Earl Ofari Hutchinson
There are two schools of thought about possible presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden. One is that his presidential candidacy is DOA before he even formally declares. It supposedly is rendered still born by the daily cascade of finger-points at Joe as a serial groper, toucher, hugger, and, worse, harasser. In the #metoo era presumably this is the kiss of death for a Democratic contender.
The other school says that it’s much ado about nothing and won’t mean much in a general election head-to-head with the proven serial groper/harasser Trump. That’s because the path to the Oval Office still winds through a handful of states. The voters in that handful who will decide the White House are still older, blue collar, rural, less educated, whites and right-leaning independents.
The odd thing is that they could both be right. Or, at least there’s elements of right in both schools of thought about Joe’s prospects. And Joe gives credence to both schools. He’s doing profuse mea culpas for any past sexual sins and indiscretions and swearing loudly it won’t happen again. In the same breath, he’s also dropping strong hints that he’s still the best bet to capture the hallowed middle ground of voters that is crucial to bag the big prize. There is no sign of quit on Joe’s part before the start here.
Now the Biden-for-president talk started during the 2016 presidential campaign. The target then wasn’t Trump, but Hillary. Three years later, there’s no Hillary to contend with, and much of her Democratic Party base would likely rally around a Biden candidacy. And anyone who publicly boasts that he’d beat the hell out of Trump as Biden quipped in March 2018, most Democrats, many independents, and the legions of just plain Trump loathers would loudly cheer. Though he later apologized for getting in the street with Trump on that, he still said it and again many would give him high marks for that.
Still, even before the charges flew against him of inappropriate touching and feeling, beating Trump in a head to head match-up was and is an uphill battle. Though most polls show him as the Democrat’s favorite, Biden does have more than a little questionable baggage. He is too strongly identified with former President Obama. Trump would Obama bait him to death. One of the big reasons that Trump’s base is fanatic over him is because of their visceral loathing of Obama. Biden is still getting slammed for his early anti-abortion stance and votes as a Senator, his early anti-bussing position, and his kow tow to the rip-off payday loan industry.
He’ll also be competing in the four or five must win states that put Trump over the top for essentially the same voters; namely white, non-college educated, blue collar and rural males. The thinking is that Biden’s centrist, working class appeal will work well with these voters and he can pry many of them away from Trump. Maybe, but this is only an untested theory.
There’s also a lot of collective amnesia about Biden’s past forays into the presidential arena. They have been utter disasters. He did not translate his earthy appeal into any substantial support from a broad segment of voters in 1988, and 2008. In 1988 he was dogged by accusations of plagiarism and fabrication in his speeches and self-aggrandizing references to his past. He soon dropped out of the race. In 2008 he did even worse and didn’t get a single percentage point in the first out the box Democratic presidential Iowa caucus balloting. Again, he quickly dropped out the race.
The other intangible is age. Biden will turn
78 two weeks after Election Day 2020. This would make him by far the oldest in-coming president in US history.
Then there’s the Anita Hill question. Biden has made mention of how much of a minefield this could be for him. During the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, there were times it seemed Biden was as much on the spot as Kavanaugh for pillorying Hill when he sat on the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings in 1991.
He has not apologized personally and publicly to Hill for that. More than a few Democrats are demanding that he do that as their price for forgiveness. Even that might not be enough for some. He’ll probably still have to spend a lot of time and energy on the campaign trail again offering profuse mea culpas for that. It won’t be a presidential deal breaker by any means. But it will be a distraction, one that Trump almost certainly will latch on.
Biden is a near textbook, deal making, Beltway, corporate Democrat. This makes him anathema to many progressives. However, it’s that steady hand at the wheel image, that supposedly will make him just as attractive to Heartland voters. Voters, that seemingly are repelled by the wild sounding leftist, socialist rhetoric of progressive Democratic candidates such as Warren and Sanders. A Biden candidacy, then is a toss up against Trump. And this is just what makes a Biden candidacy still very doable.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of Who Can Beat Trump?(Amazon ebook). He is a weekly co-host of the Al
Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on
KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network