Democrats Should Say No to Joe in 2020

A famous white man who’s been in the public eye for five decades and isn’t known for ideology but is known for gaffes and groping could win in 2020.

Donald Trump or Joe Biden? Hard to say, and that’s the point.

The Democratic nominee needs to offer a clear alternative to Trump in both style and substance. That’s why Biden shouldn’t be the frontrunner. Hell, given that this is the most diverse and impressive Democratic presidential field in history, he shouldn’t even be running.

It would be a travesty if Biden running for a third time and blowing it yet again not only led to another four years of Trump, but also kept America from having our first woman president, gay president, Latinx president, or Jewish president. It would also be a travesty if Biden cost Democrats the chance to move forward with the most progressive administration in US history.

Those are the likely consequences of Democrats going all in on Biden despite having a literal busload of other candidates to choose from because *fingers crossed* the third time might be a charm. I understand why it’s tempting to put America’s favorite uncle back in the White House. Many of us have wondered if he would’ve won back in 2016. After a lot of reflection, I don’t think Biden would’ve and believe he would also lose to Trump in 2020.

If you look past the blinding nostalgia, you’ll realize it’s not all aviator shades and ice cream cones. Trouble lies ahead because it lies behind.

Imagine a Biden-Trump debate. Biden rolls up his sleeves and tries to beat Trump at his own game. The Donald is hard to hit because his voters don’t give a damn that he has a list of scandals longer than a CVS receipt. Meanwhile, Trump picks apart Biden’s weaknesses. Moderators get hoodwinked into following his lead just like they did in 2016. A frustrated Biden grits his whiter-than-Tucker-Carlson’s-audience teeth and protests with a “malarkey!” or two. But deep down he knows he’s been beaten.

We saw a preview of this when Trump tweeted a video mocking Biden’s handsiness despite Trump having somewhere in the ballpark of two-dozen sexual misconduct accusers of his own. Biden’s shoulder rubs and hair-sniffing are a problem. Intentional or not, it’s disrespectful to women and professionally unacceptable. It looks worse every year, and he’s never stopped doing it until it threatened to end his presidential hopes.

This behavior would prevent him from running on the Violence Against Women Act, his signature achievement, or blasting one of Trump’s most significant vulnerabilities — his disgusting treatment of women. Shameless hypocrisy is a winning strategy for the GOP and Uncle Joe is the candidate most ripe for the picking. This criticism of Biden is not just a partisan attack, though. Jon Stewart called out the Veep back in 2015 in a segment called “The Audacity of Grope,” and Rebecca Traister wrote a brilliant column on this behavior last month.

Regardless, many Democratic voters still see Biden as the top choice for “electability” for two reasons:

  1. The Rust Belt vote: He’s got a throwback, blue-collar vibe rare among Democrats so he’ll reach working-class white voters in a region that cost Hillary Clinton the Electoral College.
  2. The Obama restoration vote: The Obamas are the most popular figures among Democrats and Biden’s time as Vice President makes him feel like a de facto third Barack Obama term.

The theory that Obama-Trump voters in places like the Rust Belt will go for Biden is shaky. Recent history tells us that vote-switchers respond to populism more than loyal Democrats and loyal Republicans. Just because Biden has a folksy man-of-the-people persona doesn’t mean he’s a populist. A 2005 feud between Biden and Elizabeth Warren over a bankruptcy bill proves this. She fought for the people. He backed the banks. An actual populist like Warren would theoretically be much better equipped to take on Trump’s white nationalism cloaked as populism.

Additionally, is betting the farm on winning all of the Rust Belt logical? The electoral map is changing fast. Missouri used to be as purple as a Prince outfit. During the 20th century, Missouri voted for the president in the general every time except once. Now it’s dark red. Ohio has headed the same direction, so should Democrats make it a top priority? Or should they start thinking about alternatives that are better long-term bets — like Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, even Texas?

Nobody is saying to abandon Ohio, and, yes, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin are states Democrats need to win. But again why are folks confident Biden can deliver those states? Maybe he picks up PA because Deleware is next door, but the others are far from a sure thing. In the 2008 Democratic Primary, Biden primarily ran against a person of color (Obama) and a woman (Clinton). There were more white Democratic voters than non-white ones and, spoiler alert, they did not choose the white guy. The ones who did chose John Edwards. Biden finished fifth in lily-white Iowa, then dropped out. Bill Richardson, a Latino candidate, finished fourth.

There’s just not much tangible evidence Biden can win over moderate white voters in swing states.

Voting for Joe to get that Barack feeling back sounds groovy, except for the part that Biden is not Obama and is nothing like him. Obama is one of a kind. I had a friend who was pals with Robert Plant (who lived in Austin) despite being decades younger. I didn’t expect that guy to single-handedly bring back the Led Zeppelin sound via osmosis. Obama doesn’t seem as progressive as he used to, but that says more about how the Democratic Party has shifted left than it does him. Back in 2008, Obama was viewed by most of the country as extremely liberal (remember the socialism smear?). Biden was added to the ticket as a centrist to appeal to moderate Dems and Independents.

Also, Obama got elected in part because he famously opposed the Iraq War and didn’t have a blemished record to pick apart. Biden is the opposite.

Iraq War. 1994 crime bill. Opposed busing to racially integrate schools in the 70s. His treatment of Anita Hill. 1996 welfare reform bill. The Patriot Act. Expanding the death penalty. Helping establish different penalties for crack cocaine and powder cocaine. Eulogizing Strom fucking Thurmond. The list goes on and on… and on. Amtrak Joe has more baggage than a train station. If voters are looking to go back to the Obama formula — hope, change, diversity, and a sparse but promising record — a newcomer like Julian Castro, Pete Buttigieg or Stacey Abrams would be a better fit.

