Joe Biden is an incredibly weak candidate, but in an effort to stop Bernie Sanders the Democratic Party has put their blinders on and is willingly walking into an electoral meat grinder. It used to be a hot take to say Hillary Clinton would lose to Donald Trump, but when it comes to Joe Biden it’s just conventional wisdom. Largely because Joe Biden is Hillary Clinton without any of the upside.
At least Hillary Clinton would have made history as the first woman president, she had some progressive policy fights in her past from HillaryCare to expanding child care, and she had a genuine base of enthusiastic support from the center of the party. Joe Biden is not a historic candidate, he’s got an even longer voting record than Hillary Clinton riddled with even more liabilities, and the anti-Trump votes Joe Biden will scrounge up do not constitute an enthusiastic base. Joe Biden is a disaster and he will lose to Donald Trump.
Joe Biden Has Decades of Policy Baggage, Donald Trump Will Use it All Against Him
Joe Biden’s biggest liability is his decades long record that puts him on the wrong side of basically every major policy decision of the last 30 years. From his opposition to integrative bussing to his vote in favor of the Iraq War, Joe Biden’s career will give Donald Trump plenty of opportunity to run to his left, something he loved to do against Hillary Clinton on key issues. Particularly trade and the Iraq War, though this time around Trump seems poised to add criminal justice reform and maybe even immigration to that list. The closer one looks at Joe Biden’s record, the more obvious it becomes that it’s a massive liability that Donald Trump will surely exploit, even if it is hugely hypocritical.
Take criminal justice reform, an issue Donald Trump will clearly use against Joe Biden. During the Super Bowl the Trump campaign aired an ad highlighting high profile commutations claiming “other politicians talk about criminal justice reform, Donald Trump got it done.” All with the backdrop of a video showing Alice Johnson reunited with her family thanks to Trump. This shows an effort from the Trump campaign to make him the criminal justice reform candidate, which will be far easier against Joe Biden given his support of the 1994 crime bill. Trump will use this posture to attack Joe Biden, try and depress turnout amongst black voters in critical states like Michigan and Wisconsin. While simultaneously trying to boost his own turn out with black voters, and all he’ll need is a few point swing on either side of that equation to secure the same kind of electoral college victory he scored against Hillary Clinton.
It’s not just criminal justice reform, Donald Trump will also be able to credibly paint Joe Biden as almost as far right as he is when it comes to immigration. As recently as 2007 Joe Biden bragged about being one of the few Democrats willing to fund a 40 foot tall fence on the border. Furthermore, Donald Trump can wrap himself up in the fact that Barack Obama and Joe Biden deported far more people than the Trump administration and in many ways created the policy mechanisms the Trump administration has used to pursue their immigration policies. Immigrants and their allies will have an unfortunate choice to make if Joe Biden is the nominee, one between a man who helped deport 3 million plus immigrants and one who came to power calling immigrants rapists and murderers and enacted a policy of family separation. It’s unfortunate, but Joe Biden can’t really use Trump’s racist immigration policies against him.
Those are just two new issues Trump can run to the left, or just to the right, of Joe Biden on. Fortunately for Trump the left of Clinton policy set will be equally effective against Joe Biden. Starting with trade which many credit with winning Donald Trump the industrial Midwest and crumbling the Democrats “blue wall.” Joe Biden voted for NAFTA, permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with China, and supported the TPP as late as 2019. Considering the impact Bill Clinton’s support of NAFTA and Hillary Clinton’s half hearted distancing from the TPP had on the race in 2016, Joe Biden’s record on trade is significantly worse and harder to justify. It will likely make winning over blue collar union voters in the industrial midwest even harder, and those voters are the key to Biden’s electability claims. Combine that with depressed turn out from black voters thanks to the criminal justice wedge, and Biden’s path through the Midwest becomes fairly murky.
Another issue which Donald Trump used against Hillary Clinton to great effect was her support for the Iraq War, toppling Libya, and other Middle Easter excursions. The Iraq War remains one of the most unpopular and consequential foreign policy decisions of the last few decades and Joe Biden enthusiastically defended his vote to go to war far longer than most Democrats. In fact his foreign policy “experience” and support for the Iraq War were key reasons Obama chose him as his running mate to begin with, as a way to sure up his right flank and allow him to maintain his anti-Iraq War stance. Once again the botched Libyan intervention and failure to intervene in Syria can be used against Joe Biden. Simultaneously Donald Trump can point to his “defeat of ISIS,” his removing troops from Syria, and his negotiations with the Taliban as proof that he is the anti-war candidate.
