If Biden Wins, He’s Done His Job
This election has been billed as a battle for the soul of the nation. On the one hand, you have Donald Trump, a man who if he were Pinocchio, would have a nose longer than the Golden Gate Bridge and Joe Biden, a 77-year-old former Vice President who inspires hope and apathy in equal measure.
To myself and many others, the choice is clear. Trump is a caricature of everything that is bad in America. He’s vulgar, the truth is something that can be disregarded and he only looks out for himself. As an Englishman, I don’t understand his appeal.
Yet, the fact that two days after the election was held there is still not a clear winner is an indication of his enduring popularity. Despite his unfitness for the role and his terrible handling of the Covid crisis, he is still a popular figure within America.
It wasn’t meant to be like this. The polls were pointing to one thing, a convincing Biden victory. FiveThirtyEight gave Biden an 89% chance of winning, while The Economist gave him a 97% chance. Both were way off. One poll in Wisconsin put Biden 17 points ahead, in the end, he ended up winning the state by some 20,000 votes.
The election was nowhere near as close as the polls and certain commentators stated. This is might be a surprise to some, but is it? Trump has still kept a solid cadre of supporters despite everything that has happened during the past four years. The country has been divided for that whole time, arguably becoming more divided as the years progressed
The idea of a Biden landslide is appealing, I for one bought into the notion of it, yet it didn’t come to pass. As of writing, the election is still up in the air but things are looking good for Biden. He has more pathways to the Presidency than Trump and if he takes Pennsylvania, it’s game over.
Inevitably, there has been a lot of commentary around Biden’s campaign. Many on the left have lamented it and complained that Biden should have courted more Progressives instead of trying to peel off Republicans. That it should have been easy to win in a landslide.
While Biden certainly could have done more to appeal to demographics in Arizona and Texas, for example, that favour progressive policies, would this have worked? I’m not so sure. Politics is not a zero-sum game. By appealing to those voters, he would become unappealing to other voters. Campaigning is a delicate balancing act.
What those who would have preferred Bernie Sanders to be the nominee don’t seem to understand is that you have to appeal to the whole country not a subset of it. I saw this in action during the 2019 UK general election. Back in 2017, Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party performed above expectations. This was put down to the appeal of his message and the fact that the incumbent Prime Minister, Theresa May, was arguably the worst candidate in modern history.
Last year, Corbyn came up against Boris Johnson, a man who has a lot in common with Trump. The rhetoric and progressive policies were amped up. Yet, when push came to shove, the Labour Party lost nearly 60 seats and had their worst performance in an election since 1935. Why? Brexit was one reason, but another was that Corbyn was deeply unpopular across the country. Voters were turned off by him and firmly rejected him.
Bernie Sanders is not Corbyn. Sanders isn’t as far left as Corbyn but that’s negated by the fact that America is a much more conservative country than the UK. I cannot fathom why issues like abortion, gun control and public healthcare are fought over so intensely in the States. They hardly register here. But given that America is further to the right than most other places, it’s not hard to assume that Sanders would have faired poorly against Trump.
The counter-argument against Sanders was easy, just call him a Socialist. The Trump campaign used this against Biden, even though he’s anything but a Socialist, and guess what? It worked. Trump was able to carry Florida much more easily than thought by convincing Latinos that Biden was either a Socialist or in the pocket of the ‘radical left.’ Sanders would have performed worse, of that there is no doubt.
Biden was the best-positioned candidate to beat Trump, something that looks likely to happen. The Democratic primaries weren’t exactly full of exciting options, and Biden is far from the perfect candidate, but if he gets the job done that’s all that matters.
That’s what he was nominated to do. It was a calculated gamble that he would be able to win enough voters over, especially in the Midwest states that flipped red in 2016, and beat Trump. After winning back Michigan and Wisconsin, with Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania looking likely to go to Biden, he’ll have won and somewhat convincingly.
If he wins those four states he has 306 electoral votes. That’s two more than Trump got in 2016 and more than George W. Bush ever won in his two electoral victories in 2000 and 2004. As of writing, Biden leads in the popular vote by 3.4 million votes. That number is likely to increase and could reach 4 million. That would be a large victory. One that would be a firm rejection of Trump if the outcome was that way instead of via the electoral college.
What we’re seeing now is people using the current situation as a way to confirm their own biases. If Biden had gone more to the left, he would have won bigger. He was the wrong guy to beat Trump etc etc. Well, if he wins the four states I mentioned above, it might not be a landslide, but it’s a victory and a decent one.
The Democrats made the choice to back Biden because they believed he was the one who could win back the votes in the Blue Wall of Michigan, Pennslyvania and Wisconsin, they lost in 2016. Without which, the path to the White House is near impossible for any Democrat. So far, he has won two of those states back. If he wins third, he wins the Presidency. Plus, he could flip traditionally Republican states such as Arizona and Georgia.
Sure, he didn’t win in a landslide, the American people didn’t firmly rebuke Donald Trump at the ballot box, but that is more to do with the composition of the nation and the intricacies of the electoral college, than Biden or his campaign.
Trumpism isn’t going away anytime soon, but without its figurehead in the White House, it will have been dealt a huge blow. Trump will almost certainly not run again in 2024 when he would be 78. An intra-family squabble over who becomes the heir to the movement, which could derail Don Jr or Ivanka’s hopes, is possible.
With Trump out of the White House, it becomes harder to sustain the oxygen his movement needs when it’s not subject to constant media attention. The election is still far from over, but if Biden can win three out of Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania, Trump’s grounds to challenge the vote become shaky.
If that happens, then Biden looks set to complete the job he was brought into to do. For all the talk of what went wrong and what he could have done better, he will still have won. In the end, that’s all that matters.