Can Joe Biden Pull Out the Democratic Nomination?

The Democratic Party's savior has arrived.  White-haired, wizened-faced, cleft-chinned, liver-spotted Joe Biden, the shriveled and pale second banana to Barack Obama, has entered the presidential race to all the dry acclaim Morning Joe viewers can muster.

If you close your eyes and focus your imagination, you can almost picture Biden walking out on stage at a ritzy fundraiser to muted applause while an invisible announcer bellows, "Here's Joe!"  Cue cheap crockery scratching against bone-china plates freighted with rubber chicken.

Even at this late stage, with every Democrat from the senior senator of Minnesota to the mayor of Miramar, Florida vying for the Resolute throne, Biden's entry is far from desperate.  He's polling better than other liberal hopefuls.  By virtue of his previous purple post, he has the one benefit that matters in a crowded field: name recognition.

Will it all be enough, though?  Early frontrunner status doesn't guarantee success in primaries.  Heck, being an experienced politician with considerable cachet no longer affords the kind of presumptive protection it once did against eager upstarts.

And, as always with stroppy progressives, there's the woke factor.

In the year 2019, it's been argued elsewhere that Biden is overestimating his odds with a political party that's left his generation behind.  Bernie Sanders notwithstanding, an old, white, straight guy doesn't check off the diversity boxes Democrats love to tout.  It's quite the opposite: Biden is symbolic of everything the Democrats claim to detest.  He's a privileged manikin the far-left flank of the party would love to fetter, drop on a trebuchet, and toss back to the atavistic Republican barbarians.

Then there's his voting record, at which a cursory glance reveals plenty of trouble spots for the more colorful — both vocal and dermal — parts of the Democratic coalition.  The Bolshie advocacy group Justice Democrats has announced that Biden is persona non grata among its ranks.  His previous support for the Iraq War and tough-on-crime laws, joined with his insufficient support for single-payer health care, makes him too much of a political back number for the Ocasio-Cortez wing of the party.

All that said, Biden needn't worry too much about what Daily Kos readers think of his insufficient support for outlawing the internal combustion engine.  He's got a secret weapon to parry any portside attack on his less than progressive record: his running-mate status under Obama.  The left's embrace of critical theory leaves liberals unable to consider criticism on its face; instead, they question not only the socio-economic status of the critic, but also that of the target and his acquaintances.  Biden is inextricably linked with Obama.  Any rhetorical sally against the former can easily be spun as an assault on the latter.  And Obama remains immensely popular among Democrats.

Yes, Team Biden clumsily tried to set itself apart from the 44th president, claiming to ask Obama not to endorse the campaign (as if Mr. Messianic would have deigned to do so before the nominee is chosen).  It was a consultant-orchestrated stunt, meant to reassure gullible observers that Biden is his own man and not a former senator from a state that has more incorporated LLCs than it does people who was lucky enough to be picked as vice president.

None of it, I'd wager, will matter.  On optics alone, Biden is about as centrist as Democrats get.  Like Hillary, he'll have both the tacit and direct support of major donors, including Wall Street magnates.  He's already scooped up seasoned campaign staff, including Bernie Sanders's press secretary and a dozen Obama administration advisers.  Not for nothing, he's also out-fundraised his two closest competitors — even as campaign panhandling loses its relevance to social media buzz.

Biden's kickoff announcement was such stuff as geriatric Democrats' dreams are made of.  Harkening back to the wonder years of 2009–2016, Biden sets his sights squarely on President Trump, making him the cynosure of his overall message: that he's a terrible aberration in an otherwise hunky-dory system.  He even invokes the late Heather Heyer, who was killed by a white supremacist failson in Charlottesville, to imply that Trump chortled over her death, all without the blessing of her mother.

It was a cheap move, but a welcome one among the Democrat faithful, who place winning above any distinct policy.  And "ability to win" is exactly the lane Biden wants to travel in.  His hands-first friendliness, his grilling of Anita Hill, his support for school segregation, his dismissing Russia as a threat in 2012 — none of it matters a whit compared to the desire to reoccupy the White House.

For more policy-minded candidates like Senator Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Biden is the worst-case scenario.  He's already locked up the bien pensant vote of the establishment.  It's just a matter of time before he wins suburban Democrats just by being the default choice of those embarrassed by having Trump as president.

The Democratic primary is Biden's to lose.  If he can keep his famously gaffe-prone mouth shut for long enough, he'll be the Democrats' septuagenarian white-guy alternative to another septuagenarian white guy.

Democrats may want to be more dubitative about such a matchup.  The last time they played it safe with a familiar figure, things didn't turn out so well.

