Joe Biden’s presidential dilemma

Stephan Kapustka

Joe Biden will probably not be the Democratic nominee for president in 2020. But he definitely won’t be if he continues to do what he is doing now.

While the former vice president has not formally announced his campaign, his running is something of an open secret. His strategy was not a bad one on the face of it; stay above the fray, let the other candidates attack each other, and then swoop in and coast to the nomination on the nostalgia from the Obama years. He leads almost every opinion poll among Democratic primary voters, and for whatever they may be worth at this point, general election polls against President Trump.

The Democratic case for a Biden candidacy is fairly straightforward and air-tight. Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election because she lost Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin by under 1 percentage point. If she had won all three, she would have had 278 electoral votes, and thus the presidency. So if a Democrat is able to hold all of the states Clinton won, and flip those three she lost very narrowly, the election is over. Given that the Obama/Biden ticket won all three of those states twice, and Biden’s appeal among the blue collar white working class that broke heavily toward Trump, he seems to be the best positioned to do just that.

But to do that, Biden must first make it through the Democratic primary. It would be the height of irony if the Democrats lose their best general election candidate to a woke circular firing squad, but that may be what happens. Before his campaign could get out of the gate, Biden was hit with allegations of Biden being too handsy with women, seven in total according to a report by Business Insider. Nobody is alleging sexual harassment, or anything illegal at all. But the near octogenarian’s warm, folksy form of politics is clearly out of step with the modern Democratic Party.

Biden’s response to this didn’t hit home as well as it could have. First, he put out a video in which he apologized if his actions made anybody uncomfortable. But just a few days later, he made jokes about the kerfuffle to a crowd, according to the Daily Wire.

There will be other areas of his record where Biden will feel the need to apologize and beg forgiveness at the altar of progressivism. To the new left, his opposition to draconian business regulations, occasional support for late-term abortion restrictions, opposition to forced busing, his vote for the Clinton crime bill, and the Iraq war will all need to be recanted. Several stories, including one in New York Magazine titled “Biden’s Baggage,” do a good job in explaining the progressive case against Biden.

But Biden himself ought to consider another option. People who find his past positions reason enough to oppose him will not be swayed by apologies and mea culpas. There are already a plethora of candidates in the race for progressives to support, Biden will not win them over by denouncing his decades of service in politics. His old-school, hands-on way of doing politics is now being brought up is clearly a political hit job, because this is something that was in the open for years. A story dating back to 2015 in the Washington Post titled “What are we going to do with Creepy Uncle Joe Biden” establishes as much. Regardless of what you think of the merits, it is not an accident that it is being brought to the fore now.

What Biden should do, if he wants to join the race, is run on his record and not away from it. Make the case that maybe socialism isn’t the way of the future, that not believing in completely unrestricted abortion isn’t heresy, that some tough-on-crime measures are actually good ideas. There are still some moderate Democrats, after all. Enough to win a majority? Probably not. But there might be enough to win a plurality in a very crowded field.

If Biden cannot do that, he should not run. In all likelihood, the outcome of doing so will be a disowning of everything he has done up until this point, and for nothing. It is his past record of moderation, or at least the perception to that end, that makes Biden such a formidable general election candidate. If that same record makes him unpalatable in today’s Democratic Party, that should be their problem, and not his.