Joe Biden Running On Empty

Are Democrats Cool on Biden?

That was the headline on Monday’s New York Times On Politics newsletter from Lisa Lerer. Does the statement — Democrats cool on Joe Biden — require a question mark? At this point in time? After all those debates?

Joe_Biden_kickoff_rally_May_2019

JOE BIDEN, Creative Commons

Biden’s had plenty of exposure. Maybe too much exposure. Voters reacted with friendly warmth but tepid enthusiasm.

It wasn’t so long ago that Bernie Sanders seemed destined to be the Democratic nominee. However, the idea of a Democratic Socialist was said to discomfit the Democratic Party establishment (if such a thing exists). More likely, the Socialist idea simply spooked old-fashioned Democratic voters on Super Tuesday. Suddenly, the momentum shifted from Bernie to Joe.

Now, all attention is turned to the Coronavirus pandemic, which has been hijacked as a reality TV show starring Donald Trump. It’s a reprise of “The Apprentice” series. After stumbling through the first few episodes, Trump warmed to the new story line. Now the show is so popular it’s on every night. And it’s just been extended through the end of April, at least.

(Note: Definitely not making light of the Coronavirus crisis. It is totally real and serious, worldwide. Simply pointing out how it has also become a nightly television spectacle, with eerie similarity to a reality TV show.)

Too soon to speculate whether the TV version of coronavirus might be extended for a second season in the fall. Would it be riveting enough to preempt NFL football and the November General Election? Highly unlikely, don’t you think?

And the Democratic nomination contest?

Some say it’s over, decided.

Sanders says, let’s debate.

Biden says, let’s move on.

Momentum? Full stop. Momentum is becalmed, not a hint of breeze in the sails.

What little we’ve seen of Joe Biden in recent weeks seems to reinforce the memory left over from the debates.

Joe Biden looks like an old man running on empty.

Or maybe that’s just your humble correspondent, psychologically projecting the way I feel. Which is old and empty.

I have not taken a survey, scientific or otherwise. But among the few folks I’ve talked to, “old and running on empty” seems to be a consensus.

Or to put it another way:

Biden doesn’t talk or look like a man who’s up to running against Trump.

Again, maybe it’s just me. I’m not quite 72, and I don’t feel like running. Running anywhere. Period. (But until the sheriff shows up with handcuffs, I continue to walk outdoors. Several times a day. It’s for my health. Not to mention my sanity.)

The incredible disappearing candidate

To my surprise, some folks assume the Democratic Party will somehow make Joe Biden disappear. They think the Democratic Convention will crown a mystery candidate whose name is not Joe Biden. And not Bernie Sanders, either.

Biden and Sanders will vanish, and quietly. This will happen by magic, somehow, before the last day of the Milwaukee convention in July.

An alternate theory is that the convention itself will vanish, postponed due to coronavirus. Or due to lack of interest in Joe Biden.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled reality TV show.

— John

Bernie Sanders Extends Olive Branch to Joe Biden

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Photo by gypsyugal on Pexels.com

Bernie Sanders is losing and he’s done something extraordinary.

Bernie told Joe Biden three days ahead of time exactly what questions he’s going to ask in Sunday’s debate. Open-ended questions, giving Biden plenty of room to frame his answers. But pointed questions on specific subjects. The television audience will be waiting to hear answers.

Kind of simplifies Joe’s debate preparation, doesn’t it? However, Biden and his advisers have some sticky dilemmas to resolve between now and Sunday. If Joe reels off tired platitudes, he’ll sound evasive.

What we have here appears to be a clear divide between the haves and have-nots in America, and between young and old.

Biden needs to answer straight-forward questions with some specificity. Therein lies the dilemma. Does he offer serious compromises on issues like Medicare for all, answers that might give Bernie’s movement reason to cheer? Does he extend specific promises of support to bottom-tier workers struggling to survive? Specific, as in a $15 minimum wage, or forgiveness of college debt?

