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Pierce writes: "I am tempted - so very tempted - to use the apocryphal story of the kid who confronts Shoeless Joe Jackson with regard to Joe Biden's latest pronouncement from the mount, but I refuse to do so, because we do not wholly descend into cliché this far in advance of a presidential election."

Joe Biden. (photo: Getty)
Joe Biden. (photo: Getty)

A Joe Biden 2020 Campaign Would Be the Most Divisive Thing for the Democratic Field

By Charles Pierce, Esquire

10 January 19

The vice president's track record in Congress puts him on the wrong side of every issue that currently energizes his political party.

am tempted—so very tempted—to use the apocryphal story of the kid who confronts Shoeless Joe Jackson with regard to Joe Biden's latest pronouncement from the mount, but I refuse to do so, because we do not wholly descend into cliché this far in advance of a presidential election. Still, what Biden's is musing about, as reported in The New York Times over the weekend, is such a terrible idea that it remains worthy of comment.

Mr. Biden would instantly be the early front-runner if he ran, but he would have to bridge divides in a primary that would test whether Democrats are willing to embrace a moderate white man in his 70s if they view him as the best bet to oust Mr. Trump. “He has the best chance of beating Trump, hands down,” said Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, Mr. Biden’s longtime friend and former colleague. “On a scale of one to 10, that’s probably about a 12 for us.”

In one of his calls over the holidays, Mr. Biden repeated a variation of a line he has used publicly: “If you can persuade me there is somebody better who can win, I’m happy not to do it,” he said, according to the Democrat he spoke to, who shared the conversation on condition of anonymity to discuss a private talk. But then Mr. Biden said something he has not stated so bluntly in public: “But I don’t see the candidate who can clearly do what has to be done to win.”

In another possible sign that he is preparing to ramp up, an emissary from Mr. Biden recently reached out to James Smith, the Democratic Party nominee for governor in South Carolina last year, about scheduling a call with the former vice president. Mr. Smith, a state legislator and friend of Mr. Biden, said the former vice president could count on an enthusiastic reception in South Carolina if he were to run. “In the circles that I move, I think there’s almost unanimity of support for him,” Mr. Smith said.

Let's do the easiest part first.

Joe Biden has run for president twice before and he was a genuinely terrible candidate both times. He found his groove—and his half-ironic, half-campy fame—only as Barack Obama's sidekick. In a time in which Hillary Rodham Clinton is being told to disappear because she lost twice, the idea that important parts of the Democratic Party are thinking about nominating Biden is bound to be notable for its obvious hypocrisy. Someday, someone will have to write a long monograph on why the Democrats insist on running retreads, over and over again, when they almost always lose. Bob Kerrey in Nebraska. Phil Bredesen in Tennessee. The list is long and distinguished.

Moreover, Biden has a track record that puts him on the wrong side of every issue that currently energizes his political party, and gets all up in the grills of the party's most loyal base of activists. His sponsorship of a grotesque bankruptcy bill has not been forgotten by Democratic voters charged up by the notion of breaking the plutocracy. (It was in her opposition to that bill that most of the country first heard of a Harvard law school professor named Elizabeth Warren.) African-American and minority voters will surely beat him over the head with his support for the truly awful crime bill proposed by President Bill Clinton. Women will remember him for turtling on Anita Hill. It's hard to imagine a presidential candidate who's a worse fit for the party that just swept all those new members into the House of Representatives.

But he is a beloved figure among the pundit class, as well as among many of the old-line money people who currently are trembling at new forces that they do not understand. There is even some talk, given Biden's age, that he could be a new kind of Reagan for the Democratic Party. That ignores the historical forces that lined up behind Reagan, a whole conservative revolution of ideas waiting for an empty vessel into which it could pour itself. By comparison, all of the energy among the Democrats at the moment is coming from people whose allegiance to Biden, and to the policies he has represented is, at best, tepid.

For all the talk of a party divided by its leftward flank, a Joe Biden campaign in 2020 would be the most divisive thing that could happen to a Democratic primary field. A second banana can spoil the whole bunch.

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+62 # apotem 2019-01-10 10:58
Please, NOOOOO
+3 # mashiguo 2019-01-12 11:58
The only point in Biden running is to divide the vote so that progressives lose out and the convention invokes super delegates on the second round of voting.

Otherwise, what does he have to offer besides a grin and a grope?
+1 # SusanT136 2019-01-13 15:20
And then the Dems lose the election.
+25 # Moxa 2019-01-10 11:16
I personally hope that Biden doesn't run, but that is because of his politics and because I think he is the most serious threat to Bernie Sanders.

It is a mistake, however, to say that he should not run because he would be divisive. That is a charge that is more often leveled against Sanders. But let's look at it. To be divisive means that it would split the party. But that can't happen unless the party is already split. Unless a large proportion of the party favors the ideology of a particular candidate, that candidate will not divide the party but merely be dismissed as irrelevant. When a person says a candidate--whet her Sanders or Biden--would be divisive, it is a tacit acknowledgement that that candidate has a formidable constituency, but that he (or she) is on the side that person doesn't like. Either Biden or Sanders can be "divisive" depending on which angle you are looking from. But neither CAN be divisive, but only reflect the division already existing in the party.

