Thursday, April 25, 2019


This is a pretty weird opening pitch from Biden, if you look at it:

Wait we're supposed to vote for him why? Because the stakes are high? There's a missing premise there, which would answer why Joe in particular, what is his skill set that is more appropriate to a high-stakes election than a low-stakes one, and I think I know what it is and why he's not saying it aloud but hoping we'll imagine it:

It's a variant of the inevitability argument Hillary Clinton was always getting accused of making in 2015-16—unfairly, I think; it was really a creation of the hostile press, angry that her nomination really was pretty much inevitable, wrecking the drama they live for, to make it somehow her fault, and so while Clinton herself kept saying, "I want to earn your vote," they construed the inevitability as an artifact of the campaign, something she and Robbie Mook had just made up to spoil their fun. Biden really is saying "I have to run because I'm guaranteed to win," so now he's made up his mind everybody else can just stand down and learn to live with it.

And he doesn't have to take the trouble of explaining why he thinks he'd be a better president than Julián Castro or Amy Klobuchar. He was in the Senate for 40 years and the White House for eight, as Barack Obama's right-hand man! He's the most qualified person ever to run! We really have heard this before.

I'm not very comfortable talking about "electability", but I think this has to be confronted, not least because Biden won't come out and say it, and the press is already in love with him, naturally, and not likely to treat him the way they treated Hillary. The idea that Biden is the only candidate who can beat Trump seems to be based on the fact that he's been dominating the primary polls rather better than the way J.E.B.! did around this time four years ago (Mr. Green in the chart below, who began to sink in mid-July), the only time in history a primary field has ever been this crowded,

and I just have my doubts. In the first place, the dominance of Bernie and Biden isn't so much because they are popular in some intrinsic way as because they're famous—they score far fewer "don't know"s—and that won't last, I hope.

Nor do I believe that Trump is intrinsically hard to beat; he's extremely unpopular, disapproved by a majority of the population for the past two years. He won by a ridiculous fluke (or the microtargeting of some of Trump's overseas helpers) in three states where he is now especially unpopular. I don't see how he can rebuild the fluky circumstances that put him in office with a majority (as I always say) of minus three million votes.

The real thing that's driving the idea of Biden as inevitable is the idea of that lost "white working class"  coalition on which the Democratic party once lived. It never existed, really, as President Humphrey can tell you, and now that we're seeing the public emergence of an actual politically sophisticated working class, with women of color at its heart and an alliance with the young and the overeducated taking shape, it's less and less relevant.

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