If Joe offers help to desperate Americans at the bottom, will he offend his establishment supporters? The comfortable and elite, it would appear, could care less about the less fortunate.

If Joe Biden tries too hard to thread the needle, he may not satisfy either side of the Democratic Party.

Joe Biden may or may not have the Democratic nomination almost in the bag. But he’s got a long way to go to put the November General Election in the bag.

Biden’s going to need more than a majority of delegates at a convention. He needs a solid base of support in November.

Bernie Sanders is giving Joe Biden a chance to earn that support.

— John

Joe Biden And Normal People

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That huge sigh of relief you heard, followed by cheering for Joe Biden, that came from the establishment. Whew! We’ve been saved from Bernie Sanders and socialism. That was a close call! Thank goodness the danger has passed. We can get back to business as usual.

Well, good for Joe Biden, I like him. But this Democratic primary is not over until it’s over. The contest has narrowed, and it’s about even. I have some questions.

I’m looking at Andrew Yang’s book, “The War On Normal People.” Remember Normal People? The folks Yang was speaking about, the ones Elizabeth Warren was speaking for? The ones Bernie Sanders is still speaking to?

A blurb at the top front cover of Yang’s book:

“Andrew Yang highlights the urgent need to rewrite America’s social contract.” — Alec Ross

Social contract

Like Andrew Yang, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have been thinking about the social contract, and talking about it.

But I wonder about Joe Biden, with whom the establishment feels so comfortable. What does Joe think about the social contract? Does he think about it at all?

Subtitle at the bottom of Yang’s front cover:

“The Truth About America’s Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future”

Disappearing jobs

We know Andrew Yang proposes a $1,000-a-month payment to every American.

We know Bernie and Elizabeth propose Medicare for all. And taxing the rich. Fighting powerful corporate interests and corruption. And lots of free education, preschool to college.

What exactly is Joe Biden’s concept of universal healthcare? Is it high-deductible private insurance for everyone who wants to buy it? Or low-coverage insurance and high co-pays for everyone lucky enough to have a job with benefits? I guess that would be close to universal. How much would you pay to get tested for coronavirus?

What about taxation? Education? I’m a little fuzzy about the details of what Joe would do for Yang’s Normal People.

Young and left out

Those younger people, so enthusiastic about Bernie Sanders. So far, they’ve failed to vote in record numbers. Just what you’d expect from young voters. Maybe Joe Biden can win without them.

The disillusioned young people, seemingly left out of the American Dream. Living with their parents, working gigs, not careers, weighed down with debt they may never be able to pay off. They can’t buy a house, or maybe even a car.

Those young folks, voters or nonvoters, are they included in the social contract? Does Joe Biden have something to say to them?

Middle-aged and desperate

What about middle-aged voters in fly-over country? More than a few of them are out-sourced, unnecessary, and all too often, desperate. Maybe Joe Biden can win without them.

For desperate middle-aged Americans, their life expectancy is shrinking. They often struggle with unemployment, poverty, divorce, alcoholism, opioids, smoking, and sometimes suicide. Are they included in the social contract? Does Joe Biden have anything to say to them?

Choices to make before we sleep

I’m torn between fear that a Bernie Sanders-Donald Trump election might tear our country asunder. And on the other hand, fear that a Joe Biden-Donald Trump election might take our county completely away from Normal People, and turn it over to the rich and powerful, forever.

I wonder about Bernie Sanders. Why does Bernie comfort the afflicted in our society, and afflict the comfortable? Why are the comfortable, the wealthy and the powerful scared to death of a Bernie Sanders presidency? What are they afraid of, paying higher taxes?

And I wonder about Joe Biden. Why does Joe give such relief and comfort to the already comfortable, the wealthy and the powerful? And what about the young, the poor, the left-out, the sick? Will they receive any comfort or relief in a Joe Biden presidency?

