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This is How Biden Loses the Election

With the wrong VP, Kanye West, the NRA, and playing it safe

David Leibowitz
Aug 10 · 8 min read
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Photo by Mesh on Unsplash

The announcement this week by the New York Attorney General to dismantle the NRA is ill-timed with just three months to go before the United States presidential election. Though unlikely to succeed in time for ballot counting, the AG’s gesture could serve to energize the President’s base. But that’s not the only thing that might plague Joe Biden.

Without some course correction, that’s just one part in a step-by-step playbook to losing the presidential election in November that includes Kanye West, waiting too long to aggressively campaign, selecting the wrong running mate, and other malarkey.

‘They’re going to take away your guns’

New York Attorney General Letitia James sued the National Rifle Association (NRA) last week and aimed to dissolve the organization entirely, as reported by the Associated Press. The NRA was incorporated in New York state and was chartered as a nonprofit there in 1871. In the same stroke, Washington D.C Attorney General Karl Racine sued the NRA Foundation, a charitable arm of the organization.

According to the AP, the lawsuit claims that NRA leadership misspent funds on lavish travel, luxury cars, private jet flights, and over $500,000 in trips to the Bahamas over three years. Some of these expenses were allegedly kept secret and paid through an advertising agency that would foot the bill and then be reimbursed by the NRA for “out-of-pocket expenses.”

Republicans are coming out quickly in defense of the NRA. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, as shared by the AP, tweeted that if New York doesn’t want it, the organization should “move south, where people respect and value the Second Amendment. Arkansas would be a natural home.”

Philip Hackney, a University of Pittsburgh law professor and former IRS attorney says the NRA’s behavior forces New York’s hand, but a Democratic appearing to take down the NRA is poor optics.

Make no mistake, Biden has famously said that he is “coming for” the NRA if elected. But the timing of the lawsuits brought by New York and Washington D.C. now bring this kitchen table issue for both parties to the forefront. And this comes at a time when gun sales are breaking records: July saw nearly 1.8 million guns sold, a 122% percent increase year-over-year, according to the Wall Street Journal. The 12 million gun sales through this July are just shy of the 13.2 million sold for all of 2019, and that’s not only to Republicans.

Biden’s stance on banning assault weapons and fining owners who didn’t register them has been conflated to the rallying cry of “he doesn’t support the Second Amendment” in the recent past. This exaggerated notion has stuck, even though Biden personally owns firearms. He told a Detroit autoworker in March that he was “full of shit” after the man accused Biden of wanting to “take away our guns” if he is elected President.

The timing of the charges leveled against the NRA is a real headscratcher and could cause Biden to be on the backfoot for this issue for the next ninety days.

“Homeboy can’t pick a white VP”

Last October, Biden was asked about his running mate and said: “I would very much think it’s important to have a woman, and even a woman of color, or someone of color as vice president.” He then continued, “But I’ve learned something different. Not different. Something else. The single most important thing you have to have as a president is someone you know is ideologically compatible with you, that you, in fact, share the same fundamental concerns and values.”

The Kanye West distraction is meant to do one thing, lure votes away from Biden. And any ballot that isn’t cast for Biden is a vote for Trump.

Biden’s need to select a woman of color as vice presidential running mate has much more urgency given societal unrest, calls for change, and demands for social justice. This has become more paramount in recent days in which he faced criticism for saying, “Unlike the African American community, with notable exceptions, the Latino community is an incredibly diverse community with incredibly diverse attitudes about different things.”

Biden is no stranger to putting his foot in his mouth and gaffes that require some walk-back or apology as he did in a later clarification on Twitter. But Biden, now more than ever, needs to make good on his October promise. Indeed, his supporters believe so as well.

About the Biden tweet apology, a Democratic operative texted Axios with the addition: “Homeboy can’t pick a white VP.”

The Kanye Factor

Kanye West announced a late bid to get on the presidential ballot, though he has the same slim chance of winning as a Green party candidate. But he already knows this.

Still, CNN reports that Republican operatives are very much pushing for Kanye West to get on presidential general election ballots across the states. That’s because assisting West in getting added to the ballot in battleground states like Wisconsin could be a path to splitting the Democratic vote. Said Milwaukee Democratic Rep. David Bowen to CNN, “This is clearly a targeted effort by Republican operatives to cause confusion and problems for typically Democratic voters on Election Day.”

The Kanye West distraction is meant to do one thing, lure votes away from Biden. And any ballot that isn’t cast for Biden is a vote for Trump.

Trump confirmed this stance and that it “shouldn’t be hard for Kanye West to take away votes from Biden,” according to The Hill. When asked about Kanye’s run by Fox News, Trump said, “[Kanye] is always going to be for us,” Trump told Sean Hannity. “[He’s a] a very good guy. He is a person that I get along with very well. At the end, I think he would support us over anyone else. We have to stop the radical left from taking over our country.”

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Author screengrab, Aug 9, 2020

This plays into the Trump campaign strategy to appeal to younger black men while suppressing and dividing support for Biden. A CNN poll in July found Biden leading among Black votes by 83% to 8%. Though the 75-point margin is large, it still trails Hillary Clinton’s 79-point margin in pre-election polls taken before the 2016 election. And Biden’s numbers haven’t changed much since national protests in April.

