Former Vice President Joe Biden is basing his candidacy on being the one “electable” candidate who can defeat President Trump in 2020.
But Joe Biden’s history, including the policies he’s supported and his own lack of success as a presidential candidate in the past, suggest he may not be so electable after all.
As a Delaware senator, Biden previously ran for president in both 1988 and 2008, although both of those campaigns flamed out. In September of 1987, before any primary ballots were even cast, Biden withdrew from the Democratic presidential primary after he was caught plagiarizing portions of a speech by British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock, as well as speeches by Hubert Humphrey and Robert F. Kennedy. Biden was also hounded by allegations of plagiarism from his time in law school.
20 years, later, Biden finished 5th In the 2008 Iowa caucuses, earning less than 1% of the vote behind then-Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois), then-Senator John Edwards (D-North Carolina), then-Senator Hillary Clinton (D-New York), and then-New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. He ended his campaign after the Iowa contest, saying “I ain’t going away.”
Biden’s current front-runner status is more likely due to him serving as President Obama’s second-in-command for eight years, as well as a glut of media coverage. As FiveThirtyEight recently reported, Biden has been receiving twice as much cable news coverage as all of the other 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, combined. And before the first of the dozen scheduled Democratic presidential debates, polls are mostly reflective of media coverage — which, as Quartz noted, is heavily skewed toward white men.
The former vice president’s policy positions remain relatively unknown as of this writing. Despite there being more than 500 days before November 3, 2020, Biden recently told a crowd that he doesn’t have the “time” to explain his healthcare policy vision, even though healthcare was the #1 issue that drove voters to the polls in the 2018 midterm election. Medicare for All is consistently popular with the American public in various opinion polls, even among Republicans. Yet as of May 6, 2019, Biden has not yet endorsed the policy, and recently enlisted the help of a health insurance executive opposed to Medicare for All for a campaign fundraiser.
Another policy that consistently polls well with Americans on all sides of the political spectrum is taxation of the wealthy. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-New York) proposal to raise the top marginal tax rate to 70% on incomes over $10 million polled at 59% with Americans in January, and even won the support of 45% of Republicans. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Massachusetts) plan to institute an “ultra-millionaires tax” on net worths exceeding $50 million earned 60% support in a February Politico/Morning Consult poll, including 50% support from Republicans.
However, Biden appears to be running away from policies like these according to recent statements. In a 2018 speech at the Brookings Institution, Biden distanced himself from Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), saying “I don’t think 500 billionaires are the reason we’re in trouble. The folks at the top aren’t bad guys.” His first campaign fundraiser was hosted by the top lobbyist for Comcast and an attorney who specializes in helping corporations bust unions.
In the age of #MeToo, when prominent politicians, movie producers, and corporate leaders are rightly being held accountable for exhibiting sexually predatory behavior, pundits’ insistence that Biden — who has a troubling record of making women uncomfortable with unsolicited touching — is the most “electable” seems more than a little foolhardy.
Democratic voters, and the American public at large, have repeatedly demonstrated their support for policies that would make the healthcare system more equitable. Voters appear to also want more accountability for the super-rich and multinational corporations, and justice for women who have been victimized by predatory men. In that regard, Biden is certainly the least electable candidate, and could very well lose to Donald Trump if he’s nominated.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.