Joe Biden could beat Donald Trump in 2020 if he steps back and takes stock of how we got to a place where the country could even elect such a man.
President Trump was not elected because he is qualified. He was a big thumbing of the nose at the American system of governance. The country is cynical of politicians in Congress. The continued corruption and cronyism of people containing vast sums of wealth with those who operate the levers of power in Washington have reached critical mass. Super PACs continue to buy for big oil and big pharma the advantages that shut out the dreams of average Americans.
People are tired of that. They are tired of being told that some new person in Washington has the answer. Different person, same old canned rhetoric.
Trump eked out a narrow win, even though losing the popular vote because, while he may have been crude, sexist, racist, corrupt, and ignorant, he came across as refreshingly honest and real. His imperfections could be forgiven because he seemed to be saying something different and doing something different while actually being different and tapping into the real frustrations that most of America have with Washington. He is not from Washington. That is powerful and it gave Trump an effective free pass inoculating him against much of the scrutiny and censure that would bury other better candidates.
Hillary Clinton made some big mistakes with a server and a fatal mistake of not visiting states that she felt were in her back pocket. She underestimated the cynicism people have with all politicians, even if it is the party they support. That is why many far superior Republican candidates lost to Trump. He wasn’t on their level as far as political skill, experience, knowledge, and understanding of the inner workings of Washington, but he had a much better grasp of the anger people have of politicians who are so arrogant they think they can give canned speeches and collect votes.
So, Joe Biden has an opportunity. He is better suited to beat Trump than anyone in the race on either side (Bill Weld is trying to primary Trump from the right). Biden’s electability is in part because he is a lot of the things that Trump is not. He is not a corrupt businessman who has had to shut down a fake university for handing out fake diplomas. He has not been caught committing impeachable offenses. He is not a co-conspirator in 2 felonies for which his former personal attorney is currently serving time in federal prison.
Furthermore, Biden has not been the divisive and polarizing figure that Trump has from the time the President first started to run for office. Biden has, for all his gaffes, been a lovable and congenial statesman who wants to bring people together. As Lindsey Graham, a right-wing conservative said, “If you can’t admire Joe Biden as a person,… you’ve got a problem. He’s the nicest person I think I’ve ever met in politics. He’s as good a man as God ever created.”
Joe Biden has his faults to be sure. He represents the system of government with which people are frustrated. He has been entrenched in Washington politics for years.
His age may work against him. He is not as sharp as he was 8 years ago. But Trump isn’t much younger, so that may be a stalemate. In fact, I think they both may be sharper and more alert than their years would imply.
Biden is far more experienced about running a campaign and understanding what he can do and what are the ramifications of making certain decisions. He does have a problem with gaffes. However, in the era of Trump, when you can say just about anything and people have become numb to it, Biden’s gaffes may come across the same way as Trump’s speaking off the cuff. People may regard it as him being honest, if unrehearsed. Biden’s gaffes are part of what endears him to people, the same way as Trump’s telling it like it is.
Biden, an older white man, is a huge threat to Trump in areas where Hillary Clinton under performed in 2016. In white rural and suburban areas, particularly in union country, people trust Biden. Lunch pail Democrats, as well as white men, poll much better with Biden than they did with Hillary Clinton. He is from Pennsylvania, one of the three biggest swing states in the nation and one in which it is virtually impossible to win the presidency without winning.
Biden represents somebody who can reach this all-important demographic without making people feel guilty for voting for a divisive demagogue.
Biden has to do several things that Hillary failed to do and that Trump capitalized on if he wants to best the incumbent Trump in 2020:
- He has to visit every swing state, especially the ones that got overlooked by Hillary in 2016—Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, etc.
- He needs to speak to the frustrations of the Rust Belt and the Mid-West. How is he going to bring jobs to an area that has been slow to capitalize on the economic boom that began under the Obama/Biden years and has continued under Trump? Biden’s biggest obstacle may be the economic prosperity that he and President Obama spearheaded, which Trump is smartly taking credit for, though he is unwisely squandering with his tariff and trade debacles. Biden needs to have a comprehensive plan in place that capitalizes on the best of what he did in the Obama years and can be simply and cogently explained. He can pummel Trump in the Farm belt if he understands and appreciates the damage he has done to an area that is so vital to American production and prosperity and how best to take advantage of that. I would spend a great deal of time talking to farmers and showing them why I am ten times better than Trump if I were Biden.
- He needs to hit Trump on Russia and Ukraine. A recent poll shows that 50% of Americans are for impeachment right now. That is more than the high water mark for Bill Clinton at 29%. In fact, no presidential candidate has ever had such a high number of people wanting him impeached. There is a veritable gold mine of information on the corruption and dishonesty of Trump, with half a dozen of his top officials who were fired, indicted, convicted, and sentenced. Biden can bring a huge spotlight on Trump’s biggest failure—to drain the swamp. How can you drain a swamp that you live in and have profited from since before you became president? If I were Biden, I would hit Trump on the fact that he has ordered a lock-down on all witnesses, documents, and other evidence that the White House is privy to that Congress has subpoenaed. I would hammer Trump over and over about his secretiveness and the lack of candor his administration has displayed with his earnings, his decisions, his conversations with foreign entities, and his strange friendship with Putin. The Ukraine Scandal, in which Trump was caught bribing a foreign leader, and in which his own appointed ambassador and chief of staff, outed him, is one of the great presidential scandals of all time, rivaling even Watergate. This has resulted in the almost-certain impeachment of Trump. There are revelations coming out almost every day.
