Hindsight is 20-20, but with respect to the 2016 presidential election, former Vice President Joe Biden seems to have cataracts when assessing what might have been.
Last week, during an appearance at a hedge fund conference in Las Vegas, Biden had this to say about former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton: “I never thought she was a great candidate. I thought I was a great candidate.” Biden did at least note, “Hillary would have been a really good president.”
Biden sounds a lot like former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt).. That is to say: mad, vexed and pissed about not being the Democratic Party’s nominee for president in 2016, and under the unfortunate impression that he would have magically performed better than Clinton. I don’t have many kind things to say about y’all’s president, Saddle Tan Nixon, but for all of Clinton’s flaws as a campaigner and politician overall, not enough is stressed about the realities of the 2016 election.
For one, many continue to ignore the “cultural anxiety” of the white electorate that helped give way to the extremely skilled scammer who managed to seize upon what had been brewing in the political climate for quite some time. These same people also ignore the pivotal role that voter suppression played in the election results. That is not to absolve Clinton of her errors; it’s more to point out that Biden would have ignored these realities as much as Clinton did.
After all, in October Biden said of people at a Donald Trump rally: “They’re all the people I grew up with. They’re their kids. And they’re not racist. They’re not sexist. But we didn’t talk to them.”
Last year he also said: “What are the arguments we’re hearing? ‘Well, we’ve got to be more progressive.’ I’m not saying we should be less progressive. We should be proud of where the hell we are, and not yield an inch. In the meantime, you can’t eat equality. You know?”
So many Democrats and whatever Sanders is continue to gloss over the tidbit that catering to a white working-class faction of the electorate that stopped voting for the Democratic Party in droves eons ago is a fool’s errand. The Democrats’ path to winning presidential elections often lies in the minority vote, yet they say things like, “You can’t eat equality.” Actually, I could buy a lot more chicken if the playing field were level.
And beyond being merely as clueless as the others, Biden is forgetting something: He is Joe Biden.
Look, I like Biden the same way I like an uncle who is funny, charming and sensible and yet prone to say some off-the-wall shit, but I never forget that last bit.
Remember when Biden launched his presidential campaign in 2007 by referring to then-Sen. Barack Obama as the “first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy”? It’s almost as bad as the launch of his presidential campaign in 1998. You know, the one plagued with a controversy centered on plagiarism.
Or the time Biden falsely argued that Delaware was a slave state to explain why he would remain competitive in Southern primaries: “You don’t know my state. My state was a slave state … my state is the eighth-largest black population in the country.”
Or that time he told an Indian-American supporter that “you cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking.”
Some would counter that if 45 could get away with his many gaffes and boasts of sexual assault, then Biden would have been fine. The counterpoint would be that Democrats need minorities to win the White House, so “good luck with bookin that election you speak of” with a candidate who has a penchant for sticking his foot in his mouth.
Speaking of minorities, and specifically “the blacks,” if Clinton struggled with her use of “superpredator” and lobbying for the federal crime bill in the 1990s, imagine what sort of trouble the author of said bill would have faced. As recently as 2016, Biden was defending his support of the 1994 bill.
The same can be said of Anita Hill and Biden’s handling of her testimony during Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 1991 that he sexually harassed her. With the HBO film Confirmation, the issue was reintroduced to the news cycle.
In an interview with Time magazine shortly before the film’s premiere in 2016, Hill was asked of Biden’s handling and said this:
I expected a fair process. If you file a sexual-harassment complaint in an office, what you find in the best instances is a neutral investigative process. That never happened. I did expect that the chair would be fair and gather the testimony from the relevant witnesses, like the three women who were not called in to testify, like the experts on sexual harassment that could have helped inform the committee about how the problem manifests itself.
This is not to say that Biden could not have overcome all of these things, but it is quite the reach for him to describe Clinton as not a great candidate while touting himself as a much more superior one. Of course, Biden is still flirting with the idea of running for president in 2020. At the same conference last week, he said of a run, “I may very well do it.” He added, “At this point, no one in my family or I have made the judgment to run.”
I’d much rather he didn’t. I don’t want to deal with another Clinton-style presidential bid. I could certainly live without another Bernie bid, too. As for Biden, he’s 74, and though he’s certainly fitter and more mentally agile than 45, isn’t it about time the Democratic Party started considering its future?
Are we not bored with the same white male politicians lecturing us about how we need to stop worrying so much about equality and our “identity politics,” and yet we cater to the white working class and the other white voters who all latched onto “Make America great again”? Do we need another politician from the 1990s carrying baggage like helping to fuel mass incarceration and assisting an accused sexual predator’s ascent to the Supreme Court?
Biden can certainly be of good use on the campaign trail, but ideally as an elder statesmen of the party from a popular administration. If he does decide to run, so be it. That said, if he thinks he’s so much better than Clinton as a candidate, it suggests that he hasn’t learned that much over the years about his own limitations. Someone send him to Google and then hand him a mirror.