I wrote a piece yesterday for Reaction about Joe Biden’s strategy going into the November election. The article was part think-piece but also part genuine concern.
It’s so easy to get distracted by the phenomenon of Trump that one forgets that the man running against him (and now likely to win) stopped being a great prospect once he got on the senior side of his seventieth birthday. There was a time earlier in the year when Biden was thought to be on the verge of quitting. He was yesterday’s news. A man whose ambitions had run past his time. His fundraising was spectacularly bad and his debate performances woeful.
It was only the intervention of Jim Clyburn and a big win in South Carolina that turned things around. Overnight, he went from loser to presumptive nominee. Then the virus came along to smooth things out a little. Biden could retreat to his basement, keep relatively quiet, and allow us all a little peace in which it became too easy to forget what a terrible candidate he’d thus far been.
Myself, I’d have gone for Bloomberg, though with hindsight, the controversy around stop and frisk would have proved more problematic given events of this year. Yet of all the candidates I’d listened to over the past year or two, none impressed me as much as Bloomberg fielding questions at a CNN town hall. Suddenly there was a pragmatic problem solver in the race, who knew how to delegate, and with a strong grip on the issues that matter (especially the science). He’d have been a better candidate for right now almost as much as he’d have been a terrible candidate for a time when race is a big part of the election debate. Bloomberg also would have struggled to unite the very disparate Democratic caucus. He’d have been perceived as Republican-lite, which would have most likely helped Sanders win the nomination and that was the one thing the Democrats had to avoid above everything else. It might not have handed victory to Trump but it would certainly have made it easier for him to resolve the current fight into one about the “law and order Republicans” and “those crazy liberals”.
So, yes, I’d have liked Bloomberg but Biden was still the right kind of moderate. If not liked by everybody, he’s not hated either. Yet he’s still a bit of a rolling car wreck as a candidate…
Am I being too hard on Biden? I don’t know. The guy’s winning. I just worry he’s not leaning into his advantages enough. He should be using that power he now has as runaway leader of the polls as a way of putting the brakes on Trump. He should be reminding people in the administration that the political landscape might change in a few months and the statute of limitations isn’t going to run out any time soon on crimes committed this year.
Instead, he seems content on playing happy clappy Grandpa Joe. He’s talking about unity and “healing”, which just gives me a cold shiver. And that’s the thing I fear most: that a Biden presidency will begin with too much crap about reconciliation, sweeping the last four years under the rug, with rushed pardons and quiet agreements not to go after Trump so long as he removes himself from the political landscape. I’m not exactly seeking vengeance, here, but I’d like the next president prove that law and order does actually mean something; that locking up kids in cages comes with a price to pay. I’d like to think that unbadged troops beating up protesting mothers will have to answer for their actions.
I suppose what I’m saying is: I wish the Democrats weren’t so bleeding Democratic. It’s the perpetual cycle of US politics: the party of the bastards followed by the party of the wusses. We’ve spent four years complaining about the brazen politics of Trump’s administration; their bull-headed approach to everything. It’s quite possible we’ll spend the next four years talking about caution, hesitation, and Biden wasting his electoral mandate on issues of identity. With Obama it was his weak foreign policy. We said the same about Clinton, who sent cruise missiles to kill camels whilst allowing Bin Laden to walk free. Before that it was Jimmy Carter and we all know how that ended.
Biden needs to get out ahead of that now and prove that he can be as unashamedly brazen and goal orientated as a Republican. He needs to prove that he’ll be the true Law and Order president, beginning with this lawless president.