ones taking the headlines? The truth lies in the fact that the Twitter Dems and the ones ‘out there’ are a different party. And the ones ‘out there’ are a bigger party. They want Trump gone. Period.
The AOC wing do not have the power in the House that the Republican Party’s Freedom Caucus had. This is not only because the Dem Base is more moderate than the Republicans, but also because the progressives are faced with a force of nature: the twice-elected speaker of the House, number three under the constitution, the acting president if Trump and Pence fall under a bus, the most powerful elected woman in US history… NDP – Nancy D’Alesandro Pelosi.
The child of a political family, she knows where the votes are and they are not, at the moment, with the Green New Deal or Medicare For All, an idea closer to our NHS. She knows that the Dems took back the House after last year’s elections, causing the Republicans to lose more than 40 seats – their biggest defeat since Watergate by focussing on what she calls ‘pocketbook issues’.
And those include defending the existing provision: The Affordable Care Act – ‘Obamacare’ – along with its protection for preexisting conditions. Attention to this plan is what caused the voters to come back to the party. She has a great many Democrats who came from Trump seats. The entire House is up for election next year and she wants to make sure that her people return. A congresswoman from California, she once stated, both she and Ocasio-Cortez, from New York, represent seats, where “a glass of water would win with a ‘D’ next to its name”.
Her job is to keep seats where that is not the case, and hold the House. She politely ignores her party’s left wing by simply not doing want they want. And at the same time encouraging them to hang in there and be the future of the party. Just not right now.
So Biden’s big poll lead and fundraising prowess comes from things that she feels that people can understand. She was right in 2018 and could be in 2020 if her party gives Biden the nod. She has not stated a preference because it is too early. The progressives will, in time, be the Democratic Party. Pelosi and Biden know this. But their calculation is if they can take advantage of the lousy rating numbers of Trump, they might be able to hand a future to AOC and her colleagues.
This is early days and ‘Uncle Joe’ could disappear. The Democrats are fielding a huge number of candidates and there is something for everyone. But it is important to remember that the folks who voted for Trump also voted for Biden and his running mate – twice.
The unions like him. Flyover USA and African Americans like him. Unless the progressives and their energetic left wing can actually get their people out to vote for their offer we will have two septuagenarians fighting it out for the soul of the nation. And maybe this is really where the USA is right now.