Can Biden really unite Democratic progressives and moderates?

joe biden

Former Vice President of the United States Joe Biden speaking with attendees at the Moving America Forward Forum hosted by United for Infrastructure at the Student Union at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada. February 15, 2020. (photo: Gage Skidmore)

Joe Biden, the Unity Candidate?

The Democratic Party is absolutely united…on one single point: The Democratic Party must beat Donald Trump.

After that, different factions of the Demcoratic Party- from progressive young activists in California to older moderate Democrats in the South- each have their own ideas about what it will take to accomplish that one over-arching, all-important goal.

“If we spend the next four months dividing our party, we will spend the next four years watching Donald Trump tear this country apart.” — Sen. Amy Klobuchar

“We need someone who can beat Donald Trump.” — Beto O’Rourke

For various reasons, few related to the strength of the candidate or the efficacy of his campaign, party leaders have settled on Joe Biden.

Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Cory Booker were the most recent to endorse Biden, joining Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, Mike Bloomberg and a host of other prominent Democrats in an orchestrated attempt to thwart the campaign of Bernie Sanders.

That Joe Biden has somehow emerged as the unity candidate, in a race against social-justice folk-hero Bernie Sanders, is incensing Sanders supporters. It isn’t difficult to see why.

Former Vice President Biden hasn’t run a good campaign; it has been lackadaisical, lazy and stuck in the past. His fundraising has been anemic. To be fair, in a field so over-crowded, Biden has had to compete with other moderate Democrats for a limited number of donors.

Not to mention the groundswell of financial support for Sen. Bernie Sanders.

And though they are backing him now, most prominent Democrats have instead been backing away from Biden since he began showing his compounding weaknesses on the campaign trail.

Biden’s debate performances have ranged from terrible, to cringe-worthy, to downright unwatchable. He has an odd, well-documented history of making things up, sometimes out of whole cloth, sometimes by over-embellishing a kernel of truth. He is a self-described gaffe machine.

Biden has also been losing his temper quite frequently on the campaign trail. He called one student at a town-hall a “lying dog-faced pony soldier” for questioning his electability after his dismal showing in Iowa. According to the Biden campaign, this bizarre insult is from an old movie. Which, of course, doesn’t make it any better.

He yells at reporters.

Biden mixed-up his wife and sister during his victory speech on the heels of his Super Tuesday coup. His strange tangents have become the stuff of legend.

Biden also bears the burden of his terrible voting record.

It is a record that completely flies in the face of progressives in the modern Democratic Party and includes such dubious positions as voting for the Iraq War, a bankruptcy bill that made it impossible to cancel out student loan debt, and tough-on-crime bills that put millions in prison for extended sentences on nonviolent drug convictions.

The Biden campaign’s many weaknesses are further compounded by the fact that there aren’t two people running for president; former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders.

There are three. And Democrats will not be facing the Trump campaign Hillary Clinton faced- and failed to beat- in 2016. What Democrats must now face is the formidable campaign machine the Trump administration has painstakingly built in the years since.

In 2020, Trump’s campaign is more massive and further reaching than any political campaign before it. Trump has turned the Republcain National Committee into a data-driven spear he intends to drive through the heart of the Democratic Party and their chosen candidate.

“We have turned the R.N.C. into one of the largest data-gathering operations in United States history.” — Brad Parscale, Trump campaign manager

On the other hand, Democrats have the dubious political prowess of former Vice President Joe Biden, who doesn’t show any signs of running a more capable campaign in the wake of his Super Tuesday turnaround victory.

Though his aides have shortened his speeches- probably to limit the candidate’s gaffes- and have kept him sequestered as much as possible, Biden has still managed to create plenty of unnecessary headaches for his staff on the campaign trail.

One recent example, the highly questionable decision by Biden to not only embrace the endorsement of his former rival, Beto O’Rourke, but to casually name O’Rourke as the person who will lead Biden’s gun control efforts.

This decision has already started to haunt an already-harried Joe Biden on the campaign trail.

Touring an auto factory floor in Detroit this morning, Biden told one auto-worker “You’re full of Sh@*!” when the man mentioned possible gun confiscation under Biden. Biden then continued:

“I support the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment right now if you yell ‘fire’, that’s not free speech. From the very beginning, I have a shotgun, a twin gauge, my sons hunt. Guess what? I’m not taking your guns away at all. Do you need 100 rounds?” — Joe Biden. March 10, 2020

Leaving aside the fact that the former Vice President seems confused about which amendment is which- the First Amendment is free speech, the Second Amendment is the right to bear arms- cussing at a potential working class voter is a strange way to win votes from the working class for the Demcoratic Party.

O’Rouke’s own ill-conceived declaration of “Hell, yes; we are going to take your AR-15!” may have won him plenty of kudos from the liberal twitteratti, but it also sank his presidential campaign.

Joe Biden would have been better off not having gone out of his way to embrace O’Rourke, as the recent failure of gun confiscation bills in Democrat-controlled Virginia proved.

A true “unity candidate” like Barack Obama would have avoided the unnecessary drama, and the baggage of Beto O’Rourke , taken the endorsement politely and moved on. A Democratic unity candidate gets every Democratic vote- not some votes at the expense of others.

Republicans keeping the Oval Office, maintaining control of the Senate, and a conservative majority in the Supreme Court, plus achieving a majority in the House of Representatives is the worst-case scenario for Democrats in November.

But with a fractured party- its two idealogical wings at war- and either a polarizing figurehead like Bernie Sanders at its helm, or a unity candidate who can’t unify, it isn’t out of the question.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)