Biden played an unforgettable role in American history by serving in a strong supporting position beside the first black president, a president who faced unprecedented smears and obstruction. The Obama admin wasn’t perfect, but it ushered in progress, set a good example, made the environment a priority, and saved many lives (the ACA saved the life of someone dear to me, a cancer survivor). I also appreciate Biden’s willingness to fight for gun reform (but even on that issue he sided with the NRA back in the day). That being said, Biden has a long list of mistakes, and it’s infuriating to see people give him a pass on those mistakes over perceived “electability.” Other candidates, particularly women, are seeing their poll numbers get absolutely crushed because of one or two missteps. Kirsten Gillibrand stood up for women, which she has a track record of doing, during the Al Franken scandal and now she’s polling worse than people you’ve never heard.

Furthermore, Biden won’t apologize for what he’s gotten wrong. He’s never said he was sorry directly to Anita Hill and recently stated, “I am not sorry for anything I have ever done.” Holy shit. That sounds pretty damn Trumpy. Obama never had a problem admitting his faults and mistakes, and that accountability was a big part of his allure. Biden lacks not only humility but also the necessary hindsight to realize his policies and behavior caused pain. That will prevent him from learning and making better decisions in the future. Competitors Kamala Harris and Warren have recently owned things they got wrong in the past. That’s what leadership looks like.

Democratic voters — especially boomers who overwhelmingly favor Biden — seem to be operating out of fear. They think America has changed too fast for some folks and the solution is to go back to what the country always elected in the past — straight white dudes. Nope. Trump wasn’t punishment for a black president, a woman nominee, political correctness or pushing equality. Trump was the byproduct of decades of the GOP screwing the working class to enrich the 1% while dishonestly pinning the blame on immigrants and minorities. Regardless, we’ve still seen either a black man or white woman win the popular vote by millions against a white man in three consecutive races.

Besides, the people who voted for Trump have either already left him or still love him. There is no negotiating with what’s left of the Republican/Trump base. It’s a cult. You could create a candidate in a lab and make him a 6'5" bible-thumping white war hero from Scranton, PA with eight-pack abs named Abraham Reagan, but if he registered Democrat conservative voters would instantly reject his ass. Right-wing propaganda is a helluva drug.

Why pander to unreliable voters when the overall electorate leans left and rewards diversity? Shouldn’t the strategy be to excite millennials, minorities, and disappointed leftists by running someone fresh, bold, inclusive, intersectional and actually progressive? Biden is none of those things. We don’t just want to squeak out an Electoral College win by reaching some of the middle and alienating parts of the base. We want a captivated big-tent coalition that defeats Trump in a landslide he can’t contest (because he will try if it’s close) and takes back Senate majority.

Another worry is Biden’s age. It’s not ageist to point out that Ronald Reagan was the oldest sitting president ever on his last day and Biden would be older than that on his first day. Why aren’t people freaking out about this more? If you look back at the past four Democratic presidents who first entered office via election — John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — they were all in their 40s. Biden would be 82 (!) when he started his second term (this is also a strike against Bernie Sanders).

Re-election seems like a long shot, which means Republicans would consider his presidency a lame-duck one. There are rumors he might even declare himself a one-term president. Terrible idea. It doesn’t take much creativity to imagine Ruth Bader Ginsburg retiring and political nihilist Mitch McConnell using Biden’s unprecedented situation to deny him even one Supreme Court nomination. Or god forbid if a health issue were to slow Biden down, which can happen at any age but especially once you reach your 80s, McConnell would pounce and bring the admin’s agenda to a screeching halt.

Speaking of that agenda, Democrats are going to have a big mess to clean up. It’s going to be like The Shawshank Redemption. They’ll have to crawl through a 500-yard sewer of Trump excrement to come out clean on the other end. Sure, the fundamentals of the economy appear healthy if you use antiquated metrics like GDP and the stock market. But stagnant wages and families who don’t have enough in savings to cover medical bills, while CEOs and corporations pay little to no taxes, paint a different picture. The economy is broken, and the right uses it to pit people against each other and cultivate nationalism.

If we don’t unrig the economy with sweeping change and tackle other pressing issues this racial and cultural resentment will grow, more left-leaning voters will stay home (especially ones who expect stuff like a Green New Deal or Medicare for All), and the next GOP POTUS could be someone scarier than Trump — say Richard Spencer or Roy Moore. Don’t laugh. Many of us said it could never get worse than Dick Cheney and George W. Bush and in some ways it has.

Many liberal and progressive voters have started to doubt the Democratic Party’s ability to do for this century what FDR did for the last one, which is what we need at the moment. They think the party is too centrist and corporate. Biden and his nearly extinct brand of bipartisan incrementalism would drive those voters towards another option, like Jill Stein, who despite being a joke candidate altered the 2016 race. Voters don’t have to take you seriously to see you as a human grenade they can lob at the establishment. Stein or a libertarian candidate plucking away lefties scares me way more than Howard Schultz racking up votes in the middle. The goal of Schultz’s candidacy is to put America to sleep so we’ll buy more overpriced coffee.

This country has been center-right for 40 effing years. And now the GOP has decided it is willing to do ANYTHING to hold on to that power and win our current cultural war. Biden, who’s been busy calling Mike Pence a “decent guy” and hanging medals around Bush’s neck, doesn’t even understand that we’re in a battle for the country’s soul. Furthermore, he had no sense of urgency about entering this race, so maybe this isn’t the right climate for someone like him? He’s been mulling a run at the Oval Office for four years now and finally decided to throw his hat in the ring. Where’s his conviction?

Joe Biden is not our best chance at beating Donald Trump. Even if he were to win, he might keep Democrats from accomplishing sweeping change and building a lasting majority that wins a generation — not just an election. This is why we need to say no to Joe.