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Liberalism Politics Roger Kimball US Politics

Why Joe Biden can’t win

His initial success is down to the fact he isn’t woke. But he cannot defeat Donald Trump

Like the poor according to Jesus of Nazareth, Joe Biden we will always have with us, or so it seems. Can anyone remember when he first ran for president? It was more than 30 years ago, in 1988. I looked it up. Many of the people who work for me weren’t even born when Biden plagiarized his first speech. And now, just as he should be stocking up on Geritol and Viagra and preparing for that Acela Express to the beyond, he is at it again. Running for President. Of the United States of America. Joe Biden and 6m785 other Democratic hopefuls.

Opinions about Joe’s potency — as a political candidate, I mean — vary widely. I have several well-informed friends on both sides of the chasm who believe that he will be the candidate. I have a smaller circle of friends, but some very distinguished ones, who think he has a real shot at winning — winning the White House I mean. Into this latter group belongs my friend Doug Schoen, who knows more about polls than I ever will. ‘Put simply, Biden can win both the Democratic nomination and the White House in the election next year,’ Doug recently wrote.

He bases this judgement on various polls, which are indeed impressive. A day or two ago, one poll had JB ahead of his nearest rival (fellow old white guy Bernie Sanders) by 21 points. Another had Biden ahead by 27 points.

Impressive? As a numerical phenomenon, sure. As a data point with predictive power? Nothing doing. A year and a half out from the election, polls are essentially meaningless or, rather, positively misleading.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to witness the warm feelings pooling about the feet of Joe Biden. Maybe, just maybe, he will be the candidate. Maybe — Oh let it be so! — he can win against the evil orange man!

Although anything can happen in the game of politics — it really is, after all, what Bismarck said it was, the art of the possible — I do not think that Joe Biden will be the candidate. Nor, should I be wrong about that, do I think he would be elected if he were.

Again, a lot can change between now and November 2020. But let’s say things proceed more or less as they have been proceeding these last two plus years. If that is the case, I believe, Joe Biden is just an ignis fatuus. An intermittent glimmer over The Swamp that surprises everyone and then disappears.

I won’t rehearse the reasons that I think this other than to mention Biden’s age, his race, his worrisome foot-in-mouth disease, his probably innocent but eyebrow-raising hands-on-young-girls penchant. Then there is his son, Hunter. Peter Schweitzer gives us a good taste of what that’s all about: ‘In December of 2013, Hunter Biden flies on Air Force Two to Beijing, China, with his father,’ Schweizer said in a recent interview.

‘His father meets with Chinese officials, he’s very soft on Beijing. The most important thing that happens [takes place] 10 days after they return. And that’s when Hunter Biden’s small, private equity firm called Rosemont Seneca Partners gets a $1 billion private equity deal with the Chinese government, not with the Chinese corporation, with the government. And what people need to realize is Hunter Biden has no background in China. He has no background in private equity. The deal he got in the Shanghai free-trade zone, nobody else had — Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Blackstone, nobody had this deal.’

How do you spell influence peddling?

Anyway, there are a lot of reasons to believe that Joe Biden has, as they say, very ‘high negatives,’ and plenty of reasons, too, to think that he has not yet stood up to scrutiny of those negatives.

Nevertheless he is surging in the polls. Why? Nostalgia, for one thing. There was dear ol’ Joe for eight years of the Obama administration. Everybody knows his name. What exactly does he stand for? Don’t be rude. He is a nice man. Avuncular. Friendly, folksy, smiling Uncle Joe (and I don’t mean the Uncle Joe that Bernie Sanders admires).

But all that only takes us so far. The real reason that Joe Biden is the darling among the grown ups in the Democratic party is this: he is, or at least appears to be, sane. He is not an obvious fruitcake. He is not ‘woke.’ (Indeed, it is not always clear that he is awake.) We may not know exactly what he stands for — he’s stood for so many contradictory things over the years — but he is not an obvious anti-Semite, an avowed socialist, a convinced proponent of ending air travel for the sake of ‘the environment,’ etc. He’s vaguely progressive, sure, and listeth as the wind bloweth. But he acts somewhat, and he certainly looks, like some Democrats of yore. Big government types who were nonetheless unashamedly pro-American. Would anyone accuse AOC of that? Or Bernie Sanders? Or Fauxcahontas? Joe Biden is, or at least appears, normal. He is unthreatening. He likes it in the apple cart. It’s been awfully good to him and he doesn’t want to upset it.

When push comes to shove, I think the voters will notice that his sell-by date has long passed and will pluck him from the shelf for good. But in the meantime, he stands as a beacon of hope, a cynosure of normality. It would be good for the Democrats, and ultimately good for the country, if more people stepped up and tried to fill that role. At the moment, I don’t see it happening. But if the Democratic party is ever going to recover its sanity, it will be by following the path (if not the hands) that Joe Biden has followed. Is it all a bit hollow and hypocritical? Maybe. But as Hamlet advised his mother, ‘assume a virtue if you have it not… For use almost can change the stamp of nature.’


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