Is Joe Biden on the side of Mike Bloomberg and the billionaires? Or is he on the side of Andrew Yang and Normal People? Would it be possible to be on both sides at the same time?

Far as I know, Andrew Yang has not endorsed either Joe or Bernie. If he would side with one or the other, it might ease my mind. What do you think?

— John Hayden

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, A Two-Man Race

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Photo by Aaron Kittredge on Pexels.com

How quickly things change. A week ago, the Democratic race for president was a logjam, none of the candidates going anywhere. Except Bernie Sanders.

Enter Rep. Jim Clyburn. His endorsement put the wind at Joe Biden’s back. Biden is suddenly the winner in South Carolina. Not just a winner, but the big winner.

Tom Steyer dropped out Saturday evening before all the votes were counted. Before the night was over, some were declaring it a two-man race. Biden and Sanders.

Former mayor Pete Buttigieg, a phenom in Iowa only a few weeks ago, bowed out Sunday.

For Joe Biden, it’s all good news

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JOE BIDEN, Creative Commons

Update, this just in: Monday, Amy Klobuchar is not waiting until Wednesday. She’s out. Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar reported set to endorse Joe Biden at a rally in Texas on Monday evening! A classy move by Pete and Amy the night before Super Tuesday.

Between Biden and Sanders, electability is the critical issue.

Democrats are all about discerning the candidate who can take back the White House.

Tomorrow is Super Tuesday. But many votes have been cast in early voting. So  it’s impossible to know how great a surge Joe Biden might get from South Carolina. And although it may be a two-man race, a third candidate, billionaire Mike Bloomberg, has invested millions in advertising.

Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren, if they run as poorly as expected Tuesday, should drop out on Wednesday. Whether they do or not will make little difference. Mike Bloomberg should drop out on Wednesday too. But who knows what he might be thinking?

People are hoping for some clarity by late Tuesday evening. However, clarity will not be quick or easy. Buckle up for a long and winding road to the nomination.

For a true barometer of who can defeat Donald Trump, look one week ahead, to March 10, when Michigan will be among the states voting.

Michigan is one of the upper Midwest states that hold the key to Democratic hopes in November. If either Biden or Sanders can generate enthusiasm and turn out a decisive majority in Michigan, that might be as good an indicator as you’re going to get on the electability question.

Other important states, Florida, Illinois, Ohio and Arizona, vote March 17. And Georgia follows March 24. Taken together, the five late-March states will provide further insight on electability.

Many Democrats seem to have already conceded Ohio as a red state in November. I think that’s premature. Regardless, Ohio is a big Midwestern state, and the verdict of Democrats there, along with Democrats in Michigan, will be telling. Possibly even decisive.

It seems safe to assume that neither Sanders nor Biden (or Bloomberg, heaven forbid) will hold a decisive lead in delegates at the end of March, and there will be important primaries still to come.

Wisconsin, next-door to Michigan and just as important for a November victory, votes Apr. 7. Wisconsin will have the spotlight all to itself that day. If electability is still an open question, the opinion of Wisconsin voters could be mightily important.

Are we there yet? At the end of April, Pennsylvania, New York, and four other Northeast states vote on Apr. 28. Lots of delegates if the delegate race is close. But maybe as important, Pennsylvania is right up there with Michigan and Wisconsin as critical for a Democratic victory in November.

We’ve got a long road to travel to the Democratic convention in Milwaukee in July. An arduous journey for two old men.

— John Hayden

Jim Clyburn and Tim Kane Endorsements Are Wind in Joe Biden’s Sails Before South Carolina

If it’s true that a person can be known by the friends he keeps, voters will be impressed by the endorsements of Joe Biden’s friends this week.

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REP. JIM CLYBURN OF SOUTH CAROLINA, official congressional portrait

Rep. Jim Clyburn is revered by South Carolina’s African-American electorate, and his timely endorsement of Joe Biden would seem to ensure a Biden victory in the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary Saturday.

