The top priority for a major political party is to choose a presidential candidate with the best chance of winning. There are always subplots, of course, such as hoping that primaries don’t tack a candidate too far from where most voters are. It’s a prudent approach that kept John F. Kennedy moderate against Richard Nixon and Barack Obama pragmatic against Mitt Romney.
And arguably, the same basic strategy–Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Ilhan Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib notwithstanding–can be successful in 2020 with former Vice President Joe Biden as the Democratic nominee. We’ll know soon if he’s making his long-speculated move.
The reasons, arguably, why it shouldn’t be Biden are familiar. Age. Establishment. Gaffes. Plagiarism. Iraq war vote. Anita Hill. Family issues. Normally, he’s only in this conversation to endorse. But this is the new normal. No longer are “disqualifiers” disqualifying. There is context to all the downsides, and there’s a lot to play up in his impressive resume. But, most of all, there is 72-year-old Donald Trump. His pathological baggage–from the unethical to the immoral to the intemperate to the existentially dangerous–would be juxtaposed to Biden holding a well-seasoned, centrist tote bag.
It also leaves Biden holding the best option for going one-on-one with Trump while talking over him to the forgotten and left behind who panicked and pivoted to Trump in 2016. He wouldn’t back off from putting the loudmouth buying the house a round at last call in his unprincipled, uninformed place. Biden’s populism is Delaware and Pennsylvania blue collar–not branded towers and Mar-a-Lago. It will show. It’s who he is. True-blue progressives can still be to the right of Bernie Sanders.
If the objective of the Democratic nominee is a Trump “Trexit,” Biden’s the guy. Not a Bernie, a Liz or a Beto. In 2016, the role of consummate liberals was, in part, to tack Hillary Clinton more to the left. That won’t be necessary with Biden who, while not advocating a socialist revolution, will promise the restoration of international dignity, more than lip service to a progressive agenda and what it means to be an American without a MAGA cap.
What he would need is what Clinton didn’t get enough of in 2016, when too many Sanders’ supporters sat out the election because their guy wasn’t on the ticket, and Hillary wasn’t likable enough. And then a Jill Stein Green Party candidacy hardly helped. That can’t happen in 2020 when the choice is pulling this country back from the brink–not merely the nominated Dem vs. a Republican incumbent.
If he were to win in 2020, Biden would be 78 upon inauguration. It would behoove him to put someone like Sen. Kamala Harris, a generation removed, on the ticket. She’s impressive and would be well positioned–wink and nod–to make history if President Biden decides that one term would be enough to change course and pave the way for America’s first female president.
What do you say, Joe?