Let me just get this out of the way: if Joe Biden wins the Democratic primary in 2020, I will support him with all my might against Donald Trump. Biden is a fair, decent man with a long track record in government, and he would make a good president.
However, if the people around Biden him have any sense, they and the DNC will urge him not to run in the coming months. Biden has been making noises about a potential run, telling CNN’s Juan Carlos López that, “I know I have to make up my mind and I have to do it by January”. With early polls indicating that he is the front runner for the Democratic primary, he may well feel there is enough momentum to get revenge for his former boss and restore some semblance of sanity to the White House.
There are however, many reasons why Biden must not run for president. Unfortunately, the main argument is one party stalwarts seem to forget every time there is a presidential election. It is the same reason why I believed Hillary Clinton should never have run for office in 2008 or in 2016, and it is the same reason why millions of Americans are turned off by the political system. Joe Biden is, for lack of a better term, a part of the political establishment, and thus a perceived part of the problem.
This label gets misused by the nihilistic far left to tear down candidates who do not agree with 100% of their policies, but it is nevertheless correct. Politicians like Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, are whether they like it or not, a part of the Democratic establishment. And while they have their part to play in fighting for a better country, they are no longer useful at the presidential level.
This should not be taken as a lecture on progressive purity, but an honest appraisal of a candidate who will have to bridge warring factions within the Democratic party and created a bold, progressive platform for everyone to get behind. Biden simply doesn’t have the record, the youth, or the political skill to do this in 2020, and he would put the party in great danger of losing again to Trump. At 77 years old (he’s 75 now), Biden isn’t going to have the energy to run a full throttled campaign against the GOP, and he is kidding himself if he thinks he can in today’s 24 hour news cycle. Biden also has a pretty poor track record of campaigning, having placed 5th in the 2008 Democratic primary capturing less than 1% of the vote in the Iowa caucus.
Biden’s Troubling History
Contrary to Biden’s image as a “cool uncle” who talks smack and throws down against Republicans, the former Senator from Delaware is in fact a pro-corporate, pro-war centrist with a troubling history of coming down on the wrong side of progressive issues. Biden, for example, has a long history of supporting the banking industry, and was a lead sponsor of a 2001 bill essentially written by the financial industry that would have made it far harder for vulnerable Americans to declare bankruptcy.
Biden also voted for the Iraq war, and was the main author of the Senate’s Violent Crime Control Act in 1994 that encouraged states to imprison hundreds of thousands of people. This makes selling him to the progressive wing of the party an uphill battle, and the party cannot afford a re-run of the Democratic Primary in 2016.
The Myth of the White, Blue Collar Voter
There is a notion that the Democratic party must reach out to blue collar white voters if they are to win in 2020, and given Biden’s working class guy persona, many believe he is the man to do it. Many Democrats think Biden can peel white men away from Trump in the swing states creating enough momentum to hand them the White House. If Biden, they reason, can convince these voters that the Democratic party is a better bet for their economic interests then they will be willing to switch allegiance. This is however, based on the long perpetuated myth that Trump voters were motivated by economic issues.
The truth is that white men overwhelmingly voted for Trump in 2016 because they are overwhelmingly racist. As Princeton history and public affairs professor Julian Zelizer writes:
A just-published study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by the political scientist Diana Mutz found that white, Christian, male voters were attracted to Trump out of fear that their social status keeps dwindling. It was, in fact, Trump who was focused on identity politics, not simply the Democrats.
Mutz’s research found that members of Trump’s base believed they faced more discrimination as white males than most other groups, such as Muslims. “For the first time since Europeans arrived in this country, white Americans are being told that they will soon be a minority race,” she writes….
While the President keeps talking about the common man and woman, most of his economic policies, such as his tax overhaul or financial deregulations, have aimed to provide relief to corporations, investors, and families in the upper income brackets. But it is key to understand that his legislative actions are happening simultaneously with his continued rhetoric — attacks on immigrants, civil rights, gender equality, and anyone who dares to stand up for the ideas that he likes to deride as “political correctness” — that secured the support of his base to begin with.
Unless Biden goes full racist in 2020 and betrays the Democratic party’s core supporters, he won’t carve into the white male vote in any meaningful way. If the Democrats are to win, the must turn out their base like never before. And that means crafting a powerful progressive platform articulated by a fresh voice with little DC baggage.
There are many exciting Democratic candidates emerging who would be able to motivate the base and bring the party together in 2020 — from Cory Booker to Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, there is no shortage of new, powerful voices who can stand up to Donald Trump and end the madness in Pennsylvania Avenue. The party needs to make way for these new candidates and make clear that it is moving on from the disaster in 2016. Hillary Clinton ultimately lost an election she should have won to a man who should never be allowed in the White House. There was too much history, too much baggage, and far too little energy. Biden would fare worse than Clinton in 2020, and the party would likely never recover.
Biden recently launched a new initiative named “As You Are” that aims to emphasize the importance of family and community acceptance of LGBTQ youth.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.