If I’m a Democratic Party political strategist in 2020 (and I’m not, the closest they’ve hired to even a metaphorical knife-fighter in the modern era was Rahm Emmanuel), my eggs don’t go in the basket of a guy who spent the 70s propping up segregation and trying to tug at your heartstrings with a quote like “I don’t want my children growing up in a racial jungle.” Or the guy who eulogized Strom Thurmond in 2003. Or the guy who was one of the chief architects of the 90s crime bill. Or the guy who was the main Party cheerleader for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Or the guy who legislated the country’s way into the student debt crisis and then ensured it continued for generations by doing nothing about escalating tuition costs. Or the guy who was second-in-command while every single financial institution that precipitated the 2008 financial crisis emerged essentially unscathed and ready for the next decade with whole new asset portfolios they bought at fire sale prices. Or the guy who is on tape saying he doesn’t empathize with the new largest generational voting bloc’s problems, an age group that will be the first in decades to not be able to surpass the earning potential or quality of life that their parents had. Or the guy with arguably credible, incredibly creepy tendencies with women and girls captured in public and a litany of assault allegations. Or the guy with a son with questionable foreign business connections, rumors of crack smoking, and who married his brother’s widow. Any single one of those issues is such a gift to oppo researchers that I’d assume any of those guys is dead in the water as a candidate for alderman in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Joe Biden is all of those guys and the presumptive 2020 Democratic Presidential nominee. This Sam Porter Bridges of political baggage is wrapped in a rapidly decaying husk and has turned up an already gaffe-prone career (spun as “folksy” or “authentic”) to a level of senility and tone-deafness that makes you question as to whether or not he still ties his own shoes. Just yesterday, in a softball interview (and they’re all softball interviews) with Charlemagne tha Based God on popular urban youth radio program The Breakfast Club, when prodded ever so slightly about aspects of his legislative record regarding impacting black communities, Biden became flustered and retorted that if you look at him next to avowed white nationalist Donald Trump and vote for Trump, “you ain’t black.“
Putting aside the fact that this is a faux-Rust Belt Blue Dog Democrat that only was able to rehabilitate years of unforgivable career moves by being picked for Vice President solely to assuage racists and Red-baiters in the face of America electing its first black president, that’s just the kind of flat-out condescension that has ran through the blood of Joe Biden for decades. He’s coming off a primary that’s once again divided the party. The Sanders candidacy in 2016 seemed like a quixotic but hard-fought loss in which his constituency dug their heels in to influence the party’s platform after detecting a hint that perhaps some party machinations might have made some moves to consolidate an establishment candidate’s total victory. This time around, Biden didn’t seem to have a prayer until the party made huge, obvious calculations to drag their candidate over the line in the face of a coming progressive landslide. Now, as the neoliberal wing has adopted a posture of “we don’t even need you” towards progressives and socialists once eager to use the flailing Trump presidency as a catalyst to opening the rare window of opportunity for vast, wide-reaching legislation intended to improve social safety nets (not unlike steps taken by FDR and oddly enough, a far more conservative Democrat in LBJ), we’re starting to see a bit of kernel panic among the political and pundit class as the left (once again) floats third-party trial balloons or settles back into principled abstention relegated to those that won’t give their consent to Capital and/or vote for a lesser evil as a matter of harm reduction.
It’s easy to blame the corrupt intertwining of the donor and political class, a relationship the GOP seems to nakedly relish in, but is ultimately the crux of the issue: the rich have captured the electoral process by hedging their bets between both parties. The Democrats market themselves as “above” this seedy kind of arrangement, or at the very least attempt to justify it as a “necessary evil” in which they’re fighting “fire with fire.” If that was true, the sabotage would be less overt, the coronation process less expected, and it would be clear lessons had been learned from the party disaster of 2016.
A lot of the same dynamics were at play in 2016 that are replicated wholesale in 2020. Whether or not you believe Hilary Clinton deserves the decades of vitriol she generated from the bellows of right-wing discourse that poisoned many on-the-fence voters is irrelevant, your thoughts on Benghazi are irrelevant, her emails are irrelevant. What mattered was that it was in play for propaganda that would inevitably seep into mainstream, low-information voter discussions, and it was an exploitable weakness. Biden’s baggage isn’t what’s in the bag, it’s that there’s a bag at all, and that in both candidacy’s circumstances, there were better options with less exposed thermal exhaust ports to launch torpedoes at. The professional liberal political class is relying on a dicey, manufactured product of fundamental honesty and truth to overcome both the propaganda of an enemy that could give less of a shit about either, as well as an electorate that is, frankly, so goddamn stupid and easily manipulated and/or polarized that running candidates with glaring flaws is pure strategic suicide. Especially when said candidates don’t pass the smell test for non-negligible portions of your base or bring in substantial portions of leftist voters disenfranchised from participating in electoralism in the first place.
Pretending these issues don’t exist as well as failing to recognize that Obama’s victory in 2008 was very much due to capitalizing on the vaunted “Enthusiasm Gap” in American politics and not just a referendum on how terrible the Bush II presidency was, has gone on to doom Democrats both locally and on the national stage. Just as 2016 was probably the most winnable loss Democrats have ever had, 2020 should’ve been a triumphant mashing of Trump’s face into dog shit for nine straight months. His presidency has been an abysmal failure, culminating in the bungled response to a pandemic approaching a six-figure death toll and massive unemployment numbers in an election year, and many average people, unsurprisingly, want to go back to ignoring politics altogether.
Biden is up eight points according to polls from Fox News, but this is before potential debates almost inevitably expose new gaffes and Trump (perhaps disastrously) recommencing his Nuremberg marathon rallies for his frothing supporters to re-energize. The right-wing propaganda machine hasn’t even finished spooling up to fully operational. Expect Hunter Biden to be subpoenaed for something regarding work in Ukraine. Expect more sex pest stories and hair-sniffing montages. Expect a massive push towards black voters rightfully using ammunition Biden has manufactured over his long career and a huge underscoring on work with Kim Kardashian and Jared Kushner on actual prison reform initiatives. Expect likely projection of dirty tricks and election fraud. They’ll muddy the waters, the gap will tighten, and once again what would’ve been a blowout with a generic empty suit will come down to election night, where it will likely be close enough to run some illegal plays and steal this thing (again?).
There’s probably a quote about being a victim of one’s own hubris that I could sling at the DNC, but at the end of the day, they just lose. Like much of the pundit class presently engaged in a futile and damaging trench warfare campaign of chastising and demanding the left “know its betters” and fall in line, none of these people are ultimately affected by most of Trump’s worst policies. They’ve got no real skin in the game and this is all largely a purely academic and performative exercise for them. Enough of the local ground game has slowly been won back that there’s a chance they might get the Senate, and many of them stand to make a lot of money barking at Trump as a lame duck. But us regular folks, “who might wear a tennis shoe or the occasional python boot,” know the clock is ticking: on our planet’s vitality, on the health of ourselves and our loved ones, and on our ability to keep our heads above water financially. Increasingly it’s being made abundantly clear to us that there’s not, nor perhaps has there ever been, any hope at the ballot box.