C’mon, Man!

If Biden thinks he can ad lib his way to a decisive debate counterpunch, he will be mistaken. He needs to prepare himself — not just the content, but also his delivery.

Biden’s “Are you kidding me?” eye bulges and chuckles in response to Paul Ryan were humanizing, but still just barely enough to sway the crowd in the 2012 vice-presidential debates. It was a likable performance, but as the Washington Post noted at the time, it merely demonstrated the “art of not losing.” Since Ryan is no Trump on the main stage, Biden is going to have to do better than not lose with toothless “Malarkey!” rebuttals.

In 2016, when Hillary Clinton said of Trump, “[Putin would] rather have a puppet as president!”, he pulled an I’m-rubber-and-you’re-glue routine with “No, you’re the puppet!” That defused her argument, which then descended into a shouting match with Trump continuing to interrupt her with “no puppet! no puppet!”

What works to effectively parry against Trump? Determined fact-checking in real-time.

At a news conference Saturday, CBS News White House correspondent Paula Reid asked Trump, “Why do you do you keep saying that you passed Veterans Choice?” The law, signed by President Barack Obama, allowed eligible veterans to be covered by the government for care provided by doctors outside the VA system.

But that didn’t prevent Trump from saying, “They’ve been trying to get that passed for decades and decades and decades and no president’s ever been able to do it, and we got it done.”

Yet Reid persisted with “You said that you passed Veterans Choice. It was passed in 2014. It was a false statement, sir.” Trump’s response? He abruptly ended and exited the news conference. For a man used to street fighting, direct and irrefutable facts are knockout blows. And the lack of an adoring crowd, as he likely won’t have in the scheduled presidential debates, is his Kryptonite.

For additional evidence, look no further than Jonathan Swan’s recent interview with Trump for Axios. Just as Rocky Balboa dropped the southpaw stance and adopted a new fighting style for his second bout against Apollo Creed, Biden would do well by reviewing Swan’s techniques that effectively dismantled Trump’s repeated exaggerations and false claims. It was Swan’s demeanor and persistence with facts that left the President gasping for air.

Waiting to race

In the months Biden launched his stay-at-home campaign, his lead in the polls increased. But this was due mainly to not getting in the way of letting “Trump [run] against Trump,” according to a Biden consulting advisor. That’s left him to be perceived as a “generic Democrat,” says Republican pollster Neil Newhouse to Politico. Newhouse says that voters haven’t gotten to know Biden which has been good for him.

Biden has steered clear of big nationally televised interviews and has favored local press. Trump’s latest attacks on Biden are that he “hides in the basement.” And playing it safe may not help attract young voters. Though Biden has earned the vote from the left and “anyone but Trump,” he will need to aggressively stump because voter turnout may not be the tidal wave previously expected.

Some forecasters were assuming a 100-year flood for the 2020 Elections, which would benefit Democrats. But those predictions were made at the end of 2019, pre-pandemic. Confusion about mail-in ballots, potential undercounting communities of color by ending the census early this fall (which won’t directly affect the 2020 outcome, but may keep people home if they believe their numbers don’t matter), and anxiety about in-person voting could cause those forecasts to shrink significantly.

Biden needs more vocal criticism laced with authentic hope for the future in order to energize voters. Instead, he is getting lured into distractions.

This week Trump said Biden would “hurt God,” and Biden took the bait by responding in a blog post, which felt like another “You’re the puppet!” exchange. To even respond to the “malarkey” (as Biden might call it) distracts from other substantive arguments he might have made.

For example, just days ago, Trump declared that he’d be “pursuing a major executive order requiring health insurance companies to cover all preexisting conditions for all customers. That’s a big thing. I’ve always been very strongly in favor. This has never been done before.”

That left a wide opening for Biden to mention that preexisting conditions are already part of the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare) and have been since before Trump took office. Perhaps he could have done so in a TikTok video, at the same time challenging Trump’s recent order to ban the social media company starting mid-September.

That won’t happen as the Biden campaign has no official presence on TikTok. But if Arnold Schwarzenegger can use the platform to get the word out about social distancing with levity, then why can’t Biden?

Perhaps instead of a video of him driving a Corvette that had all the forced humor of an eye-roll-inducing dad-joke, he could instead engage authentically with a base of young voters and undecideds. Incidentally, not all TikTok users are pre-teens; over 67 percent of their 30 million users in the United States are of voting age.

Biden cannot wait any longer to campaign; no more pitstops and no more granny shifting. He needs to put his foot on the gas of that roadster now, and shift into high gear if he wants a decisive checkered flag finish in November.

Dialogue & Discourse

News and ideas worthy of discourse.

David Leibowitz

Written by

Breaker of treadmills. Wrote or appeared in XBOX Mag, Forbes, CNN, OneZero & industry rags. @ retail, consumer goods, health/wellness, education & tech.

Dialogue & Discourse

News and ideas worthy of discourse. Fundamentally informative and intelligently analytical.

David Leibowitz

Written by

Breaker of treadmills. Wrote or appeared in XBOX Mag, Forbes, CNN, OneZero & industry rags. @ retail, consumer goods, health/wellness, education & tech.

Dialogue & Discourse

News and ideas worthy of discourse. Fundamentally informative and intelligently analytical.

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