I guess Joe Biden is running for president.
Biden made news this week for saying, again, that he was going to beat Donald Trump’s ass, but he’s also been making what sure look like 2020-style moves. On Thursday, Biden’s unveiled the members of an advisory board at the University of Delaware’s Biden Institute, which was stacked with former Obama administration officials (and former McCain campaign manager and UD grad Steve Schmidt). He also published what looks suspiciously like part of a campaign platform.
This is not very surprising. Biden has said he has some regret about not running in 2016, and a lot of people—including in the Republican Party—think that Biden would have beaten Trump if he had run. In early 2020 polls, Biden has a slight advantage over other prospective Democratic candidates, like Bernie Sanders. In hypothetical polls against Trump, Biden (like both Sanders and non-candidates like Oprah) has a huge advantage. He’s also been keeping his face fresh in the minds of Democratic voters, campaigning for special election candidates Doug Jones and Conor Lamb in recent months.
I’m from Delaware. I went to the same now-closed Catholic elementary school as Biden until I was in third grade, and we graduated from the same college. Everyone in Delaware loves Joe Biden; he will win it by 800 points if he runs for president. My mom, who voted for Bernie Sanders, asked me to buy her his book for Christmas. I did, because I’m a good son, and a coward.
So please trust me when I tell you that Joe Biden sucks.
Biden’s appeal has been fairly obvious. First, he’s a human being who has emotions and a compelling story, which is a huge advantage over the human bowls of oatmeal who tend to worm their way into politics. Second, he was second-in-command to an extremely popular ex-president, who just keeps getting more popular. Third is the memes.
But if you hated the Hillary 2016 campaign, you’re going to really hate the Biden 2020 campaign. Biden is a fairly typical Third Way Democrat who has sold large swaths of the Democratic base out on issues like criminal justice and student loans and banks and the Iraq War. It’s been like this from the very beginning: Just two years after his election as an anti-segregationist liberal in the 1970s, Biden began voting with the anti-busers in Congress in order to satisfy parts of his white suburbanite base in Delaware.
And as HuffPost’s Amanda Terkel has argued, nominating Joe Biden as the answer to Trump would be a horrible idea in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Biden, as the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991, brushed off Anita Hill’s claims of sexual harassment against Clarence Thomas, which ultimately paved the way for his confirmation. Biden has since offered dubious apologies to Hill, though he hasn’t taken the time to contact her personally. (He has also had his own trouble with creepiness towards women; as Terkel noted, Biden sent former Sen. Barbara Boxer a dozen red roses after she won her first Senate primary, along with a note that said, “Welcome to the Senate Judiciary Committee.)
What’s more is that Biden doesn’t to want to change, as the Clintonite flavor of his new advisory board and policy platform shows. He’s been unapologetic about his role in the 1994 crime bill, which directly impacted the expansion of the carceral state. And Biden (whose nickname in the Senate was the “Senator from MBNA”) has been an anti-populist throughout his entire career, and isn’t even attempting to play the part in the way other moderates like Andrew Cuomo have. (“Guys, the wealthy are as patriotic as the poor,” Biden said during a rally for Jones last year, a statement which manages to say both everything and absolutely nothing at all at the same time.)
Is Biden preferable to Trump? Yes. But we have to demand more from our politics than just a departure from the current president; we need a new way of doing things, one which aims to prevent both another, even more dangerous version of Trump, as well as all of the nefarious actions that “respectable” Republicans take when they’re in power. Biden has very much perpetuated the old way for his nearly five-decade career in politics, and his prescriptions won’t improve people’s lives in the tangible ways we need them to if we want to build broad, lasting coalitions that can fundamentally change this country and world for the better.
And if that’s not the ultimate goal of this, then what’s the point?