Swanson: Biden’s Viability is Unsustainable. Democrats Ought to Jump Ship


Vice President Joe Biden (Courtesy Flickr)

By Gavin Swanson, Opinion Writer

Former Vice President Joe Biden entered the 2020 presidential race at the front of the pack. He was leading the polls even before officially throwing his hat into the ring. On April 25, the day he declared, he was polling at 29.3% and six points ahead of the active front runner at the time — Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. By May 8, he reached his highest polling average yet at 41.4%, while dropping Sanders dropped to a new low at 14.6%. But May was a long time ago, and for Biden it’s been all downhill since.

What drew people to Biden in the first place is working less and less as the campaign marches on. Two interconnected factors combined to create the Biden fever we saw earlier in the year. The first is something that nobody can ever take from him – his role as Vice President to Barack Obama. The general goal of Democrats in 2020 is to elect anyone who isn’t Trump. Nominating Biden pitches four more years of Obama to the American people. Obama was great, especially compared to Trump, and if  we can’t have four more years of Obama, why not have the next best thing?

Biden’s second point of appeal revolves around his electability. The conventional wisdom goes that he is the only candidate who can beat Trump. Few voters seem to like Biden for his policies.

He has rejected Medicare for All and all other universal systems, arguing to expand the Affordable Care Act to act as a public option instead. Biden’s health care plan will leave 10 million Americans uninsured, even as 70% of Americans support the idea of universal health coverage.

Biden has made it clear that he doesn’t want to demonize the wealthy class and that little will change for them under his administration, while Warren and Sanders have proposed aggressive taxes on America’s super-wealthy elite to raise money for the key social programs that they hope to implement. Now under the pressure of these proposed wealth taxes, the Biden team is considering releasing one of their own.

Warren and Sanders also have plans to make public colleges tuition-free, with other plans to cancel some or all student debt. Joe Biden is offering free community college.

Health care, the wealth gap and education are some of the most salient issues for Democratic voters and Biden comes up short of his contemporaries on every front.

The Biden of the past is even more disappointing. Most voters know Joe Biden as Vice President but aren’t familiar with the details of his 36-year Senate career. When elected as the youngest member of the Senate in 1973, Biden was a self-admitted conservative on most issues except civil rights. Even then, he opposed federal busing in the ’70s and supported Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act in the ’90s.

He also chaired the Judiciary Committee during Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearing, and did not allow witnesses to corroborate staffer Anita Hill’s testimony accusing Thomas of sexual harassment.

Biden was a major ally to credit card companies and was the Obama Administration’s main supporter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a deal that exported manufacturing jobs from the American heartland to countries across the Pacific. (President Trump pulled out of the deal in January 2017.) This disillusioned many voters with the left, especially those from the Rust Belt. This was a major motivation of crucial states to go for Trump in 2016 after he said he would get those jobs back.

Now, most Democratic candidates may play nice with Biden ⁠— aside from Kamala Harris, who pounced on his past opposition to busing ⁠— but you can be assured that President Trump will not have such reservations if Biden secures the nomination. He’ll be called a life-long politician within the deep state Obama-Clinton Washington swamp. He will easily be painted as another politician who doesn’t care about the American people and shipped off millions of American jobs to China. Unfortunate as it is, he wouldn’t be entirely wrong with that characterization.

I fear that if Biden is selected as the nominee, we will have a repeat of 2016. Biden would walk into a relentless smear campaign that allows Trump to claim he is the outsider underdog against the Washington elite. Biden has clear vulnerabilities that Trump can use to rile his base and demotivate Democratic and Independent voter participation.

Biden can’t even control his supporters from fleeing to progressive rivals during the primary, and his favorability weakens as 2020 gets closer. It’s not my place to tell you who to vote for ⁠— I can only bring facts to light. But if you read this article and continue to stick with Biden, you cannot credibly claim you’re doing so because he is the only candidate who will beat Trump. In reality, you likely support Biden because you’re a moderate Democrat who is fine with the status-quo and doesn’t want to see fundamental changes to the American civic system.

Biden’s political track record may correspond with your own beliefs and you may be willing to defend his choices, but you cannot pin your support for Biden on some inevitable victory. The candidate who will win is the one who electrifies the base and sparks belief that voting for them will result in change and increased quality of life. It’s how Obama won twice and how Trump got his votes. I think you’d be hard-pressed to make the same case for Joe.


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