If you lived through 2016, this should all be ringing some alarm bells. Hillary Clinton was pitched similarly, as the standard bearer of the Obama-era status quo keen to deliver four more years of the same. And her campaign was mired in one ginned-up scandal after another: but her emails! Her health! Bill! Each was more absurd and sexist than the last. That didn’t change the fact that she had skeletons in her closet, racked up over a long career in the public eye. Or that there were a lot of people ambivalent about her decades of experience in American politics – and eager for a fresh face. There are many reasons why Clinton did not become president, but the right’s ability to weaponize her past as a consummate Beltway insider didn’t help.
The gamble of a Biden nomination, then, is a big one. It’s a bet on whether Americans really do want a return to the political establishment when signs here and around the world seem to be pointing in the opposite direction, empowering both far-right strong men and socialists as center-left and center-right parties stumble. Biden’s chances in a general election also hinge whether he can muster support from enough Obama-loyal, reliable primary voters to counteract a lack of enthusiasm among younger and more progressive segments of the electorate, who won’t back him with nearly the same vim as they would Elizabeth Warren or (especially) Bernie Sanders. Did the mythical white working class voters that Biden is supposed to appeal to really just want to vote for another white guy (as cynical pundits have claimed) or did they too want to drain the swamp?