Democrats Should Be Very, Very Nervous

Former vice president Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas, March 2, 2020. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

If doddering Joe Biden is your party’s best hope, your party might be in deep trouble.

So, let me get this straight.

After a year of campaigning, discussion, and debate among the Democrats, as of early February the party had decided Joe Biden was the favorite for its presidential nomination: He led in 19 of the 21 national polls taken before the Iowa caucuses. Then people started to vote, and it turned out they didn’t like Biden at all. He finished fourth in Iowa, fifth in New Hampshire, and a distant second in Nevada. As of last week, the Democrats had decided to be an openly socialist party: Bernie Sanders led 20 consecutive national polls after Iowa, half of them by double digits. And then, this week, Democrats decided not to be socialist after all: They just gave Biden, the doddering avatar of the party establishment, a resounding Super Tuesday victory.

Maybe the Democrats really have no actual policy except beating Donald Trump. Biden and Sanders haven’t been saying anything new this year. (Though it’s possible voters were unaware that Sanders was so extreme he would — in 2020! —go as far as publicly defending Fidel Castro’s Cuba in both a 60 Minutes segment and the South Carolina debate). The thing that has changed twice is voting momentum and its attendant publicity. Sanders rocketed up in the polls when he looked like a winner, and Biden surpassed him after building momentum from a blowout win in South Carolina. Mike Bloomberg looked like a loser from the moment Elizabeth Warren tenderized him in the Las Vegas debate, and today dropped out after spending $500 million to win American Samoa.

Voting on perceived electability has left the Dems in a strange place, though. Joe Biden? Really? We know Joe Biden. He was in the Senate for 36 years. He ran for president in 1988, and again in 2008, before serving two terms as Barack Obama’s vice president. There is no precedent for a career politician’s reaching the top after such an extended period in the national spotlight. He doesn’t inspire the kind of passion that Obama did and Bernie Sanders does. His appeal seems to rest almost completely on name recognition and his association with Obama. Despite heroic efforts by the media to absolve Biden of any wrongdoing when the Ukraine scandal revealed he’d allowed family members to use his name to rake in huge amounts of money from foreign entities, recent polls put his unfavorable ratings at between 44 and 52 percent.

Yes, Biden beats Trump regularly in head-to-head polls, but you can ask Hillary Clinton about how much beating Trump in early polls is worth. In just the past ten days, he has claimed half the population of the country died of gunshot wounds, forgotten what office he is running for, asked voters to support him on “Super Thursday,” and offered this précis of our nation’s founding principle: “We hold these truths to be self-evident. All men and women created by — you know, you know, the thing.”

Even at his best, Biden was notorious for being loopy, digressive, and sloppy, and he’s long past his best. Clarence Thomas noted of Biden’s line of questioning during his Senate confirmation hearings, “You have to sit there and look attentively at people [who] you know have no idea what they are talking about.” His bizarre 2012 debate with Paul Ryan consisted of bursts of strangely out-of-context laughter and boorish interruptions. His own aides panic every time he goes off-script, to such a degree that David Axelrod once quipped that Biden was being kept in a “candidate-protection program.” When he starts riffing, he is given to making false claims such as that he was arrested trying to visit Nelson Mandela in prison. His answer to all questions in debate is a subject, a verb, and Obama.

Moreover, Biden looks moderate only in the context of the insanity that is gripping the Democratic Party, only by comparison to wackadoodles such as Warren and Sanders. He has so far escaped scrutiny for the implications of his policy proposals, such as a “public option” for health insurance that would inevitably destroy the private insurance market. He was specifically asked whether this could happen by the New York Times and replied, “Bingo. . . . Sure they would.” He blithely said that when employer-based private health insurance dies out, people could simply go on “the Biden plan.” His health-care policy is just a slo-mo version of Sanders’s and Warren’s policy. He has called for massive tax hikes, offered public health care for illegal immigrants, said such immigrants should not be deported if they’re convicted of drunk driving, and endorsed the $93 trillion boondoggle known as the Green New Deal.

On top of all of this, Biden would be the oldest president ever — he’s older than the oldest boomer, and would be older on his first day in office than Ronald Reagan was on his last day. No one knows how mentally agile he’ll be tomorrow, much less in November. If a man who could come completely unglued on live television at any moment is your party’s best hope, your party should be very, very nervous.

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