All right. Whatever else happens, whatever closes or opens, whoever votes or doesn’t, whether there’s a convention or not, whether there’s a World Series or not, however many of us Americans are still alive come November, Joe Biden is going to be the Democratic nominee.
After he handily swept Arizona, Florida and Illinois on Tuesday, there is no longer any serious question. So it’s worked out just like it was “supposed to.” He was the frontrunner a year ago. Or almost a year. For the record, since I can’t possibly imagine you remember and it’s my job to look up this sort of thing, it was last April 25 when Biden released that video; remember it, how it announced his candidacy and was centered around what happened at Charlottesville? Here, watch it again!:
It’s really good! Remember what a strong debut people thought that was? It seemed to connect this creaky septuagenarian to the current moment, and it made it him versus Trump, leaving the other Democrats along the side of the road.
He shot immediately to the top of the polls and stayed there. Then came the debates. Specifically, two months and two days after the announcement video, that moment when Kamala Harris pasted him over busing.
How many columns were written at that point declaring him dead? Thousands. Not me! I gave him horrible reviews (how could one not?), but I remember thinking that night as I wrote, well, this is the first debate (it was the second night of the first debate, remember all that?). Sit on it for a while.
And now, here he is. It was the outcome that was foreordained for 11 months. But man, did we take a weird and circuitous route to get to that foreordained outcome. Never in history, at least in the history of the primary era, which goes back to the 1960s, has a candidate gone so dramatically from dead as John Cleese’s parrot to crushing the competition in such a way that the only drama now is what time MSNBC and CNN will make the calls. As Michael Palin said, he wasn’t dead; he was just resting.
So here we go. It’s going to be Biden v. Trump. We need to start thinking about it, so let’s do.
Here’s what Democrats and Never Trumpers need to worry about it. The main thing will be the Hunter business. Let’s be sober about this. Biden himself did nothing wrong, except that he should have told Hunter, are you out of your fucking mind?
But Donald Trump has lied serially about it and will keep lying. And they have that “damning” video of Biden bragging about getting Shokin the Prosecutor fired before he flew out of Kyiv. Trump and Rudy Giuliani will make it look like Biden was doing that for self-serving purposes, which he was not. It’s going to take a lot of money and will to make Americans, willing to believe the worst about all politicians, understand that Biden was not acting out of self-interest. Thus Trump and Giuliani, despicably dishonest cynics, will hope to attain victory on American’s cynicism.
At some point, Biden is going to have to give one of those speeches about this. You know, something like Barack Obama’s race speech. And it may or may not fix his problem here. After the last debate, I feel more confident about Biden’s ability to give such a speech, and to hold his own on a stage with Trump, if Trump should happen to agree to a debate.
But the whole GOP-Fox News machine is going to come at him about Hunter and Burisma, and harder and more corruptly than any campaign we’ve ever seen. It’s all going to be lies, but it’s going to be a big thing. If Hunter had never taken that gig, I’d give Biden a 60 percent chance of winning. But he did. And I’m at 45 percent.
So that’s going to be hard. It’s also going to be hard for Biden to unite the Democratic Party. This is partly Bernie Sanders’ job. But it’s Biden’s too. He has started down this path, adopting a version of Sanders’ free college plan and Elizabeth Warren’s bankruptcy plan. There’s more to do along these lines that I’ll discuss in future columns.
But Biden has three things going for him.
One: The Twitterati may hate him, but the Twitterati have lost this primary decisively; regular people like him. A lot of Republican or independent business people, of whom there are many in purple states, will vote for him against Trump. They would not have voted for Sanders.
Two: He is a decent man. This might end up mattering more than politics. A majority of Americans might just decide they want a decent, empathetic human being in the White House.
Three: He is a patriot. Jack Schwartz wrote an insightful column for the Beast just yesterday about why Biden’s brand of patriotism, hokey and corny to some, is probably what a lot of Americans want.
His decency and patriotism screamed out of his victory statement from Wilmington. Before he even got to acknowledging his victory—and graciously nodding toward Sanders and his young voters in a very direct way—he talked of country and the crisis. He was sincere, and it was moving.
Of course, the virus will overlay everything. Here, too, Biden has an argument and secret weapon: His adviser Ron Klain led the successful Ebola fight. Biden got off to a good start last week with that press statement when he looked much more presidential than Trump. He has to find ways to maintain that position. Announcing that he’ll put Klain in charge of his effort as president couldn’t hurt.
I’m probably one among a very large crowd who never thought we’d be pulling with all our might for Joe Biden to be president. But this is where we are. Everyone who is against Trump and Trumpism, for the sake of…everything, should spend the next six months reminding themselves and their friends of his good points. They do exist, and they are in stark contrast to the incumbent.