Elections

Inside the Mind of the Biden Voter

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the Democratic presidential debate in Houston, Texas, September 12, 2019. (Mike Blake/Reuters)
Understanding those not-so-young Democrats who aren’t looking for a revolution.

You were too young to vote for Jack or Bobby, but you always heard about them from your parents or grandparents. You’ve voted for Democrats your entire life, even though you haven’t always loved every nominee. In your eyes, they are the party of the little guy, standing up to make sure he gets a fair deal and his kids aren’t sent off to fight in some pointless war overseas. Bosses, big corporations, insurance companies — they’ll all screw you if they get the chance. Government isn’t perfect, but it’s the one force that is supposed to be looking out for you; it’s the one institution where if a guy’s doing a lousy job, you can vote him out.

You weren’t quite as shocked as your niece in the College Democrats when Trump won. You’re pretty sure that some of your neighbors voted for him even though they voted for Obama twice before. They, like you, loved Bill Clinton a generation ago. Now there was a guy who grew up poor and never forgot where he came from. You knew in your bones that when he said something like “I feel your pain,” he meant it. As for the skirt-chasing, you’ve known a lot of guys like that over the years. You wouldn’t want your daughter to date him, but sometimes a driven horndog like that can get the job done.

Hillary was different. Whatever she once may have been, she spent too much time in the Hamptons and Manhattan after she became a senator. She could talk a good game, but you never quite felt like she was telling you the whole story — all that money from Wall Street and the big corporations going to that shady foundation. Though you voted for her — heck, you weren’t going to vote for Trump — you understand why people weren’t so sure she was on their side.

But Trump’s been even worse than you feared. He’s the same old right-winger you figured in many ways — tax cuts for the rich, no infrastructure deal, no going after Wall Street crooks, no draining the swamp of its endemic corruption. And, on top of all that, he just seems to hate everybody — immigrants, women, gays, Muslims. America means you’ve got to try to get along with everybody, right? Biden keeps bringing up those losers in Charlottesville marching with the torches, and he’s right to, because when you saw that, you felt like this wasn’t your country anymore, like America was turning into some messed-up Nuremberg rally.

Those so-called experts on TV keep saying that Biden is old. Well, you’re not as young as you used to be, either, but you’re not ready to be shuffled off into the retirement home or the grave just yet. When they say Biden’s past his prime and no good anymore, those smug young punks are saying you’re past your prime and no good anymore. You hope to live long enough to see those guys deal with a bad back and arthritis and diabetes.

Then there are the kids are complaining about what Biden said and did in the ’70s. C’mon now, it was the ’70s. Everybody was listening to disco and wearing bell bottoms and taking drugs and growing their sideburns longer than your middle finger. Nobody’s the same now as they were in the ’70s. That nice-looking kid mayor who’s running was, what, in preschool then? You want to judge him based on what he was doing back then?

All those smart guys laughed when Biden said in the debate that kids should listen to the record player. You know what he meant, and everybody you know knows what he meant, too: that parents have to look out for their kids and pay attention to them. Everybody’s trying to jump on everything we say these days. They look back at the old busing stuff and act like Biden’s some kind of racist — he was Barack Obama’s vice president, for Pete’s sake! So, he says stuff that doesn’t come out right. Big deal; we all do that.

You loved him as vice president. That picture of him in the biker bar with the woman who’s practically on his lap? He’d get that kind of greeting at your local bar, too. Obama was great, but you could understand why some people found him a little stiff or professorial. Biden’s the backslapper who connects with everybody.

It’s funny because Biden’s probably never worked on an assembly line or in a union shop. He’s spent his whole adult life in law firms or Senate offices. He didn’t go to Vietnam. But this man knows hard times and losing it all. No man should outlive his children, and he’s lost a wife, a daughter, and, just a few years ago, one of his sons. Everyone would understand if he just wanted to become a shut-in or drunk and never deal with anybody again. But he gets up every day and goes out and fights for what he believes in, because he believes he owes it to them — and the American people — to keep going. You tear up just thinking about it. You’re not sure you’d be able to do it yourself if you were in that situation.

So, you respect the hell out of Joe Biden. The issues? Hey, he would end the Trump nightmare. All those torch-carrying losers would see their man go down hard. You don’t know that you’ll like every decision he makes, but you trust him. He’s probably going to be kind of like Obama, and that’s just fine with you.

Bernie? Eh, you respect the guy for being a fighter, but he always acts like he’s ready to turn everything in the world upside down. You just want someone to fix what’s wrong; you don’t want to blow up the whole system. Bernie’s talk of a big bold revolution sounds makes him sound like Trump sometimes, really. You’ve had enough of guys becoming president and promising nothing is ever going to be the same.

Warren? You like her — she’s smart. You could see Biden putting her in charge of something important. You’re just not sure that she can win back the neighbors who drifted to Trump last time. You trust her; she seems like another person who grew up poor and never forgot where she came from. But sometimes she reminds you of the strict teacher who was always giving you a hard time and always disappointed in what you turned in. She probably can’t help it — she was a law professor — but she always seems like she’s judging you. Say what you will about Trump; he never makes anyone feel stupid, insufficiently well-informed, or insufficiently virtuous by comparison.

As for the rest of the field, you know there’s some good, talented people in there, but none of them are ready. Beating Trump isn’t going to be as easy as a lot of people seem to think, and you don’t want to mess this up by nominating some guy who’ll get a deer-in-the-headlights look when Trump accuses him of human trafficking with O. J. Simpson or something. If Trump tries something like that, you know Biden is just going to yell “Malarkey!” across the stage like he did with Paul Ryan, and everyone will love it.

Nah. You’ve been through a lot the past couple of decades, and Joe Biden’s been there every step of the way. He looks like the safe bet and you’re sticking with him.

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