The Corner

Elections

Mandateless Joe Biden

Joe Biden may well be the next president of the United States, and if that scenario comes to pass, it will because he was in the right place at the right time, and met two minimally difficult criteria. He won the Democratic primary because he wasn’t Bernie Sanders, and he will have won the general election because he wasn’t Donald Trump.

Biden recently contended his virtual campaign is reaching people. “All this stuff about hiding in the basement? Well, over 340 million people have watched what we’ve done like this on television.” (According to the Census Bureau, the U.S. population is 330 million.)

Judging from the polls, Biden’s minimalist approach is working. But one has to wonder just what a president-elect does after winning due to voter exhaustion with the other guy. Biden’s policy proposals are barely getting much attention in the pandemic and protest-driven news cycle.

Biden is ahead, in part, because pro-Trump Democrats have left the party and he’s good enough for everyone who remained, as well as for the white-collar suburbanites who joined the party during the Trump years. Biden leads among Bernie Sanders voters, 87 percent to 4 percent, and among Elizabeth Warren voters, 96 percent to zero. Biden is the blank-enough slate that just about every Democrat can unify behind as an alternate to the incumbent.

But the Democratic Party includes a wide range of views, from Joe Manchin and Collin Peterson on one side to Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders on the other. Biden can’t please everyone, and if and when he starts governing, he’s going to start making decisions that disappoint one faction. It is easy to envision a moment in early 2021 when the new president encounters resistance in his party, and Biden argues the American people elected him to enact a particular agenda. That dissenting Democratic faction will have the strong counterargument: “No, you were elected because you weren’t Donald Trump.”

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