In 2016 there was the Trump Train, now we have the Biden Boat or, given his age, the Biden Buggy. According to all of the polls, even those in keys states, Joe Biden is the clear favorite to win the nomination. He’s polling at around 30%, which is twice his nearest rival. In fact, the latest batch has him with three times the support of Bernie Sanders, who has been in the second seat for a year now. Everyone else is in single digits, bobbing up and down with the news cycle.
Of course, there is a lifetime between now and the first votes. For a guy like Biden, who is pushing eighty, that could be literally true. He is by far the oldest man to run for the nomination and would be the oldest man to enter the White House if he won. Trump set the record when he was elected in 2016, but Biden is a decade older. It remains to be seen if the media will allow that to be an issue. Right now they seem to be tasked with selling good old Uncle Joe to the voters, as the sensible antidote to Trump.
In fairness, Biden really is the Democrat version of Trump. They appeal to the same demographic. Biden has been pitching himself as “working class Joe” for close to a century now. It’s his go-to line whenever he is out campaigning. He tells voters about how everyone has known him as “working class Joe” or sometimes he uses the phrase “lunch pail Joe.” The fact that he has never done a minute of honest labor in his life never seems to matter. The old working class whites like it.
Like Trump in 2016, Biden is the last dance for a demographic about to disappear over the horizon. Trump found a way to win over voters, who remember back to All In The Family with fondness. Either they remember their dad as the Archie Bunker type or they were the Archie Bunker type. Biden is making a similar appeal, but with a decidedly romantic tone that recalls the Democrats past, when they talked about a chicken in every pot and two cars in every garage. When the party was white and male.
While Democrats still need white votes, they are now the party of non-whites and increasingly the party of anti-whites. That’s probably what has all those old union types scrambling onto the Biden Buggy. They are tired of having to vote for someone that hates them. They are tired of pretending they are embracing their dispossession. It’s their last chance to have one of their guys at the top of the ticket. That’s why stories like this work for Biden. It sells to working class whites.
The risk, of course, is that this sort of talk will alienate black voters, who now make up 25% of the Democrat primary. Biden is considered a righteous honky, because he was Obama’s Stepin Fetchit for eight years, but blacks are notoriously fickle. If Harris can get some traction, they could easily abandon Biden for her out of racial loyalty. This stuff can also rustle the females, who are already worried about Joe and his habit of sexually assaulting women in public. Women are close to 60% of the Democrat vote.
Even so, the Biden bubble fits with a pattern in Democratic politics that goes back to the Reagan years. They looked at Reagan’s victories and concluded they needed to go Hollywood, which they did in a major way. The modern chat show format, for example, is a result of Clinton era media strategy. After Bush won in 2004, using a quantitative approach to reaching voters, they went all in on “big data” to elect Obama. After Trump beat Clinton in 2016, they will look for their Trump this time.
One challenge for team Biden is how to run as the nostalgia candidate, while pretending to be the candidate of the future. Given that his future will end at any minute, his credentials on the issue are not very good. More important though, the Left is about the glorious tomorrow, not the forgotten past. Look at their successful leaders and they were young and endlessly yapping about the future. Joe Biden may be as old as JFK, but he is no John Kennedy. He’s more like Walter Mondale.
The obvious challenge for Biden is his age. In his prime, he had a habit of saying nutty things that sunk his previous presidential ambitions. As he has aged, the tendency to say crazy old guy stuff has gotten out of hand. Like the habit of feeling up girls on stage and smelling their hair, his public utterances make people uncomfortable. For a man pushing eighty, weird public statements and moments of confusion will give even the most enthusiastic Baby Boomer pause.
His handlers have kept him under control, for the most part, by keeping him away from the public and the press. The media will do what the party tells them, but it is not hard to imagine some young ambitious activist working for the Post or the Times accidentally asking Biden the wrong question. At the debates next week, you can be sure the other candidates will try to get the old guy off his game, hoping he has a senior moment that will remind the public he was in office before they were born.
This is why the media activists are pumping air in the tries of the Warren campaign. She is the fall back candidate for when the party has to take the keys away from the Biden Buggy and put Uncle Joe in a home. She is no spring chicken herself, but her handlers are not wiping oat meal off her chin either. Her new economic pitch is aimed at the same old white people Biden is attracting with his lunch pail Joe act. That and she can appeal to angry single women and the snotty cosmopolitans.
It speaks to the age that both parties in the 2020 presidential election will be running explicitly nostalgic campaigns. Trump is a crude reboot of the Reagan years. His new slogan, Keep America Great, is a call back to the Morning in America ads Reagan used on his re-election campaign. Biden and maybe Warren are running as throwbacks to another age, when Democrats were the party of working class whites. Despite the celebrations for the browning of America, everyone seems to miss the old days.
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