Writers Added Note: When Trump and his supporters scream “He won”–Respond “Scoreboard”
In my weekly op-ed column in March 2019, I posed the question who would win in a head to head match-up between former Vice President Joe Biden and Trump. I wrote this nearly one year before the first Democratic presidential debate and one year and a half before the first debate between Biden and Trump. A month later I expanded the column into a series assessing the strengths and weaknesses of Biden and Trump in the 2020 presidential showdown. I published it as an Amazon eBook, Biden versus Trump: Who Would Win?
This was not prescience or sooth saying in predicting that Biden would be the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee many months before it happened. It was simply based on a brutal political calculus. Biden was the only Democrat who had any realistic chance against Trump—And the Democrats were darn lucky to have him.
Choosing Bernie, Warren, Harris, or any of the other long list of Democrats who tossed their hats in the 2020 presidential ring would not only ensure a Trump reelection, but a walkover reelection. I took much heat for bluntly saying this particularly from the legions of impassioned Sanders and Warren backers. Progressives doggedly argued that only a progressive such as Sanders with his supposed millions of young, activist, energized backers could beat Trump.
Biden was ripped as too old, too corporate, too capital beltway establishment, and carried too much life-time wheel and deal baggage. There were dark warnings that if Biden were the Democratic nominee, millions of progressives would be so turned off that Biden’s candidacy would be DOA, and the Democratic Party would be hopelessly torn and fractured. The Biden bash intensified with his initial relatively poor showings in early Democratic primaries.
The Biden can’t win line was repeated so often that it almost became a point of Gospel fact. This was myth and nonsense stuffed with way too many illusions and delusions about the hard nature of American politics. It is true there have been major voter demographic changes in the country. There are more Black, Hispanic, Asian, youth, suburban college educated women, and LGBT voters. They trend heavily Democrat. However, this does not change the brutal political truth that America both politically and ideologically is a right center country.
The proof is in two parts. One is the most cursory look at the presidential electoral map. Apart from the two coasts where both the old and the new voter demographics trend Democrat and have grown in numbers, the bulk of the country is solid red. That is heavily rural, blue collar, less educated, evangelical, and traditionally conservative.
The second part is Trump’s 2016 win. He won with that constituency. A huge part of which has been rock-solid in almost devotional backing of him. The number of counties that Trump won throughout America dwarfed the number that Hilary Clinton won in 2016. With few exceptions, such as Arizona, that base of support has remained unchanged in the four-year run up to the 2020 presidential campaign.
Then there’s the Electoral College. It, not the popular vote, decides the presidency. The talk is endless of its gross and outdated unfairness. That is heavily tilts toward putting GOP presidential candidates such as Trump and Bush Jr. before him in 2000 in the White House. Yet, the College is a set-in stone fact of American presidential political life and will remain so, thus giving GOP candidates a boost in the Heartland and Southern states.
The argument oft made about Sanders is that in primaries in a few Heartland states in 2016 he peeled off a share of the blue collar, conservative voters, the Trump base. Yes, but it was in the Democratic primary and these were Democrats. In a general election it would have been a far different story. In 2020, this would have been a tough nut for a Sanders type Democratic presidential candidate to crack. The image of such a Democrat as tax and spend, big government, and a panderer to minorities, that ignore beleaguered white rural and blue -collar workers has been too deeply embedded in their view of Democrats.
The only hope Democrats would have in 2020 to make any inroads here is with a candidate who did not stir the politically frozen, suspect notion these voters have of a Democratic presidential candidate. Biden was the only Democrat contender who could accomplish that. He is moderate, but blunt, plain spoken, from a Heartland state, and thus politically non-threatening. He looked and spoke like well, a regular Joe.
Biden sealed the deal when he took pains to distance himself from Sanders and Warren and other Democrats by rejecting Medicare for All, and a frontal tough regulation assault on Wall Street and the big corporations. This gave Biden the edge to cut into Trump’s white male blue collar numbers in a couple of key Midwest swing states that Trump won in 2016. This time he lost them.
However, even with Joe’s regular guy image, it would still be an uphill battle to on seat Trump. But as I said in my March 2019, op-ed, without him the Democrats would never have dodged the presidential election bullet. Put bluntly, without Biden it would have been a Trump walkover.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of the forthcoming What’s Right and Wrong with the Electoral College (Middle Passage Press). 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.