- Biden should reiterate that, unlike Trump, he has no fake universities that got shut down. He has never been sued and had to pay 25 million dollars to the people that he scammed. Biden has no fake charities that he created to make him illegal money. President Trump is getting the pants sued off of him by individuals, organizations, the State of New York, and even other branches of government (Congress) for an endless number of reasons. No president from George Washington to Barack Obama has had so many ongoing lawsuits, investigations, and scandals swirling around his presidency. Biden’s administration under Obama was scandal-free, unlike the Trump administration. And Biden has never been named as a co-conspirator with a felon in a court of law.
- If there are cracks in the economy, this might be the biggest boost to Biden’s run for office. The economy is strong today, but it is facing some future challenges, some of which have to do with Trump’s decisions, fighting with China, giving a trillion-dollar tax break to the wealthiest Americans, and driving a polarizing message to the electorate that prevents bi-partisan legislation from taking place. If the cracks become fissures, that is Biden’s opening, but he may not need a weakened economy.
- President Trump’s approval ratings are the worst for this stage of a president’s term, considering the present state of the economy. No president with an economy this strong has been this far underwater at any point in American history. President Trump’s numbers will have to come up in order for him to have a realistic chance of being reelected. He now sits at 42%. Anything under 45% is problematic. Biden, on the other hand, is doing quite well. The corrupt, illegal efforts of Trump to sink the former Vice-President using underhanded tactics with the country of Ukraine appears to have backfired. Biden is leading all candidates and Trump in most polls.
- Biden has the best chance of winning with minorities. No Democrat can be a credible candidate for office without making huge inroads with black and brown voters. Among all candidates, Biden does the best with minorities, especially African-American voters. Make no mistake, if he wins, Obama, John Lewis, and all the other big guns will come out heavy for him when it counts.
- Biden has the gravitas. Biden knows many world leaders by name. He can call up foreign dignitaries and have warm conversations about a broad range of issues. Biden understands the nuances of government. He has worked to create many of the successful policies the U.S. developed in dealing with foreign nations. He also knows what works because he and Obama have already been wildly successful in creating one of the most enduring and powerful coalitions of all time. Biden can speak with depth and skill in understanding how healthcare works, how it fails, and what to do to make it better. He has submitted legislation favoring women’s equality. He did much of the heavy lifting for getting many of Obama’s policies passed into law.
- Biden is good at turning a phrase that can define a moment. When he said, during Obama’s reelection campaign, “bin Laden is dead and GM is alive”, that was a brilliant and clever way to sum up the success of the Obama administration. He also resonated with viewers when he said, “Donald Trump inherited a strong economy from Barack and me. Things were beginning to really move. And just like everything else he’s inherited, he’s in the midst of squandering it,”. That started a fierce dialogue. Clearly, it got under Trump’s supporters’ skins. It was an effective way to question the veracity of Trump’s assertion that he built the economy.
If Biden learns the lessons that hurt the Dems and Hillary in 2016 and can craft a bold, visionary plan for leading America forward and restoring our respect and credibility in the world; he has a very real chance at beating a weakened and exhausted Donald Trump.
UPDATE: Joe Biden is effectively the Democratic nominee after his last major competitor, Bernie Sanders, recently dropped out. Biden was struggling until South Carolina which he called his firewall. He performed very well there and never looked back. Super Tuesday was Biden’s Tuesday. He performed especially well in the South where Bernie has always struggled. This under girded the strength of the “Bernie can’t win because of the South” argument. Biden decimated the Bern in nearly every southern state. Even in Texas, where Sanders was leading at one point, Biden won.
But Biden’s strength wasn’t just in areas hostile to Bernie Sanders and other liberal contenders like Elizabeth Warren. He beat them in their own back yards. Biden won convincingly in Warren’s home state of Massachusetts, (Sanders’ backyard) and her birth state of Oklahoma. He also performed better than expected in Sanders’ strongholds like California. Even Bernie’s biggest wins were nearly split in half with delegates going almost equally to Biden.
What accounts for Biden’s strong showing when he was all but out of the race after New Hampshire?
Much of it was the strengths I talked about earlier in this answer. Biden gave a cogent warning about the corona virus in January that President Trump ignored. That may be revisited in October and November. Also, Biden has not ever wanted to make enemies. He doesn’t profit from it, doesn’t thrive on it. That is a refreshing view after the last 3 and a half years of Trump who never saw a fight he couldn’t win. Biden, by contrast, has seemed to profit from the advice of the incomparable Abe Lincoln who said, “ Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”