Having said this, I do believe Biden is a bad choice for president for many reasons. Moreover, I am not at all sure he would win. As a corporatist, he would not have the unassailable integrity required to stand up to the bullying and attacks of the madman Trump. Trump is a sham, but he is skillful at dismantling his opponents. Bernie is Trump's opposite in character. I believe it is that which would shine so brightly as to deflate the Donald, and assure a strong Sanders victory.
+17 # Texas Aggie 2019-01-10 19:02
He probably wouldn't win because he would be Hillary Clinton all over again. Too many people wouldn't be able to hold their noses tightly enough to vote for him and too many people wouldn't find the energy to go to the polls. And then there is the problem of voter suppression that will be much worse when 2020 rolls around.
0 # Caliban 2019-01-11 18:27
"He wouldn't win because he would be Hillary Clinton all over again":

Clinton: 65,844,610

Trump: 62,979,636
+3 # mashiguo 2019-01-12 17:02
Clinton lost.

Your vote doesn't count.

If you want to do something about that, and abolish the electoral college, then we have something to talk about.

Otherwise..... Clinton is a loser and so are her supporters.
+6 # economagic 2019-01-10 22:20
"Trump is a sham, but he is skillful at dismantling his opponents."

He would disembowel Biden in a heartbeat.
+1 # suzyskier 2019-01-10 11:36
It’s still too early to decide on any candidate. I’ve always liked Joe, he’s a great guy but maybe this time as a mentor?
+8 # HenryS1 2019-01-10 11:46
Maybe he could be a vice-presidenti al candidate. But I agree, otherwise. He is no match for Trump. And he is not the best President the Democrats could offer. It is true that no one is very electable, but neither is he.
+11 # lfeuille 2019-01-10 19:30
He should just retire. The VP should be younger.
+41 # engelbach 2019-01-10 11:47
Biden has never been a progressive, has never spoken for working people.

He has a sort of Joe-Sixpack demeanor, but he is absolutely without color or fire.

While Sanders, and to a certain extent Warren, have been doing the legwork to energize people, Biden has been conspicuously invisible.

It's not surprising that he polls high among regular Democrats. They tend to be afraid of their own progressive elements.

But Sanders remains the most popular nationwide.
+17 # jon 2019-01-10 12:05
Charles Pierce is right on the mark - point after point - as usual.
+38 # Salus Populi 2019-01-10 12:38
Do we really want a recap of 2016? An awful candidate on the wrong side of all the issues and a hawk with a habit of blabbing things he later has to apologize for ["basket of deplorables," anyone?]... who will once again have to use dirty tricks to crush whoever runs as a progressive -- whether Sanders, Warren, or someone as yet unnamed -- and alienate the very people who stayed home or voted for Jill Stein in the process. In addition, the *only* positive Hillary Clinton had going for her, the chance to elect a woman as president, would be lacking in this lackey -- unless he chose a gender change, which would horrify the yellow dogs and lose their support as well. If the Democrats want to accelerate their last 35 years' race into irrelevance and extinction, Biden is the surest way to do it.
+18 # Dale 2019-01-10 13:01
Truly, the among the worst of the Corporate Democratic Establishment
0 # jcdav 2019-01-11 07:33
Worse than HRC?
+26 # wrknight 2019-01-10 13:40
+24 # evolver 2019-01-10 13:42
+13 # jsluka 2019-01-10 14:26
I fear that the Democrats are going to give us either Biden or Hillary, which is the best way to help Trump get re-elected.
+1 # ggalonso 2019-01-10 16:43
I son' think he can win. there are dozens of articles and YouTube videos on how handy and creepy he is around women. can we see which candidate rises to the top before we start anointing people? Joe Biden is a wonderful speaker and he can really move peoples emotions? He can use that talent to help the next generation of candidates.
+20 # dandevries 2019-01-10 18:42
I will not vote for Biden. Of course, since I live in California I have the luxury of voting for a candidate who embraces my personal values, without helping Herr Drumpf.

But Biden is a non-starter. I'll be with Bernie until someone even more likely to win AND promote Democratic Socialism seizes the reins. I guess we still have a few years before ACO is eligible. In the meantime, if it's not Bernie, I'll follow her lead.
+2 # jon 2019-01-10 21:04
Well said, Dan!
+11 # DongiC 2019-01-10 21:14
How stupid could the Democrats be? Biden is like the kiss of death. The wrong man at the wrong time with the wrong program and for the wrong reasons. Plus, he has no fire and Trump would simply dismantle him. Biden for the Democrats represents collective suicide. Sanders is the one and only candidate in 2020.
+6 # johnescher 2019-01-11 09:20
I heard Joe Biden speak outside at Wake Forest University on a warm, clear day in which I sat quite close to the podium. A great speaker.

