Joe Biden may have pulled off a miracle on Super Tuesday, but he is a desperation candidate for Democratic National Committee (DNC) honchos. For a year, they flirted with Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar and Mike Bloomberg, and they even considered Elizabeth Warren in the hopes that someone, anyone, could stop Bernie Sanders. In the end, Biden remained.
The party establishment united behind the candidate who has failed at running for president for thirty-two years.
In weeks or months, Democratic voters will have buyer’s remorse that the bumbling, incoherent, and scandal-ridden Biden is their presumptive nominee. Donald Trump will lacerate Biden with a thousand cuts and insults from the left and right. “Sleepy Joe” will be mocked ruthlessly for not being able to identify his sister from his wife, what office he is running for, what his website is.
Friend to segregationist senators, opponent of busing, and endorser of mass incarceration, Biden can’t attack Trump on race or criminal justice reform. Tormenter of Anita Hill and groper of women, Biden will be neutralized on sexism. Advocate of the Iraq War, Biden will flail against Trump, the ender of foreign wars. Defender of banks and drug companies, Biden is the swamp creature of Trump’s dreams.
On the flip side, Biden has little to offer. He’s a retread of Hillary Clinton’s “No, you can’t” campaign that lost to a Trump no one imagined could win. Biden’s platform is Mr No: No Medicare for All. No Green New Deal. No meaningful immigration reform. No student-debt cancellation. Biden has no vision, good or bad, that might ignite a mass upsurge the way Obama did in 2008, Reagan did in 1980, or even Trump did in 2016.
We’ve seen this movie before. It’s a reboot of Michael Dukakis’s 1988 campaign, when Democratic Party elites and the corporate media frantically rallied behind the Massachusetts governor to stop the insurgent New Deal–style campaign of Jesse Jackson. Dukakis ran an infamously incompetent campaign punctured by Lee Atwater’s racist Willie Horton ads.
His ineptitude and lack of appeal are soberingly similar to Biden’s, who looks to be the latest candidate to mobilize the party behind them in the primary only to be defeated in the general election. That includes Walter Mondale in 1984, Bob Dole in 1996, Al Gore in 2000, John Kerry in 2004, John McCain in 2008, Mitt Romney in 2012, and Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Every single one was a party insider burdened with decades of crippling compromises and hardened public perceptions. They staved off challengers and insurgents on the road to the convention, but every single one failed because they were captives of their party that had no grander vision to offer.
If Bernie is the nominee, it will be hard to predict how the general campaign will go, and that is a positive sign. Uncertainty helps Bernie because it keeps Trump off-balance. His arsenal would have little effect if Bernie’s message catches fire with the huge pool of nonvoters who are young, low income, and people of color. They far outnumber the rare white swing voter whom the media love because it justifies their self-serving appeal to do-nothing centrism.
With Biden as the nominee, it’s predictable how the general election will unfold. Trump will mock him as senile for his word-salad ramblings. Trump will pummel Biden as a pro-abortion, anti-gun socialist. Biden will run away from the issues because his vision doesn’t extend beyond pro-corporate compromise.
With every statement — “I’m not a socialist. I’m not anti-gun. I’m not against fossil fuels. I’m not anti-police” — Biden will deflate the enthusiasm of one more group he needs behind him. More concerned about pleasing pundits and CEOs, Biden will smother the burning passion of the Sanders coalition he desperately needs.
Biden will criticize Trump for bigotry on immigration but only offer weak Obama tea of protecting DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and vague pathways to citizenship. He will praise hard-working Americans who deserve a fair shot while offering nothing bold to inspire them. On health care, it will be more Barack Obama — protect the Affordable Care Act and empty promises on drug pricing while killing the dream of health care as a fundamental right.
On every policy, Biden promises a third Obama term that Get Out liberals fantasize about and that Trump already killed four years ago. All the while, Trump will order FBI and DOJ investigations into his and Hunter’s dealings. Dirty tricks will be endless. Shady cash handouts to black voters by Trump allies is a small taste of what is to come.
There is little to suggest that Midwest workers will flock to Biden, who can’t win without swinging the industrial heartland to his side. Many unions will likely be split, as in 2016, between union officials and people of color who line up behind the Democratic nominee and many white workers seduced by Trump’s strongman appeal and protectionist rhetoric.
The liberal desperation began on Super Tuesday, browbeating Sanders supporters about the Supreme Court: We need a Democrat to protect the high bench from a far-right majority that will last a generation. That’s a sign they have already lost. It’s similar to the “Don’t vote Sanders because of the effect on House and Senate races” statements Buttigieg and Klobuchar made days before dropping out. These arguments are an admission they are not inspiring voters to back them. Instead, they try to convince voters with a mix of fear and rational calculations about second-order effects.
Biden doesn’t look like he can win this election.
If he’s the nominee, he will count on Bloomberg’s dollars to put him over the top. That is dicey now, as the CEO of stop-and-frisk just came up empty in the primary after spending half a billion dollars. There is the possibility of a black swan event, namely a coronavirus pandemic that puts the economy and Wall Street on life support, killing Trump’s best argument for reelection.
This is what Biden’s best chance to win appears to be eight months out: hoping a racist billionaire and a virus beat a billionaire who’s a viral racist.
I, for one, would rather place my hopes on a Bernie Sanders comeback.