Finally as Donald Trump has already shown, he will attack Joe Biden’s long record of willingness to cut programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. As Bernie Sanders has pointed out on the campaign trail, Joe Biden has been willing to cut these programs for decades. Clips of him in the 1990’s, the early 2000’s and through the Obama administration show as much. Donald Trump used his willingness to leave entitlements alone as a wedge to differentiate himself from other Republicans and he’ll use it to contrast himself against Joe Biden who he will paint as part of a Washington establishment that seeks to cut incredibly popular social programs. Bernie Sanders has already used these attacks to great effect and Donald Trump will do the same. It will still be incredibly effective coming from Donald Trump, even if at the exact same time he is in talks with Mitch McConnell to cut entitlements. Trump will drown that out and once again use his support of these programs as a club to beat his opponents, this time Joe Biden.
Joe Biden Brings No Enthusiasm to the Democratic Party
The same record that is a liability against Trump ensures that Joe Biden will not activate the grassroots energy required to beat back Trump’s base. There is a solid 60% to 80% of the Democratic Party base that supported a not-Joe Biden candidate up until Super Tuesday. Joe Biden’s fundraising has been high dollar and he hasn’t been able to offset that with grassroots donor support. Compared to the likes of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and even Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden’s fundraising machine is reliant on the donor class and exemplifies his lack of grassroots enthusiasm. It’s not just a lack of small donors that sets Joe Biden back, the lack of enthusiasm among key Democratic Party voters could lead to general election disaster.
Joe Biden does terribly with young voters of all stripes. Diving into the Super Tuesday results Bernie Sanders won with voters under 30 by 60 to 70 point margins. While voters under 30 only made up 11% of the Super Tuesday electorate, so not enough to propel Bernie Sanders to victory, they remain an incredibly important piece of a winning general election coalition and Biden simply does not excite them at all. That will be a huge liability. As will his lack of support from Latino voters, who Bernie Sanders won by 30 to 40 point margins in states like Nevada, California, and Texas. Again the aforementioned immigration record plays into Biden’s lack of support from Latino voters, but it’s deeper than that. The Latino electorate skews younger and like all young people they clearly support Bernie Sanders. Without support from these key voting blocs, Biden’s general election chances are a lot more perilous.
The question is does Biden outperform Donald Trump with rural white voters, as he seems to be doing right now against Bernie Sanders. Depending on what analysis you prefer, rural white, “Obama-Trump” voters in states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania were one key to Trump’s electoral college victory. Looking at the Democratic primary race Biden is winning rural vote voters over Bernie Sanders, even though Bernie Sanders won them in 2016 over Hillary Clinton. The question is whether or not some portion of these voters are lost to Donald Trump forever, and haven’t migrated back to the Democratic Party. That seems fairly likely given the head to head polling which shows these states are always incredibly close, unlike their status as safe Democratic strongholds in the past. It’s not clear that Joe Biden can expand the Democratic coalition in these areas, and his coalition may look a lot more like Democrats in 2018, meaning the key addition will be suburban white voters skeptical of Trump.
In 2018 Democrats were defeated resoundingly in the senate races where rural white voters were overrepresented. However in individual house races, particularly in more diverse suburbs like those of Southern California, Democrats made inroads in previously safe Democratic districts. In the same way the Democrats new coalition could not compete in state wide senate races, it’s not clear the new suburban voters are enough to overcome the electoral college disadvantage the Democrats are at. There’s some evidence these suburban voters are helping Joe Biden win the primary, but it’s not clear they will help beat Donald Trump.
Joe Biden will not be able to recreate the Obama coalition with his base of older voters. While his base is diverse, he’s got broad African American support, it’s from older voters of all stripes. The traditional enthusiasm that propels Democrats forward will be notably absent in the event of a Joe Biden nomination. And a lot can be said about Donald Trump but nobody will say he doesn’t know how to energize his voters. Again, the Democrats are heading for a disaster and it should be obvious to all that Joe Biden will lose.
This lack of enthusiasm will only be enhanced by the aforementioned policy positions which will serve to create a feedback loop that continually drags the Biden campaign down. Joe Biden can’t win. If he’s the nominee Donald Trump will be reelected. And you can’t say we didn’t warn you.