In terms of his political ambitions, former Vice President Joe Biden appears to be living in a perpetual state of what might have been.
Following the unfortunate death of his son Beau Biden — who lost his battle to cancer — Biden abandoned plans to run for president. Back in March during a Q&A interview at Colgate University, Biden said, “The answer is that I had planned on running for president, and although it would’ve been a difficult primary, I think I could’ve won.”
Yes, Biden could’ve won, but he could’ve also lost as he did in the 1988 Democratic presidential primary in light of charges of plagiarism.
Or like he did in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary in which he notoriously said of then Sen. Barack Obama: “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”
To be fair, Joe Biden has charm, benefits from being plainspoken, and despite being an admitted “gaffe machine,” likely wouldn’t have faced as much repercussions for such character flaw in a general election considering the man that eventually won the 2016 presidential election; a man who launched his campaign by assailing Mexicans as “rapists” before proceeding to insult just about every other minority group in America.
That’s probably why Republican Senator Ben Sasse made the following claim earlier this year: “If Joe Biden would have run against Donald Trump, Biden would have won in a landslide.”
Biden is now looking towards the future. This week, he said of the 2020 presidential race, “I’m not closing the door. I’ve been around too long and I’m a great respecter of fate, but who knows what the situation is going to be a year and a half from now. Moreover, according to Politico, Biden has been privately been telling people that as of now, he doesn’t see anyone besides himself who can defeat the current imbecilic Fox & Friends fanatic presently wasting space in the White House in a head-to-head 2020 match-up. There is a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll that says such.
However, there is reason to worry:
Biden’s 11-point margin is actually smaller than the poll’s previous question, in which voters are asked whether they will vote to reelect Trump, or for a generic Democrat. The generic Democrat leads Trump, 48 percent to 34 percent, the poll shows.
“Former Vice President Joe Biden has the upper hand in a hypothetical matchup against President Donald Trump, but he underperforms compared with a generic Democrat,” said Kyle Dropp, Morning Consult’s co-founder and chief research officer. “Notably, 86 percent of Democrats say they would vote for a generic Democrat over Trump, but only 78 percent of Democrats say they prefer Biden over Trump.”
There is also the reality that any poll taken right now doesn’t mean a damn thing. Moreover, it’s easy for Biden to complain about the way in which Hillary Clinton ran her campaign and what he would have done better despite all evidence to the contrary. Those of us who sit on the outside always have something to say about those actually in it; sometimes we’re right, other times we haven’t a clue as to what we’re talking about.
Recently, MSNBC host Chris Matthews claimed that he knows for sure that Biden will run in 2020. He’s praised him as a “regular guy” that can appeal to working class Whites. He’s also noted that Biden could run with Sen. Kamala Harris — a convincing and potentially insurmountable ticket.
There are a few problems for all this talk, though.
One, Harris can plausibly win a Democratic primary all her own. For all this ongoing talk about White working class voters who haven’t voted Democratic primarily in eons, many seem to forget that Black women largely play an integral role in the fate of Democratic candidates and the Democratic presidential primary. If Hillary Clinton caught flack for lobbying for the 1994 Crime Bill, imagine what would have happened to Biden, its co-author?
Furthermore, in an era in which it seems at least some men are finally facing consequences for being sexual predators, there remains Biden’s past with respect to how he handled the Anita Hill situation — the attorney and professor who in 1991 accused then U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual assault. Biden was the Senate committee chairman who presided over the polarizing hearing.
Biden’s age is a concern for many reasons, but in theory, you can teach an old dog new tricks. Unfortunately, Biden seems stuck on stupid when it comes to Hill.
On Monday, Joe and Jill Biden spoke with outgoing Glamour editor-in-chief Cindi Leive during the magazine’s annual Women of the Year event. Biden has been a women’s rights advocate: helping pass and renew the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, and as vice president, helped combat sexual assault on college campuses. But, he dropped the ball on Anita Hill all the same.
So, when asked about it, he said this:
It got down to one witness who at the last minute decided she did not want to come and testify. So I wanted to make sure she understood, my chief of staff went to the hotel room this woman was staying in, very accomplished woman, and said we want you to testify. She said no, she didn’t want to, he said, will you sign this affidavit saying you refused to testify. Some argue that I should have made her come and testify. The truth of the matter was, you don’t want a witness who’s gonna come and testify and be weak in the testimony and undercut the testimony of Anita Hill.
Anita Hill was victimized, there is no question in my mind, and every single solitary person on that committee who believed her voted no. It was a tie vote. What I do feel badly about was the bad taste that got left in the mouth of some of the people around Anita Hill, and maybe even Anita, about whether or not the witnesses should have been called who weren’t called etcetera. Maybe I could have handled that better, but I believed her from the beginning, I made her case from the floor, I made her case to the committee.
Then Biden was asked what message he had for Hill, who has long noted that she didn’t feel she was given a fair process:
“I am so sorry if she believed that. I am so sorry that she had to go through what she went through. Think of the courage it took for her to come forward. I feel really badly that she didn’t feel like the process worked, but I tell you what, I said something at the time that proved to be right. I said this is going to be the start of a fundamental change of what constitutes harassment in the workplace and people are going to begin to change.”
As Jezebel’s Ellie Shechet notes, both Hill and members of her legal team have disputed Biden’s claims in the past. Then there is the matter of his message to Hill. “I’m sorry you feel that way” is not an apology nor is it an adequate explanation.
Perhaps Biden could win a general election campaign against that racist moron. After all, we live in a White, paternalistic culture. Even so, the Democratic primary is an entirely different story. And hell, the Democrats still need Black people — especially Black women — to show up. So if Biden wants to try one mo’ gin’ on a White House run, he best take a little time to revisit the Anita Hill matter and other past actions.
Otherwise, Biden will just be another throwback — and that only works for one party nationally.