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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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