However, the recurrent image of which I can never rid myself is Joe Biden and Barack Obama standing side by side at the White House and praising the U.S. Military as the greatest fighting force in the history of the world.

"What about the holdouts at Thermopylae?" I would ask myself.

As I listened to that verbal setpiece, like the public address system opening to a big football or baseball game repeated over and over, I thought, "What's this all about, Alfie?"

Barack and Joe were never people who were going to put money into domestic programs when they could bloat the Pentagon instead.

No passion there ever existed to draw back the metastasized American Military Presence from around the world. No overriding disgust with war and pollution, most essential of all essentials for any presidential candidate aside from a love for single payer and better education.
+11 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-01-11 09:47
I think there will be a very lively, contentious, divisive, and combative democratic party primary race. There may be 20 candidates competing against each other for the spotlight. Some of the loudest and most controversial will probably be Kamala Harris and Corey Booker.

I think Biden will be greatly over-shadowed by this crowd. They will attack his neo-conservativ e, Clintonist record. So it is OK with me if he runs. He will be pushed out by the votes.

The only problem I worry about is the mainstream media which will try to anoint Biden as the heir apparent in the same way the major media did with Hillary. That will poison the whole democratic primary process. The major media are basically dynastic in their view of the presidency. /they always look to an "heir apparent." They initially wanted a Hillary vs. Jeb Bush race, which would have been the horror of all horrors. They tried very hard to push Trump out by publishing all the scandals about him they could find. But the misjudged voters, fucked up, and gave us Trump.

I look for a very lively democratic primary. The more people the better. I think the numbers will drive the debates to the left, each one trying to establish his/her progressive credentials. That will be a good education for all americans. Progressive change will be the theme. Anyone who runs, as Hillary did, on keeping the steady course will go very soon.
+16 # Moxa 2019-01-11 13:45
There is only one candidate truly on the left, and that is Bernie. The others are "moving" left because the call for progressive policies has become so strong that these candidates fear even their precious corporate riches won't shield them from the ire of the voters. "Moving" toward the base is the oldest trick in the book, so commonplace it is not even considered a trick. You tell your base all the wonderful things they want to hear, up until the general election campaign, at which point you have to "move center" so as not to alienate everybody else, especially your donors. Meantime we keep listening for the "right words" from candidates, so we can make ourselves believe this time it will be different: "They really must mean it--look, they're saying it, so they must mean it!" When will we catch on to this very open scam?

There is only one candidate who has been entirely consistent and progressive throughout his entire career, and that is Bernie Sanders. He has stood up to defamation, ridicule and marginalization without giving up one inch of his integrity. For perseverance and grit alone he deserves some kind of medal. Accept no substitute, folks.
+8 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-01-12 08:29
Moxa -- the news today is that Tulsi Gabbard has announced she will run for president.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Says She Will Run For President In 2020

The dream ticket would be Sanders/Gabbard . She's got the anti-war positions that are needed in order to free up tax funds to support Sanders' social agenda.

I totally agree with you. Everyone is moving to the left or toward the base (the people) in the primaries. They will move back to the center-right in the general election These are NOT the kinds of people I would want in the next president.

Sanders and Gabbard will not be moving in any direction. They have political principles that are firm and solid. They are a real relief after all the wafflers on the democratic side. Bush/Cheney were not wafflers; they were just pure fascist.
+3 # dbrize 2019-01-12 16:05
Yes and it took about 15 minutes from her announcement for the (DNC?) Twitter machinists to tweet out serious “concerns” about her being a “Hindu racist”.

If the POB are afraid of them, better to say yes than no.
0 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-01-12 21:43
What is so good about Gabbard getting into the race is that her messages may get to the national audience. I know the 5th columnist media like the WashPo or NYT will do al they can to silence her and malign her just as they did to Sanders and Jill Stein. But still people will get to know her.
+5 # ktony 2019-01-12 10:19
Add to the other criticisms of Biden the fact that he is a rabid drug warrior. The regiment of propagandists to which he belongs has already done vastly too much damage to the country, and to the world.
+8 # chapdrum 2019-01-12 12:17
The person that facilitated legislation that prevents bankruptcy filers from having their student debt relieved. The person that made it easier for Clarence Thomas to ascend to the Supreme Court.
That person.
+2 # NAVYVET 2019-01-12 17:34
I know persons who know Biden personally, and to them he is Mr Nice Guy, but THIS IS NOT THE TIME WHEN WE NEED "NICENESS"! That was part of Obama's failure.

No thanks--let's go into 2000 fighting nonviolently but fighting like hell, and with the best possible candidate, not the one who grins the most. Some of the new entries or probable entries are saying very good thing--and have decent public service records so far as I know. But folks, we've been fooled before, and many of them would be much better legislators than executives. Who has experience with both, a lifelong record (back to high school) of caring about others, with the minimal number of positions we don't like and the best record of credibility? There's only one: Bernie Sanders.

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