Over last two weeks, we have witnessed a tectonic shift in the fortune of candidates vying for the Democratic nomination and the opportunity to defeat Donald Trump in the November 2020 presidential election. After Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) suspended her campaign following a disastrous third place finish in her home state, the field was reduced to just two formidable candidates: Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and former Vice President, Joe Biden.
In rapid succession, candidates dropped out of the running. Mayor Pete Buttigieg ended his campaign on Sunday, March 1st. A day later, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) dropped out. Michael Bloomberg followed, announcing his retirement on Wednesday, March 4th. (Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Andrew Yang left the contest earlier on.)
Ms. Warren has yet to formally endorse a candidate; she will probably do so in the near term. Neither has Andrew Yang, who might be unwilling to do so unless that candidate supports universal basic income, a cornerstone of his economic plan. But Senators Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Michael Bloomberg and a few other fringe candidates have all thrown their weight behind Mr. Biden. These former democratic nominees put ego aside for the sake of the Democratic party and united to support the former VP. They believe in the rapidly emerging political reality: Mr. Biden, a centrist, has the best chance of defeating Donald Trump in a general election.
We agree, as do the betting markets. Punters currently make Joe Biden a 1 to 7 favorite to secure the Democratic nomination. Senator Sanders is currently a 7 to 1 underdog. Hillary Clinton, who has not even announced her candidacy, is currently trading at 16 to 1. With respect to the general election, currently bookies make Trump a 2 to 3 outright favorite, no matter who he ultimately ends up running against. That said, as of now, in a hypothetical head to head competition, oddsmakers see Trump easily trouncing Bernie Sanders while Joe Biden would prove to be a more formidable adversary.
There is now a clear distinction between the leader of the 'progressive' wing of the party - represented by Bernie Sanders, and the moderate wing of the party, embodied by Joe Biden.
We reject Bernie Sanders. His ideas are outlandish and he is not a proponent of capitalism. However, capitalism - when subject to reasonable rules and regulations - is the system that has made the U.S. both an economic and military powerhouse. It is the system which, through competition, innovation and creative destruction, expands the economic pie. Let us be clear, the current state of capitalism in America certainly has its flaws – oligopolies in the technology sector that stifle competition are a glaring example of one – but they can (and should) be remedied. Socialism, especially the kind Senator Sanders espouses, is a flawed system unto itself.
Bernie Sanders will not be the Democratic Nominee. This is a good thing for the nation, because his ideas are nonstarters, and a good thing for the Democratic party, because he is all but unelectable.
Before most of the competition coalesced around Joe Biden, Senator Sanders took advantage of the sheer number of moderate Dems vying for the nomination. Indeed, votes that would have gone mostly to one moderate, were split (unevenly) among many. And much like Donald Trump who enjoys the unrelenting support of a dedicated base, Bernie Sanders’ core of dedicated supporters (Sandernistas) that will never abandon him were enough to keep him ahead in the polls. But, the size of that base – limited by Sanders’ socialist views - is materially smaller vs Trump’s.
The Economist posited that "It is not obvious why such voters, sick of Mr Trump’s antics, would warm to a Democrat offering a different set of implausible promises.” This view was echoed by Said Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) who is on record saying “If we try to out-crazy the policy announcements of a troubled president, we will do nothing to restore confidence.”
A Democratic strategist and trusted source summed it this way: “Former VP Joe Biden represents a more traditional, centrist democratic platform. He believes in capitalism, but capitalism with a conscience, and a heart. And he wears that heart on his sleeve…He (Biden) is different than the incumbent President in many ways - almost every way - but his decency, and the President's in-decency - may be the clearest and most compelling difference between them….There is no guarantee that the plans and proposals he (Biden) has endorsed, or may develop, will solve most or even many of the challenges the country faces. But his policies - on health, education, jobs and justice - arguably represent an earnest effort to turn the power and focus of the political process on a least some of the more glaring problems. He has proposed what may be plausible directions in responses to certain selected problems.”
Joe Biden will most likely be the Democratic Nominee for President. He will certainly make a more formidable opponent for President Trump than Bernie Sanders would have. That said, at TQC we believe that Democratic party big wigs should have identified and encouraged fellow moderates to support a more viable centrist candidate, without the laundry list of gaffes and inopportune statements that belong to Mr. Biden.
We are in a hypersensitive, politically correct environment. Many people in this country are treading cautiously on a myriad of issues. It is now even fair game to cherry pick statements that were considered benign or innocuous when they were made – perhaps decades ago - and apply them to today’s context, where they might very well be considered offensive. And then make a seriously flawed argument that the subject who made those comments is bigoted, or a misogynist, or something else that leaves a lot to be desired.
Michael Bloomberg was a candidate some pundits argued could defeat Donald Trump in the general election. His campaign was derailed after audio surfaced of him making insensitive comments pertaining to his controversial “stop and frisk” policing policy he once advocated, and then apologized for, years later. Said Bloomberg: “Ninety-five percent of your murders — murderers and murder victims — fit one M.O. You can just take the description, Xerox it and pass it out to all the cops…They are male minorities, 16 to 25. That’s true in New York. That’s true in virtually every city…You want to spend the money on a lot of cops in the streets. Put those cops where the crime is, which means in minority neighborhoods…”
Michael Bloomberg is correct that the majority of crimes do in fact take place in many predominantly minority neighborhoods. However, his apparent lack of empathy and sensitivity on the topic left something to be desired. Stop and Frisk was clearly a controversial policy and merits further discussion. In short, crime was reduced, but a disproportionate number of African American and other minorities had to suffer the indignity of being “stopped and frisked” when they did nothing wrong.
In 1973, a 30-year-old Joe Biden was engaging in a Q&A session at the City Club of Cleveland (OH). He had this to say about Fritz Hollings, a senator from South Carolina who was an opponent of racial integration. (Hollings) is a "very, very, I think, moral guy who at least takes a moderate position" (on civil rights issues). Does this not sound eerily similar to Donald Trump talking about the Neo Nazi rally in Charleston, VA when he opined that “you had some very fine people on both sides?”
Biden went on to argue that "I think the two-party system, although my Democratic colleagues won't like me saying this, I think the two-party system is good for the South and good for the Negro and good for the black in the South."
In 2007, Joe Biden told a reporter for the New York Observer that Barack Obama was "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy." A few years later, Biden communicated to a predominantly black crowd in Virginia that Mitt Romney's plan to de-regulate part of the financial industry would "put y'all back in chains."
Low Hanging Fruit
Joe Biden made some of these statements over 40 years ago. But Donald Trump & Co will be sure to feast on these and many other Bidenisms leading up to the vote in November. Undeniably, Trump's political strategists will do all they can to make voters aware of Biden’s numerous blunders and tendency to make politically incorrect statements.
Another piece of low hanging fruit Trump & Co will pick stems from Biden's son, Hunter. Hunter Biden is a man with a checkered personal history. He had an affair with his deceased brother's widow, abused crack cocaine, and impregnated a stripper who is now seeking to hold him in contempt of court. Hunter Biden was also paid $83,000 per month by a Ukrainian gas company called Bursima while his father conducted U.S. foreign policy in Ukraine. Hunter served on the board of directors even though he had zero requisite experience. Senate Republicans will soon be launching a new phase of their investigation targeting Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Donald Trump will make the aforementioned a cornerstone of his campaign against the former Vice President. Why wouldn't he? Trump & Co will pull every lever to distract voters from Mr. Trump's own long history of factually incorrect statements, and worse. Unfortunately for the Democratic party, Joe Biden is an easy target to pick off.