Indeed, he should stop trying to make fetch happen. But I understand why he’s reluctant to do so.
Unable (or unwilling) to appeal to voters outside his 40 percent-plus base (and lacking a strong third-party candidate to siphon some votes), the only tool left in Trump’s toolbox involves dragging down his opponent. (OK, there’s also voter suppression and the Kremlin, but I’m talking about legitimate tools.)
But what do you do when said opponent won’t cooperate with his own vilification?
In 2016, Hillary Clinton was the perfect foil, and Trump won big among people who disliked them both. This time around, Biden is winning with people who don’t like either candidate.
So why is Biden so hard to hate? Like Trump, Biden is an established brand with near 100 percent name recognition. We have lived with Biden for decades, and not just as a reality TV star. If he were going to do something either crazily radical or insanely corrupt, we figure, he would have done it already. They’ve thrown everything but the kitchen sink at him, but it has proven almost impossible to begrime the Biden brand.
Like Trump, Biden also benefits from the soft bigotry of low expectations. Mistakes that might sink another politician are chalked up to “just Joe being Joe.” In short, he’s Teflon.
While we’re talking about double-standards, Biden probably also benefits from being an old white guy. It’s harder for Trump to otherize him. It’s harder for Trump to fearmonger him. While Biden appeals to African-Americans of a certain age (as demonstrated in the primaries), he doesn’t scare Earl and Gertrude down the street.
But it’s not just race or sex. Biden also exudes an authentic working-class vibe. He’s comfortable in his skin. You can’t teach that.
To be sure, there are plenty of white male candidates who could be mercilessly mocked, emasculated, and dominated by Trump (see the 2016 GOP primary). Unlike, say, Jeb Bush, though, Biden doesn’t have to worry about competing with Trump in a universe where only Republican primary voters have a say. But that’s not the only thing that makes Biden a uniquely tough adversary for Trump.
Have you ever noticed how bullies can immediately sniff out which middle-school victims to terrorize? I’m not sure what it is about Biden—it could be a combination of his physical size, the alpha-dog swagger that comes from being at the highest levels of politics for decades, or those dark aviator shades he favors—but he doesn’t look like a guy who can be pushed around.
If Biden can’t be pushed around, he can’t be pushed to the left. As Trump admitted Saturday night in Oklahoma, Biden is also “not radical left.”
“I don’t think he knows what he is anymore,” Trump continued, “but he was never radical left, but he’s controlled by the radical left…”
This was an admission from Trump that could prove costly. One imagines this will make a pretty effective pro-Biden ad, come October—one that could be precisely targeted toward potential Trump-to-Biden vote switchers who might not be down with the cultural revolution that the left seems hell-bent on delivering.
Unable to cast Biden as out of the mainstream, Trump is instead forced to suggest that Biden will be a “puppet” of the left.
Will it work? In politics, if you’re explaining, you’re losing. It strikes me that there are too many degrees of separation for this attack to really resonate. And judging by the applause and visceral bloodlust coming from the Tulsa crowd when he referenced names like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Nancy Pelosi, and Ilhan Omar, juxtaposed with the crickets chirping that references to Biden elicited, Trump has his work cut out for him.
A more exciting and revolutionary Democrat probably wouldn’t be dominating the polls like Biden. For Trump, who thrives on excitement and attention, being boring is akin to an unpardonable sin. For Biden, being boring is, ironically, a superpower.
The suggestion that Biden will be a “puppet” of the left is also contingent on the narrative that says “Sleepy Joe” has lost more than just a step. But this is undermined by the fact that Biden hasn’t seemed especially sleepy, of late, and that Trump is the one who is seemingly unable to walk down a slippery ramp or hold a bottle of water in one hand.
Trumpism, like most populist/nationalist isms, requires a proper villain to scapegoat and mock. Batman needs the Joker, GI-Joe needs COBRA, the Yankees need the Red Sox, and Donald Trump desperately needs another Hillary Clinton. But Joe Biden, for a variety of aforementioned reasons, is immune to Trump’s weapons. And that’s why he has a very good chance of being the next President of the United States, come November.