The Corner


Make America 2010 Again?

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano gives her final official speech at the National Press Club in Washington, August 27, 2013. (Larry Downing/Reuters)

In response to Democratic Veepstakes: Don’t Forget about Janet Napolitano

John McCormack’s reporting of the case for Janet Napolitano as Joe Biden’s vice presidential nominee could well be on the mark. On paper, there’s an argument for Biden to pick a former Red State governor with federal government experience, and Napolitano meets Biden’s more basic criterion of being female.

There’s something else Napolitano would bring to the ticket that some see as a plus. But I sometimes wonder if it is. As John mentions, she headed the Department of Homeland Security in the Obama administration. Such a pick would reinforce the sense — I think already fairly evident — that Biden’s campaign slogan is “Make America 2010 Again!” Or, put another way: Trump’s presidency is an aberration, now let’s just go back and pretend it never happened. 

To the extent that this has been the Biden campaign’s abiding rationale since it began, though, I’ve always wondered about it. It’s been more common in recent presidential history for a vice president to run a continuity campaign immediately following the expiry of his linked president’s two terms, running as that president’s “third term.” That’s what George H.W. Bush did for Reagan in 1988. What Richard Nixon almost (?) did in 1960 for Eisenhower. Etc. 

Biden declined to do that in 2016. Hillary Clinton proved incapable of doing it then. Now, four years later, Biden wants to try it anyway, despite the intervention of four years that have made the Obama era (and some of its attendant contretemps) seem a distant memory. He’s running a change campaign and a nostalgia campaign simultaneously. The obvious rejoinder is that Trump sold a kind of change-nostalgia in 2016 as well, one of a far older vintage, and it worked for him; why shouldn’t Obama nostalgia work for Biden? Maybe so. 

But if the 2010s are truly over, then Biden missed his window for a campaign of continuity between now and then.


The Latest