Elections

Trump Should Fear Uncle Joe

Joe Biden in 2015 (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)
Joe Biden may be a popular candidate among the same working-class voters who won Trump the White House in 2016.

Joe Biden is a gaffe-prone 75-year-old Washington veteran — who is exactly what Democrats need.

The suburbs have turned against Republicans, but Donald Trump’s working-class base is still with him in a geographic and demographic stand-off that will — absent a game-changer — define the 2020 election.

The play for Democrats should be obvious: Make a serious appeal to Trump’s voters, take back the Blue Wall states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, and win the presidency. In other words, go with Joe Biden or someone like him with a Midwestern or working-class sensibility (newly re-elected senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota come to mind).

Biden still talks of himself as a scrappy kid from Scranton, even though he became a U.S. senator soon after Beto O’Rourke was born. No one calls him “Middle Class Joe,” as he likes to refer to himself. Yet, he has roots in the Democratic party of yore that had a solid base among working-class whites.

His gruff manner, Catholic faith, Irish ethnic background, union-friendly politics, and upbringing in Delaware via Pennsylvania make him as close as the contemporary national Democratic party gets to a working-class match for the Great Lakes states that Trump stole from it in 2016.

From this juncture, those states again look absolutely crucial. If the rest of the electoral map stays the same, Democrats need to win all three of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania to take back the White House. Even if they pick off 2016 red states Arizona and Georgia, they still need Michigan or Pennsylvania to get over 270.

Conversely, it’s hard to see where Trump goes and wins new territory to make up for the loss of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Trump didn’t win those three states by much, by about 80,000 votes collectively. More than anything, he depended on running against a Democratic candidate who was unacceptable to working-class whites. Right now, it looks like he needs a repeat performance by the Democrats, and he may well get one.

This is the great advantage of Uncle Joe. No matter how pompous and self-parodic he can be, he would almost certainly be impossible to render hateful or threatening to the working-class voters who sensed the Clinton campaign’s disdain for them.

The problem for Biden is getting from here to there. He didn’t cover himself in glory in his prior two runs (the first one 30 years ago).

The Democrats don’t usually do old and familiar, at least not when they win. The last three Democratic presidents, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, were fresh-faced newcomers on the national scene.

And then, there are the party’s new obsessions. Class has been trumped by race and gender, and as a white male Biden is 0–2. Inequality is now less of a motivator than intersectionality, economic privilege less of a concern than white privilege. This was a stumbling block for the class-obsessed Bernie Sanders last time, and would surely hamper Biden and Sherrod Brown in today’s even more fevered context.

The Democrats are not set up to go with, in the derisive phrase, stale, pale, and male. Perhaps they can find another Barack Obama–type candidate who lights up the base while having just enough draw for working-class whites. There is also more than one way to win back the Blue Wall — higher black turnout could make the difference.

But there’s a good chance that Democrats will get consumed by the hothouse dynamic of their nominating process and select someone who, like those defeated progressive darlings of the midterms — Beto O’Rourke, Stacey Abrams, and Andrew Gillum — is better suited to going down in a blaze of glory rather than winning over an increment of Trump voters.

If so, Joe Biden will be one of the few people in American history who could have won two straight presidential elections — in theory.

© 2018 by King Features Syndicate

Most Popular

White House

On the Bidens, Schiff Opened the Door

You opened the door. Trial lawyers live in fear of that phrase. When a trial starts, both sides know what the allegations are. Both have had enough discovery to know what the adversary will try to prove. Just as significantly, both know what their own vulnerabilities are. A litigator spends his pretrial ... Read More
White House

On the Bidens, Schiff Opened the Door

You opened the door. Trial lawyers live in fear of that phrase. When a trial starts, both sides know what the allegations are. Both have had enough discovery to know what the adversary will try to prove. Just as significantly, both know what their own vulnerabilities are. A litigator spends his pretrial ... Read More
World

Alarmists Were Wrong about the Soleimani Strike

Two weeks ago, the United States seemed on the brink of starting another war in the Middle East after a drone strike killed Iran’s most notorious spymaster, Qasem Soleimani, as he departed an international airport in Baghdad. The shadowy general, in charge of the Iranian equivalent of the CIA, was one of the ... Read More
World

Alarmists Were Wrong about the Soleimani Strike

Two weeks ago, the United States seemed on the brink of starting another war in the Middle East after a drone strike killed Iran’s most notorious spymaster, Qasem Soleimani, as he departed an international airport in Baghdad. The shadowy general, in charge of the Iranian equivalent of the CIA, was one of the ... Read More
Elections

Buttigieg’s Hollow Military Bragging

The term “veteran” wields a strange talismanic power in American politics today; the military is almost the only institution in American life that has maintained very high favorability ratings over the past 30 years. Invocation of the sacred words “military service” invariably grants a presumed license to ... Read More
Elections

Buttigieg’s Hollow Military Bragging

The term “veteran” wields a strange talismanic power in American politics today; the military is almost the only institution in American life that has maintained very high favorability ratings over the past 30 years. Invocation of the sacred words “military service” invariably grants a presumed license to ... Read More
White House

Impeachment Doesn’t Require a Crime

Senate Republicans, by and large, have reached an unspoken consensus about President Trump and Ukraine. He should not have put a temporary freeze on congressionally authorized aid to Ukraine, should not have dabbled with using the aid to get Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden or a nutty theory about Ukrainian ... Read More
White House

Impeachment Doesn’t Require a Crime

Senate Republicans, by and large, have reached an unspoken consensus about President Trump and Ukraine. He should not have put a temporary freeze on congressionally authorized aid to Ukraine, should not have dabbled with using the aid to get Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden or a nutty theory about Ukrainian ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Clarence Thomas Speaks

Those who know Justice Clarence Thomas say that any perception of him as dour or phlegmatic couldn't be more off-base. He's a charming, gracious, jovial man, full of bonhomie and easy with a laugh, or so I'm told by people who know him well. On summer breaks he likes to roam around the country in an RV and stay ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Clarence Thomas Speaks

Those who know Justice Clarence Thomas say that any perception of him as dour or phlegmatic couldn't be more off-base. He's a charming, gracious, jovial man, full of bonhomie and easy with a laugh, or so I'm told by people who know him well. On summer breaks he likes to roam around the country in an RV and stay ... Read More