“The definition of insanity,” Einstein didn’t say, “is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
Have the Democrats gone mad? Are they really planning on putting up the same type of candidate against Donald Trump in 2020 that they put up against him in 2016? Is the party bent on nominating Hillary 2.0?
How else to describe Joe Biden, the former vice president and ex-senator from Delaware, who is leading in the polls and has hinted that he’d reveal whether he’s running for president in “a few weeks” and might select a running mate early in the process?
Forget, for a moment, his “blue-collar-uncle-at-the-end-of-the-bar persona.” Ignore also his recent, and ridiculous, claim to have the “most progressive record of anybody” running for president. Consider, instead, the sheer number of similarities he seems to have with the vanquished Democratic presidential candidate of 2016.
Iraq War supporter? Check. Clinton was pilloried by the left and the right alike as a wild-eyed hawk; her vote in favor of the Iraq invasion haunted both her 2008 and 2016 campaigns. In fact, a study by two academics in 2017 found a “significant and meaningful relationship between a community’s rate of military sacrifice and its support for Trump” and suggested that if Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin “had suffered even a modestly lower casualty rate,” they could have “sent Hillary Clinton to the White House.”
Let’s be clear: If he runs, Biden will be the only candidate — out of up to 20 Democrats running for the nomination — to have voted for the Iraq War. As the influential chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the run-up to the invasion, Biden (falsely) claimed the United States had “no choice but to eliminate the threat” from Saddam Hussein. A former U.N. weapons inspector even accused the then-senator of running a “sham” committee hearing that provided “political cover for a massive military attack on Iraq.”
Friend of Wall Street? Check. Clinton had a Goldman Sachs problem; Biden has an MBNA problem. Headquartered in his home state of Delaware, the credit card giant MBNA was his biggest donor when he served in the Senate. In 2005, Biden threw his weight behind a bankruptcy bill, signed into law by President George W. Bush, that shamefully protected credit card companies at the expense of borrowers.
National Review later dubbed Biden “the senator from MBNA”. The then-senator’s son Hunter even went to work for the company while his father was pushing through the bankruptcy bill. There’s a word for that, right? Trumpian.
As in 2016, Sen. Bernie Sanders will be bashing the banks again in the run-up to 2020; as in 2016, his fellow frontrunner will be defending them. “I love Bernie, but I’m not Bernie Sanders,” Biden confirmed in a speech in May 2018. “I don’t think 500 billionaires are the reason we’re in trouble. The folks at the top aren’t bad guys.”
Champion of mass incarceration? Check. Clinton took flak for supporting the 1994 crime bill, which helped push up the U.S. prison population, introduced new federal death penalty crimes, and hugely exacerbated racial disparities in the criminal justice system. And Biden? Well, he wrote the damn thing!
Remember how Clinton’s loathsome defense of the 1994 bill came back to bite her in 2016? “They are not just gangs of kids anymore,” she said. “They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘superpredators.’ … We have to bring them to heel.”
You don’t think Biden’s decadeslong “tough on crime” rhetoric will hurt him too? Especially with minority voters? “One of my objectives, quite frankly, is to lock Willie Horton up in jail,” he declared in 1990, as Senate Judiciary Committee chair.
“I don’t care why someone is a malefactor in society,” Biden said in 1993, as he mocked “wacko Democrats” for trying to understand the causes of crime. “I don’t care why someone is antisocial. I don’t care why they’ve become a sociopath. We have an obligation to cordon them off from the rest of society.”
“My greatest accomplishment is the 1994 Crime Bill,” he told the National Sheriffs’ Association in 2007.
Millions of black voters refused to turn out for Clinton in 2016. Why wouldn’t they do the same in response to a Biden candidacy in 2020?
Establishment-friendly? Check. The Clintons arrived in Washington, D.C., in 1993; Clinton then spent eight years in the Senate and four years in Barack Obama’s cabinet. Biden arrived in D.C. in 1973; he spent 36 years in the Senate and eight years in Obama’s cabinet.
When Trump tries to run again as an anti-establishment outsider in 2020, what will Biden’s response be? And will grassroots Democrats rally behind a candidate who befriended and defended notorious segregationist Strom Thurmond, and whose allies brag that he is a “a guy who actually gets along with Mitch McConnell and a number of other Republicans”? This is supposed to be a selling point?
Gaffe-prone? Check. You think the “deplorables” line from Clinton was bad? Did you cringe at “Pokemon Go to the polls”? The former vice president has a long list of excruciating “Bidenisms.” Remember when he asked a state senator in a wheelchair to “stand up … let ’em see ya”? Or when he told a largely African-American audience that Mitt Romney was “going to put y’all back in chains”? Or when he said, “You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent”? I could go on. And on. And on. (And don’t even get me started on the “Creepy Joe Biden” videos …)
Why nominate a candidate for president who’ll make Trump look … what’s the word … normal?
Loser? Check. Clinton won the Democratic nomination in 2016, at the second attempt, having been defeated by Obama eight years earlier. For Biden, it would have to be third-time lucky. His supporters might not want you to remember this, but he has run for president twice already: In 1987, he quit the Democratic primary race within three months of announcing after being accused of plagiarizing parts of his speech. In 2008, he dropped out after coming fifth in the Iowa caucus, winning less than 1 percent of the vote.
Yet now, it seems, he and his supporters believe this serial loser is the only Democratic candidate able to win back white-working class voters from Trump and triumph in the 2020 presidential election?
Where is the actual evidence for this ludicrous claim? For a start, a recent poll found that “every potential Democratic candidate in the 2020 presidential election — announced and unannounced — would beat President Trump in a head-to-head contest.” (As Biden himself conceded to The Intercept in December, “I think anybody can beat him.”)
The bigger issue, however, is that there is no question for the Democrats in 2020 to which Biden is the answer. Have they really learned no lessons from three years ago?