Now comes Virginia Sen. Tim Kane’s endorsement on the eve of the primary, providing an additional gust of wind for Biden as he sails into Saturday’s election.

The possibility of Bernie Sanders continuing his winning streak in South Carolina now seems remote. I venture to say it has evaporated.

What if Bernie runs far behind Joe, or if Bernie falls to third place behind Tom Steyer, who has poured part of his fortune into South Carolina advertising? Stop me from speculating further. What seems clear is that no one can predict what will happen a few days from now, when 14 states vote on Super Tuesday.

Cable news pundits have been ranting and fuming for a week, made crazy by the assumption that Bernie Sanders was about to run up an insurmountable lead in Democratic delegates. (MSNBC seems to have given up all pretense of impartiality. Their hair is on fire.)

Sanders still might impress on Super Tuesday. Or Joe Biden might rise again, or Elizabeth Warren. Or even, heaven help us, that billionaire, Mike Bloomberg. (I can’t claim impartiality, by the way. The thought of Bloomberg buying the White House sets my hair on fire.) It bears repeating, no one can predict beyond South Carolina. Let’s wait for the voters, even in South Carolina. Please pass the fire extinguisher.

Some endorsements really do make a difference

Jim Clyburn and Tim Kane are household names in their own states. Clyburn, a civil rights-era icon, is also well-known to African-Americans throughout America. He is the third-ranking leader in the House of Representatives. His endorsement of Joe Biden as a friend — a man he knows and trusts — was moving, to say the least. Clyburn’s heartfelt endorsement will not go unnoticed in South Carolina on Saturday.

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SEN. TIM KANE OF VIRGINIA, George Skidmore photo

Tim Kane is a U.S. senator from Virginia, and before that, Virginia’s governor. It’s because of leaders like Kane that Virginia has changed from a red state, to purple, and now to at least light blue. Tim Kane was Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential running mate in 2016. He’s a politician of national stature, even though not well-known nationally.

I doubt that Kane’s endorsement of Joe Biden will have as strong an impact as Clyburn’s. Nonetheless, Virginia and North Carolina are two of the states that vote on Super Tuesday. (Four days from today.) Kane is well-acquainted with the three U.S. senators still in the presidential chase, as well as with Biden. So I have to respect his opinion as based on knowledge.

Tim Kane’s support for Biden will influence at least a few voters in Virginia, where Biden needs all the help he can get to overcome the advertising bought by Mike Bloomberg’s money. Billionaire Bloomberg thinks he can buy anything, including Congress and the Presidency. Kane’s support will also be noticed in neighboring North Carolina.

Jim Clyburn’s support for Biden might also cross the South Carolina state line, and influence voters in North Carolina on Super Tuesday, and in Georgia, which votes March 24.

California and Texas both have enormous troves of delegates in the Super Tuesday sweepstakes. Sanders has been working hard and spending money in both those states. And Bloomberg is heavily invested. Maybe by late Tuesday night we will begin to know who has the most friends among the vast rank and file of voters.

But even California and Texas together will not be decisive.

— John Hayden

Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Donald Trump

 

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JOE BIDEN, Creative Commons

Who is electable?

That’s the question of the year for Democrats in 2020.

For insight on electability, the 2016 experience is instructive. Donald Trump appealed to a minority coalition of mostly white voters — voters seething with resentment because they felt disrespected and ignored by a prosperous, elitist urban America on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

Donald Trump’s coalition was, and is, somewhat short of a majority. The resentment coalition included:

  • Southern whites
  • Residents of “flyover country”
  • Evangelical Christians

Those three groups do not constitute a majority.

Trump added to his coalition a necessary margin of voters in the upper Midwest. Not quite enough to make a true majority. But Trump’s Midwestern voters were strategically located to swing the Electoral College. That made Trump president in 2016. Can he do it again, or will one of the Democrats be more electable?

