The Downward Spiral of Joe Biden
Joe Biden’s 30 point lead over everyone in May is gone. According to Real Clear Politics, Elizabeth Warren is now the front-runner. Biden’s temper, the President’s berating, and Trump’s belief that Biden and his son Hunter are guilty of an illegal act in Ukraine coupled with Biden’s growing inability to raise campaign funds and America’s need for tribalism may, in fact, be causing the Democratic party establishment to re-consider their tacit endorsement of the centrist leader.
Guilt or innocence is irrelevant as the Biden’s remain indirectly, yet deeply, ensconced in the impeachment proceedings of President Trump. The past few weeks have seen the public bearing witness to Biden’s short fuse. On the one hand, it can be dismissed as innocence and a father protecting his son and on the other, it can be an indication of an ill temper. Unfortunately for Biden, it seems to indicate the latter. Having a bad temper is traditionally not a favored trait for the leader of a country.
President Trump’s continued call for an investigation into the Biden’s business affairs and his Twitter onslaught has also done a fair amount of damage to the Biden campaign. The president constantly refers to him as “Sleepy Joe” and even smirked back in May when North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un called Biden a “low IQ idiot.” In Biden’s defense, President Trump simply referred to him as “a low IQ individual”, which he claimed was “softer” than “idiot.”
Both Trump and the Korean dictator must not have heard the recording from Biden’s New Hampshire campaign stop in 1988. As a presidential candidate, he agreed to wear a microphone at a campaign stop. When a voter asked him about his law-school grades, Biden answered, “I probably have a much higher IQ than you do.”
Always known to be a little curt, in George Packer’s 2013 book The Unwinding former Biden staffer Jeff Connaughton paints an unflattering picture of working for the then-Senator. Hired in 1987 he portrays Biden as someone who deliberately “wouldn’t learn your name.”
If he bothered to talk to you at all, and you were in his favor, you were “Chief” or “Cap’n.” However, if you were a male and fell out of favor or made a mistake, you were a “dumb f*ck.”
The demographics of the top tier of the Democratic party candidates running for president could never be considered a young group. Biden is 76, Bernie Sanders is 78 and Elizabeth Warren is 70. It is only Kamala Harris at 54 and Pete Buttigieg at 36 who fall under the mandatory retirement age in America of 65. In fact, only three presidents have ever held the office in their 70’s, Donald Trump, Ronald Reagan, and Dwight Eisenhower.
During the last debate in September, fellow candidate Julian Castro gained some notice for going after Biden’s age by inferring his sharpness was fading when he misquoted himself. Shortly after that debate, the candidates were asked if they would release their medical records. Biden, Sanders and Warren all said they would in an effort to quell concerns about their age.
However, recently, Bernie Sanders had a heart attack. Being the oldest candidate, at 78, his mortality may be a growing concern because related or not, his poll numbers have dropped 3%.
Regardless, the age of the three septuagenarians hasn’t been having much of an impact on their popularity.
And similarly, Joe Biden has remained popular with the Democratic establishment. However, things may be changing.
In addition to poll numbers, a key indicator of support for a candidate is their ability to raise campaign funds. At this juncture, you would begin to see the frontrunner’s campaign funds trend upwards. For the third quarter that just ended, the Biden campaign raised 15 million dollars, 7 million less than in the second quarter. Sanders and Warren each raised 25 and 22 million respectively, and Pete Buttigieg inched him out by raising 19 million. For many, including the Democratic leadership, Biden’s fourth-place finish is alarming.
The Hill writer Krystal Ball called Biden’s tally “pathetic.” Where both the Sanders and Warren campaigns have stressed the need for broad and sweeping change in America, Biden has largely run on the “I’m with Obama” and called for a “return to normal” campaign pitch. One big change that Sanders and Warren have instituted is their steadfast refusal to accept big donors or corporate money. This has proven very effective for them.
With his fourth-place finish in Q3, it highlight’s the Biden campaign’s ineptitude in grassroots and internet fundraising. As Politico points out, “the old traditional, big-dollar model of funding a presidential campaign is going the way of landmines and the VCR.” As the Biden campaign steps up its grassroots efforts, they’re learning that politics is not the place to be playing catch up in fundraising. His old-school traditional fundraising is beginning to sputter and highlighting how out of touch the campaign is.
Furthermore, this past weekend, his leading donors gathered for a motivational boost and sales pitch about where the Biden campaign is headed. The fact that they felt the need to gather leading donors, at the exclusion of others, lends credence to one of two things: either the Biden campaign is obstinate or they’re out of touch. In either case, it’s not a good place to be.
Beginning with the Tea Party movement that started in 2008, America has seen a growing polarization of voters in America. A committed sense of political tribalism. To date, that kind of tribalism has been associated with right-leaning beliefs. Since Donald Trump’s election in 2016, the Democrat’s battle cry has been a return to normalcy. Which is really a dog whistle for a return to a more “centrist” approach to governing in Washington, D.C.
However, the continued popularity among Trump and his base and the upward trend of the Sanders and Warren campaigns indicate that Americans don’t mind their politics being so divisive. According to a recent academic study, that’s to be anticipated. After studying 70 years of post-election surveys from Britain, America and France, a recent paper by esteemed French political economist Thomas Piketty indicates that centrist politicians don’t win elections.
Globalization and education have created new “dimensions of inequality and conflict.” Accordingly, his research indicates that the class chasms that existed previously have radically changed. Both Sanders and Warren represent this change by stressing that the rich and poor do not share the same interests.
Piketty refers to this current political environment as a “bifurcated” voting situation. Wherein candidates will lean either “far-right” or “far-left” and it’s there that the voters and candidates will connect. Those candidates that live in the middle, the “centrists”, ultimately end up being overlooked or ignored.
If Joe Biden’s downward trend continues it will leave the Democratic leadership in a precarious position. As Donald Trump has proven, and Sanders and Warren are continuing to show, the public isn’t looking for a candidate that rests in the middle. As all of these things appear to indicate, placing the full gravitas of Democratic support behind a “centrist” such as Joe Biden may be the same as handing the election to Donald Trump.
The leadership may be looking beyond Biden to a second-tier candidate, but as Piketty’s theory proves, and polls indicate, none of those second-tier Democratic “centrists” are resonating with voters.
Considering the rapidly moving impeachment process centered around accusations of Joe Biden in the Ukraine, his adherence to “old-school” methods and decreasing ability to raise money for his campaign and the fact that Americans want the kind of tribalization that Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Donald Trump can offer, the Democrat’s are in quite the pickle.
However reluctantly, the Democratic party leadership may have to concede that the train has left the station and may be required to throw their support behind a candidate other than Joe Biden. After Bernie Sanders’s heart attack, the Democrats may reluctantly find themselves in agreement with conservative news aggregator Matt Drudge.
Drudge pointed out in September, “It’s Elizabeth Warren’s nomination to lose.”