Pretty much every poll of Democratic voters on who they would like to see run against Donald Trump in 2020 has had Joe Biden on top. And not by a little, either. Bernie Sanders is the only other possibility currently breaking into double digits on a regular basis. Yes, a good part of this is probably the “nostalgia” vote (more on that below), along with being a reflection of name recognition, but there’s zero doubt that there is a solid pool of support for him.
With all that in mind, why are liberal commentators so completely down on Crazy Uncle Joe? The latest example of this phenomenon comes to us from New York Times opinion columnist Frank Bruni. Right up front, he talks about how much he sincerely likes and respects Joe Biden. Then he turns around and whips out the knife to plunge into Biden’s back.
Then what would you say if I told you that we should put our chips on a man who failed miserably at two previous campaigns for the nomination, the first one all the way back in 1988, a year before Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was born? And that when he applied the lessons from that debacle to his second bid two decades later, he did no better, placing fifth in the Iowa caucuses, getting fewer than 1 percent of the state’s delegates and folding his tent before even the New Hampshire primary?
And that he spent nearly 45 years in Washington, a proper noun that’s a dirty word in presidential politics? And that his record includes laws and episodes that are reviled — rightly — by the female and black voters so integral to the Democratic Party? And that, on Election Day, he would be 77, which is 31 years older than Bill Clinton was in 1992, 30 years older than Barack Obama was in 2008 and a complete contradiction of the party’s success over the last half-century with relatively youthful candidates?
Later in the column, Bruni does go on to mention some of the admirable aspects of Biden’s record and personality. He also touches on the real reasons Biden should probably give this a pass, as I’ve discussed here before. But the meat of this article is not kindly advice. It’s mean. It’s nasty. It carries a palpable sense of accusation.
Notice how Bruni describes Biden’s previous efforts at winning the Democrats’ POTUS nomination. It’s not good enough to simply say that he came up short each time. He “failed miserably.” He’s supported laws, policies and actions far back in the past which aren’t just out of step with where the party is today. Those positions should be “rightly reviled” by women and minorities. Oh, and were you aware that Biden is really, really old? Of course, Bruni later goes on to give Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders a pass on the age question because they’re either embracing new ideas or at least haven’t been “stuck in the Washington swamp for 45 years.”
This isn’t advice from a friend or ally. This is an acid attack. The author finishes it off near the end by saying, “His party can’t get enough of the word “progressive,” but he’s regressive, symbolizing a step back to an administration past.”
The fact is that Biden is popular. Heck, even I like Joe Biden, though I wouldn’t agree with many of his positions and couldn’t see myself voting for him in 2020. But Biden’s real problem has nothing to do with his general election prospects. I still maintain that if he’s the nominee against Trump in 2020 he’ll probably win in an electoral college landslide.
But Joe needs to get through the primary first. And among the most activist elements of the Democratic/Socialist base, he’s not what they’re shopping for. 2020 just isn’t shaping up to be The Year of the White, Male, Septuagenarian among Democrats. And it would be kind of a shame to see Joe Biden lose yet another primary because of identity politics when he probably knows in his heart he could have won the presidency if his own base (and people like Bruni) had supported him.