Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Former Vice President Joe Biden is having the time of his life teasing all over the place that he’s ready, willing and able to go toe to toe with Trump in 2020. And as part of his tease, if he does, he says he’ll beat him. Now Joe, has a lot of folks convinced that he can do exactly what he claims, and that’s snatch back the White House from Trump. Biden says he’ll decide within the next couple of months.
The on again/off again media tease of a Biden presidential run has been a long-running political soap opera. The incessant chatter about Biden for President has been endlessly fed by lot of big-name Democrats who are absolutely convinced Biden is the one, and the only one, who can nail Trump.
The Biden-for-president talk started during the 2016 presidential campaign. The target then wasn’t Trump, but Hillary. A lot of Democrats simply didn’t like her and didn’t think that she could beat Trump. More than a handful of nervous Democrats then relentlessly implored Biden to jump into the Democratic presidential primary race. Biden for his part said nothing. And with good reason. It was way too late in the game for him to jump in. Clinton was going to be the Democratic nominee no matter what.
She had months to formally, and more months informally, to build a strong support base among Democratic Party state and local leaders, corralled endorsements from labor and education unions, a slew of top Democratic Party congresspersons and senators, as well as state and local elected officials. She secured a king’s ransom campaign war chest, and locked down support among many black, Hispanic, LGBT and women’s group leaders and organizations.
Now fast forward to 2020. It’s true that much of Clinton’s Democratic Party base would 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.
Yet, beating Trump in a head to head match-up is another matter. Though some 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 ape crazy fanatic over him is because of their visceral loathing of Obama.
He’d also be trying to compete 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. Trump seemingly would still have a strong grip on them.
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 Hill question. That’s Anita Hill. During his recent book tour, Biden himself made mention of how much of a minefield that 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’d have to spend a lot of time and energy on the campaign trail again offering profuse mea culpas for that. It wouldn’t be a presidential deal breaker by any means. But it would be a distraction, one that Trump almost certainly would latch on.
There’s little evidence that Biden, if he chooses to run, can do any better than Clinton did in parrying off the assaults from the GOP over his gaffes, the hip lock with Obama, and his abysmal failures to mount any kind of credible, sustained campaign the times he was an actual presidential candidate.
Biden would not be jumping into
the 2020 Democratic Party presidential race to rescue the Party from a supposed
pack of languid, uninspiring, and hopelessly failed and flawed contenders. There’s
Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, three or four Democratic senators, and
Hillary. They all have name identification, a lot of Democratic Party
cheerleaders, and in a couple of cases, fresh faces, and something Biden doesn’t
have. That is legitimate progressive credentials. Biden would just add another
name to the list and a name that will carry its own set of baggage. In a
head-to-head with Trump, that baggage could wear him down and maybe even out.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of Who
Can Beat Trump?(Amazon ebook). He is a frequent MSNBC contributor. He is an
associate editor of New America Media. 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