September 21, 2019

Is Biden Too Nice for This Election?

“Former Vice President Joe Biden will enter the first Democratic presidential debates with 19 rivals taking aim at him — nine on the night he will be onstage, 10 the night he won’t be there to defend himself. He is the clear-cut frontrunner and his party’s two dozen other White House aspirants have no choice but to try to take him down.

So far, the attacks on Biden’s boast that he was able to work with segregationist Democrats of old — an awkward example of civility to offer an increasingly woke party — seem to have fallen flat. In the latest Morning Consult poll, Biden leads by double digits nationally and wins nearly half the African-American vote. Still, the flap speaks to the needle he will have to thread throughout the primary campaign: maintaining his likeability and positivity in a political climate where nice guys finish last.

A big part of Biden’s appeal is that he is a throwback to a time when politics were less mean and divisive. For many Democrats, that time is 2015, when Barack Obama was still in office (with Biden as his trusty veep) and before Donald Trump took his escalator ride to his own presidential announcement. But Biden obviously goes back a lot further than that, and the pace of social change inside today’s Democratic Party is rapid.

Moreover, rank-and-file Democrats are angry. Where Biden likes to talk about his constructive working relationships with Republicans, many Democrats are outraged by Trump. Where Biden once supported a border fence to combat illegal immigration, many Democrats are incensed about the detention centers housing children near the border and the threatened deportation raids. Where Biden until recently supported a ban on most taxpayer funding of abortion, many progressive activists say “shout your abortion.””

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