Bernie Sanders is gathering a coalition of the oppressed and left-out. That includes:

  • Voters of any age who feel mercilessly exploited by winner-take-all capitalism — the underemployed, underinsured, and over-indebted. Importantly, many younger Americans feel trapped at the bottom. They find hope in Bernie Sanders.
  • African-Americans who have always been — and remain — oppressed and exploited in America.
  • Latinos who feel downright unwelcome in Trump’s America.
  • Liberal white Democrats are supportive of the oppressed coalition.

Voila! It looks like a plausible Bernie Sanders majority.

Joe Biden can hold together the African-American and Latino parts of the oppressed coalition, and probably do even better with liberal white Democrats. But no one believes he can energize the younger generations the way Bernie can.

Elizabeth Warren could arguably hold together that same coalition of the oppressed, minorities, and liberal Democrats. Plus, she might increase participation of oppressed women. But her support among minorities and the young is unproven.

Young voters could destroy the Democratic Party in 2020 if they believe the nomination has been stolen from Bernie.

Unanswered questions

It is reasonable to question the electability of all three — Sanders, Warren and Biden — for different reasons.

Can Sanders or Warren energize and turn out African-Americans and Latinos in sufficient numbers to win?

Can Biden or Warren turn out the younger voters who are fervently committed to Bernie?

But wait. Any of the presidential hopefuls might enhance their electability with the right vice presidential candidate. It’s easy to guess that a popular African-American on the ticket could make all the difference. Cory Booker? Maybe a Latino running mate would have the same effect. Julian Castro? And if the nominee is Bernie or Joe, a woman running mate might change the dynamic.

Et cetera

Amy Klobuchar is the candidate with je ne sais quoi.  Klobuchar is the surprise waiting to happen. I like her because she could win Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. Those states made all the difference in 2016. And don’t  forget that Klobuchar is potentially the first woman president. With the right running mate, a Klobuchar ticket could motivate minority voters. Alas, Klobuchar doesn’t have the numbers and she’s fading from the picture for 2020.

And former Mayor Pete? Wall Street Pete? Electability calls for experience, and Pete doesn’t have it. His support is limited and it’s difficult to imagine him putting together the necessary coalition.

Finally, Mike Bloomberg. Former Republican mayor of New York. He’s wealthier than Donald Trump. And perhaps more arrogant. Is any part of the Democratic coalition really waiting for another wealthy, arrogant New Yorker?

Conclusion

Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren. All plausible. In the end, it’s up to Democratic primary voters to decide..

— John Hayden

U.S. Congress Implodes; President Escapes To Hawaii

What a bizarre spectacle of irresponsible brinkmanship! The ultimate House and Senate votes may have narrowly averted immediate fiscal crisis and tax increases, but they do not restore one iota of confidence in the legislative branch of American government.

President Barack Obama, after failing to exert the leadership the American people hoped for, immediately boarded Air Force One to resume a Hawaiian vacation with his family. What can he be thinking?

To put the cherry on top of the whipped cream,   Continue reading

Joe Biden and Paul Ryan — After the Vice Presidential Debate

Here are my impressions from listening to, but not watching, tonight’s debate.

Congressman Paul Ryan is a well-informed, fact-filled young man, an expert on the Budget of the U.S.  His depth of experience is in the House of Representatives, with special expertise in budgeting. Mr. Ryan feels passionately about economics, debt, and numbers.

Vice President Joe Biden is an older man with a depth of experience in life, and nearly unparalleled experience in American politics and world affairs. Mr. Biden is passionate about people, particularly workers and soldiers.

Joe Biden may have appeared condescending to his younger challenger; Paul Ryan may have appeared to have a bit of a wise-guy attitude toward his more mature adversary. The two men — both Catholics — gave sincere and differing points of view on the abortion question.

Martha Raddatz is an outstanding debate moderator.

Which man, Paul Ryan or Joe Biden, or both, do you believe is prepared, if necessary, to assume the responsibility of commander-in-chief and president.

— John Hayden