Sunday, December 9, 2018

Want To Get People Talking? Ask Them for Their Opinion on Joe Biden for President


The conversation during Friday night’s dinner started to take on an edge when the discussion turned to potential Democratic presidential candidates. Former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick just dropped out, someone lamented, adding that former New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu also withdrew his hat from the ring. As should Senator Elizabeth Warren, a third voice chimed in.   

At the mention of Joe Biden a chorus of “god forbids” or words to that effect cascaded across the room. I disagreed. Loudly (I was, after all, the host, so raising my voice was within the bounds of master of the house). 

While I have not jumped on the Biden bandwagon I reject arguments that he is too old or that his admittedly lapsed leadership as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill confrontation during the former’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing utterly disqualified him from seeking the presidency. These were among the arguments Frank Bruni laid out in The New York Times the next day (https://nyti.ms/2G7OLUr). 

God has yet to create the perfect candidate. All politicians make compromises. All have skeletons, some visible, some not, that inhabit their closets. Has Biden atoned through his work over the last quarter century for his failure to believe and protect Anita Hill in 1991? I’d like to think so. 

As for the age factor, absent examples of dementia, Biden’s age should not disqualify him. As a society we have come a long way in recognizing the contributions senior citizens can make. Keep in mind, Biden’s learning curve for what a president has to master would be much lower than any other candidate, including the current occupant of the White House.  

The main obstacle Biden must overcome to secure his party’s nomination is the primary and caucus system. He doesn’t generate rabid enthusiasm, the type of momentum needed, especially now that the power of superdelegates has been diminished. Primary/caucus voters often are looking for a fresh face. 

Short of nominating a total disaster, however, Democrats should be able to count on winning at least the same states Hillary Clinton did in 2016, I believe. To garner at least 270 Electoral College votes the nominee needs to win some combination of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Florida. 

Those are older, working class population states with voters who align well with Biden’s core constituencies. Biden might not carry those or any state in a primary where young zealous advocates often opt for the fresh face, but against Trump in a national election he would present solid Democratic values. 

On the other hand, most of the other possible nominees lack the working class credibility Middle Western voters seek. And Biden exudes an aura of accessibility, even a vulnerability given the tragedies that have befallen his family. Down on their luck voters may find it easier to identify with him. 

Coupled with a qualified ticket-balancing vice presidential candidate, someone like Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, or Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Biden could defeat Trump and restore dignity to the Oval Office and our standing in the world. 

I am not endorsing Biden. I just do not believe he should be dismissed out of hand. 


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