Well, it’s official. Biden has (for the moment) survived the onslaught of women who felt victimized by his wandering hands and nose and is hoping the third time is the charm for his presidential aspirations. And the stakes couldn’t be higher for him. Biden isn’t simply putting his legacy on the line, but also the legacy of Barack Obama.
The Democrats’ leftward shift has made their party more extreme compared to what it was in the days of John F. Kennedy, or even Bill Clinton. The Obama years continued that trend, with the Democrats going all in on abortion without restrictions, government-run health care, transgenderism, massive government spending, slavery reparations, felons voting, and a full slate of radical positions as they embrace socialism. That leftward shift has continued since Obama has left office, which poses a big problem for Joe Biden.
Riding on Obama’s coattails is undoubtedly Biden’s biggest advantage in the 2020 field, but it’s also his biggest weakness. Right now he has the name recognition, which certainly is helping him in the polls at this point, but as Barack Obama’s vice-president, Joe Biden becomes the face of the Obama years. In a party racing further and further to the left, his primary opponents will do everything they can to paint the Obama years as insufficient—having not gone far enough for a party that will settle for nothing less than the most radical of positions anymore. Democrats’ past love for Obamacare has been replaced by the movement for “Medicare-For-All.” Democrats’ past support for strong border security (and even a border wall) has been replaced by the desire for open borders. At the moment, it appears Biden’s approach to these issues might not be what the party’s base wants.
According to his campaign website, Biden wants to “defend and build upon the Affordable Care Act.” Will that be enough for the party that now wants to eliminate private health insurance completely? His website also says he wants a “humane immigration policy” and that “putting people in cages and tearing children away from their parents isn’t the answer.” Does anyone really believe that none of his primary opponents want the nomination badly enough to point out it was the Obama-Biden Administration that separated families at the border and put kids in cages?
Be ready, Joe, it’s coming. The bottom line here is that now that Biden is in the race, other 2020 Democrats won’t be able to say they want to return to the “good old days” of the Obama-Biden administration. To do so would only benefit Biden. So, we can expect Biden’s primary opponents to go on offense against the Obama legacy, at least to some degree. This means Biden will either have to defend Obama policies, which by today’s standards aren’t radical enough for the Democratic Party, or he’ll have to break with Obama. This is not a good position for him to be in. Without Obama, Biden has been nothing but expendable to Democrats.
Biden’s long record won’t help him either. The Democratic Party has proven itself to be less concerned with experience, and more concerned with identity politics. Compared to his primary opponents, Barack Obama was the least qualified candidate of his party in 2008, but quickly overcame them all, save for Hillary Clinton, in what became a battle over whether their party wanted to nominate a black candidate or a woman candidate. They may have chosen the former, but it was understood that the woman’s turn would be next. And so Hillary was preemptively anointed as Obama’s successor, leaving Joe Biden behind despite his being a more experienced (and much more likable) candidate.
It’s true that Biden appears strong at this point, but that also makes him the main target of a crowded field of Democrats desperate to win the nomination and be the face of the party’s battle to defeat Trump. They will talk about his inappropriate behavior with women, they will talk about his past opposition to busing and his working with segregationists. They’ll talk about Anita Hill, and his racially insensitive comments from the past. And they’ll tie him to Barack Obama and blast the Obama years if that’s what it takes to take him down.
Democrat primary voters this year appear to be very fickle. Last month, Beto O’Rourke was all the rage but now appears to be fading. More recently, Pete Buttigieg has shown be a force to be reckoned with, but Sanders seems to be more consistently strong. Biden’s first week as an official candidate is likely to be his best. His favorability is already showing a decline, which is exactly what happened to Hillary once she was out of Obama’s shadow and campaigning.
By jumping in the race, Biden is putting his entire legacy on the line. I wouldn’t want my legacy to be Obama’s number two, either, but if there’s anything we learned a few weeks ago when all those women started coming forward it is that things are about to get ugly. If Biden fails in his third attempt to win his party’s nomination, that will be the lasting impression of his political career. He’ll be the man whose party rejected him three times, who started off on top but was thwarted by #MeToo accusations, and a history of not being “woke” enough for an increasingly radical party.