Image: Kelly Kline via Flickr.

The Democratic Party's savior has arrived.  White-haired, wizened-faced, cleft-chinned, liver-spotted Joe Biden, the shriveled and pale second banana to Barack Obama, has entered the presidential race to all the dry acclaim Morning Joe viewers can muster.

If you close your eyes and focus your imagination, you can almost picture Biden walking out on stage at a ritzy fundraiser to muted applause while an invisible announcer bellows, "Here's Joe!"  Cue cheap crockery scratching against bone-china plates freighted with rubber chicken.

Even at this late stage, with every Democrat from the senior senator of Minnesota to the mayor of Miramar, Florida vying for the Resolute throne, Biden's entry is far from desperate.  He's polling better than other liberal hopefuls.  By virtue of his previous purple post, he has the one benefit that matters in a crowded field: name recognition.

Will it all be enough, though?  Early frontrunner status doesn't guarantee success in primaries.  Heck, being an experienced politician with considerable cachet no longer affords the kind of presumptive protection it once did against eager upstarts.

And, as always with stroppy progressives, there's the woke factor.

In the year 2019, it's been argued elsewhere that Biden is overestimating his odds with a political party that's left his generation behind.  Bernie Sanders notwithstanding, an old, white, straight guy doesn't check off the diversity boxes Democrats love to tout.  It's quite the opposite: Biden is symbolic of everything the Democrats claim to detest.  He's a privileged manikin the far-left flank of the party would love to fetter, drop on a trebuchet, and toss back to the atavistic Republican barbarians.

Then there's his voting record, at which a cursory glance reveals plenty of trouble spots for the more colorful — both vocal and dermal — parts of the Democratic coalition.  The Bolshie advocacy group Justice Democrats has announced that Biden is persona non grata among its ranks.  His previous support for the Iraq War and tough-on-crime laws, joined with his insufficient support for single-payer health care, makes him too much of a political back number for the Ocasio-Cortez wing of the party.

All that said, Biden needn't worry too much about what Daily Kos readers think of his insufficient support for outlawing the internal combustion engine.  He's got a secret weapon to parry any portside attack on his less than progressive record: his running-mate status under Obama.  The left's embrace of critical theory leaves liberals unable to consider criticism on its face; instead, they question not only the socio-economic status of the critic, but also that of the target and his acquaintances.  Biden is inextricably linked with Obama.  Any rhetorical sally against the former can easily be spun as an assault on the latter.  And Obama remains immensely popular among Democrats.

Yes, Team Biden clumsily tried to set itself apart from the 44th president, claiming to ask Obama not to endorse the campaign (as if Mr. Messianic would have deigned to do so before the nominee is chosen).  It was a consultant-orchestrated stunt, meant to reassure gullible observers that Biden is his own man and not a former senator from a state that has more incorporated LLCs than it does people who was lucky enough to be picked as vice president.

None of it, I'd wager, will matter.  On optics alone, Biden is about as centrist as Democrats get.  Like Hillary, he'll have both the tacit and direct support of major donors, including Wall Street magnates.  He's already scooped up seasoned campaign staff, including Bernie Sanders's press secretary and a dozen Obama administration advisers.  Not for nothing, he's also out-fundraised his two closest competitors — even as campaign panhandling loses its relevance to social media buzz.

Biden's kickoff announcement was such stuff as geriatric Democrats' dreams are made of.  Harkening back to the wonder years of 2009–2016, Biden sets his sights squarely on President Trump, making him the cynosure of his overall message: that he's a terrible aberration in an otherwise hunky-dory system.  He even invokes the late Heather Heyer, who was killed by a white supremacist failson in Charlottesville, to imply that Trump chortled over her death, all without the blessing of her mother.

It was a cheap move, but a welcome one among the Democrat faithful, who place winning above any distinct policy.  And "ability to win" is exactly the lane Biden wants to travel in.  His hands-first friendliness, his grilling of Anita Hill, his support for school segregation, his dismissing Russia as a threat in 2012 — none of it matters a whit compared to the desire to reoccupy the White House.

For more policy-minded candidates like Senator Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Biden is the worst-case scenario.  He's already locked up the bien pensant vote of the establishment.  It's just a matter of time before he wins suburban Democrats just by being the default choice of those embarrassed by having Trump as president.

The Democratic primary is Biden's to lose.  If he can keep his famously gaffe-prone mouth shut for long enough, he'll be the Democrats' septuagenarian white-guy alternative to another septuagenarian white guy.

Democrats may want to be more dubitative about such a matchup.  The last time they played it safe with a familiar figure, things didn't turn out so well.

Image: Kelly Kline via Flickr.