Bonnie Greer: Average Joe is the rival who Trump fears most
- Credit: Tribune News Service via Getty I
BONNIE GREER on why the relatable average Joe from the quieter states of America, is the rival Trump should fear most.
Delaware is one of those places where, when many Americans begin to talk about it, they start their sentence "with respect". Quiet, boring old Delaware, some might say.
This is because Delaware seems to be an aside. One of those small, nice, tidy states that most citizens of the 'home of the brave and the land of the free' cannot imagine.
Partly this is down to the fact that the estimated 2018 census will list only 967,171 people living in the entire state. Not a lot of folks, by US standards.
Bounded on the north by Pennsylvania, on the south and the west by Maryland, and to the east by New Jersey, the Delaware River and the Atlantic Ocean, only Rhode Island is smaller.
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Pennsylvania and Delaware disputed a piece of land known as 'the Wedge' until Pennsylvania won the right to claim it in 1921, at which point Delaware got even smaller.
Because of its size, it is easy to imagine it in the back of the queue for 'really interesting stuff about the States'. But you would be wrong. Delaware became the first state to ratify the American Constitution. This makes it the first state to enter the Union, which it did on December 7, 1787. Before then, the state had declared its independence from Britain on June 15, 1776, 20 days before the Declaration of Independence (tiny Rhode Island had been first), and Delaware had provided one of the finest regiments in the Continental Army that fought George III's redcoats - the Delaware Blues, or Blue Hen's Chicks, as they were known.
Delaware was also among the leading proponents of the idea of a strong central United States, with each state having equal representation. In other words, you could safely say that Delaware helped invent the United States.
And this is not the only interesting thing it has invented. The progressive Sanford School is located in the little town of Hockessin, Delaware. The student to teacher ratio there is 12:1. The average class size is 15 students, and the school has a 100% university acceptance rate. Its motto is 'no talent lies latent'. It lists basketball, lacrosse, girls soccer, golf and field hockey among its sports.
No doubt these sports existed at the time that Tom Miller and Richard Lester Meyers, two artistic lads, met at the school. This must have been some time in the 1960s.
They ran away to Alabama to seek adventure. Perhaps their rebellion may have been inspired by the fact that Meyers had been raised in Lexington, Kentucky. Lexington contained the Lexington Narcotics Farm rehab facility where William Burroughs, the writer, and Sonny Rollins, the jazz musician, had taken the cure. Meyers was besotted with Dylan Thomas and headed for New York City in 1966. His friend Miller soon followed.
They lived in the seedy end of the Village and immersed themselves in the works of Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Lautréamont, Bréton, the Surrealists, and Verlaine. Miller was so deep into the latter that he changed his name to Tom Verlaine. Meyers became Richard Hell, probably in homage to their environs and Rimbaud.
What you did back then was form a band, and the band they eventually got together they named Television. Sanford School is proud of them, and lists them as alumni. So maybe you can say that the First State gave the US another first: its premiere punk rock/art rock/alternative music and a deeply influential band.
And there could be another first: it could deliver to the republic the oldest president ever elected - the state's former senator, Joseph Robinette Biden Jnr.
A great deal will be written about Biden in the coming year, whether he wins the Democrat nomination or not, whether he is elected president or not. As Barack Obama's vice president, he carried the state by 25% in 2008 and 19% four years later. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the state's three electoral college votes by 11%.
Biden began his political career as a law clerk in Wilmington, Delaware's biggest city. He disliked the conservative racial politics of the incumbent governor and so thought of himself as a liberal Republican. But he hated Nixon so registered as an independent. He became a registered Democrat in about 1969 when he could see that he could help revitalise the party.
That year he ran for a seat in the New Castle County council - the area around Wilmington - and in a bad year for Democrats he won big. By then he knew that he would run for the United States senate.
In 1972 his chance came and he ran on a platform of withdrawal from the Vietnam War, protection of the environment, civil rights, mass transit improvement, better taxation, health care, and just plain 'change'. Plus he was energetic, had a great smile and a beautiful family. He won in an upset.
On December 18, 1972, just a few weeks after his election, his wife and one-year-old daughter were killed in a car accident while out Christmas shopping. His sons survived. Biden considered resigning but was talked out of it by the senate majority leader. This tragedy is the Biden Via Dolorosa. And helps make him relatable.
Biden took the train to work back then. He walked down the street to talk to people. He used the term "a bunch of malarkey" a lot, which may or may not be Irish, but sounds that way. His beloved mother's maiden name was Finnegan, and Biden talks and is 100% working class American Irish. And since so many Americans can trace their ancestry back to what they call the Old Country, the 'Biden thing' works. It makes him real. His gaffes, which are legion, make him real.
And if, as is said, Elizabeth Warren is a wine bar and Bernie Sanders is Starbucks… Joe Biden is a pint at the pub.
It is important to keep in mind that this year, for the Democrats, the goal is not the 'Green New Deal', nor 'Medicare For All', nor 'Bring the Banks in Line', as the left of the party has been demanding. It is 'Beat Trump', or at the very least, make the senate and the House of Representatives Democrat, so that Trump can be impeached and removed.
If you want to know why Biden is ahead in the polls, why he will stay there if voters do not become too concerned about his age, it is this - Trump is frightened of Biden because he appeals to the demographic that elected him. In fact, Biden is the demographic that elected him.
Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania of Irish descent, his father lost his money and the family had to move in with Biden's maternal grandparents. His father became a used-car salesman. And Biden, like Richard Hell and Tom Verlaine ran away, too, to 'something else' and this is what Americans know and understand because that is what America, in its deepest, truest self is: the quest and the belief in something else.
Now all the other candidates have this quality, too. But what most of them do not have is this: they are not the people who crossed over from the Dems to vote for Trump. They, along with Republican suburban white women, will either re-elect the reality television star/real estate mogul from Fifth Avenue or someone else.
Biden is a gaffe-machine and a whole lot else besides. And who wants a centrist president of the United States close to 80 years old in a multicultural country, from a party veering to the left? That Upper Midwest make-or-break demographic do. Joe Biden, a master of what is called 'retail politics', just might bring them back to the Democratic Party fold. They voted for him twice.
And they just might again. Delaware always did.
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