Five Minutes

Joe Biden’s front-runner status has earned him some much-needed attention, but I worry all that attention might wind up hurting his campaign. As I am now being compelled to think more deeply about Joe’s candidacy, I begin to wonder what Joe thinks about regarding healthcare, education, poverty, or foreign policy. If you were to ask me what Bernie Sanders believes in, I could probably give you a few bullet points detailing his key policy positions. But if you were to ask me about Biden, I’m afraid I’d leave you hanging. Yes, he was a senator for a long time. Yes, he was Obama’s VP. But what has he really accomplished for the American people? What is his signature policy proposal? The man is a mystery. I have watched every debate this campaign season and I still can’t tell where Joe Biden stands on the issues. Maybe the media is to blame for failing (perhaps intentionally) to scrutinize Joe’s candidacy, but that’s a different matter.

Those of you familiar with what I write know that I support Bernie Sanders. He may not have been an ideal candidate twenty years ago, but he is exactly who we need in the White House in 2020. The race for the democratic nomination is an uphill battle, however, and there is a chance Sanders may not pull through. As of right now the party seems to be betting it all on Joe, a candidate whose campaign was crumbling less than a week ago. So, I decided to learn more about Joe to see if he has what it takes to defeat Trump.

Campaigning for the highest office in the land exposes you to all kinds of nasty attacks, so whoever wins the democratic nomination will be wise to ready up for an ongoing stream of negative ads and media scrutiny. I needed to know if Joe, the front-runner, could overcome such pressures, so I went online to look for answers, and oh boy we are in trouble.

It only took me five minutes to understand how weak a candidate Joe Biden really is. Five minutes online and this is what I found:

  • Biden was accused of plagiarism during his first year at Syracuse University School of Law, and later claimed that he was not aware of proper citation rules.
  • Biden also claimed to have graduated “top half” of his class when in reality he was closer to the bottom of the bottom half.
  • While running for president in 1987, Biden duplicated parts of a speech by British politician Neil Kinnock. The speech was meant to be a heartfelt account of Biden’s upbringing, but how heartfelt could it be when he didn’t even bother to come up with his own words.
  • Biden once talked about being an active participant during the Civil Rights marches of the 1960s, even though his advisers were aware of this falsehood and warned him against making false claims.
  • More recently Biden claimed to have been arrested while trying to get to see Nelson Mandela during a 1990 visit to South Africa. He later admitted that arrest never took place.

This is what I found by literally spending five minutes online getting to know Joe. Imagine what Donald Trump’s political machine and media allies could dig up if only they tried. At a time when voters crave for authenticity above all else, running a candidate who has a long history of struggling with the truth is an incredibly risky move.

Donald Trump lies all of the time, but somehow comes across as genuine and authentic. That is his gift. That is why he continues to dominate the political landscape. Joe Biden doesn’t have that gift. He can’t play the media the way Trump does, and the Democratic Party must acknowledge this.

We cannot wait for Trump to take down Joe Biden. It is up to Sanders to expose Biden for what he really is. Now, I know how Sanders feels about negative ads, and I admire him for that. But negative ads work, and if we are going to win this thing, we are going to need to play by the same rules everyone else is playing. Let’s worry about changing the rules when Sanders is president.

Let Us Not Repeat Past Mistakes

The 2016 general election made something abundantly clear: business as usual in the world of politics is now a thing of the past. It’s only been three years since Donald J. Trump was inaugurated, but people in the media and democratic establishment seem to have completely forgotten what made Trump the 45th president of the United States.

A sizable chunk of the general public feels that Washington is not on their side. To them, politics is no longer a tool meant to address the challenges they face in everyday life. They feel disenchanted, and they are ready to vote for whomever they view as a catalyst for change. In 2016 Trump represented that change. Now, I would agree that the current president has done nothing tangible to “drain the swamp”. In fact, I would say the swamp is now overflowing. Relatives in key (and paid) government posts, industry leaders overseeing regulatory policy, diplomats staying at the Trump Hotel just a few blocks away from the White House… The list goes on and on. But don’t be fooled. To the disenchanted public all of this means absolutely nothing. Why? Well, ask yourselves this simple question: Who has been telling the public about all the awful things Trump has done as president? The media. And for many Trump voters the media has lost all credibility. As progressives we need to understand this. Under normal, business-as-usual circumstances, Trump would have been ousted long ago, and rightly so. But there is nothing normal about the current political dynamics. To Trump’s base he remains the outsider, the anti-establishment figure who will set everything right. If democrats want to beat Trump in 2020, they are going to need their own anti-establishment figure.

Bernie Sanders is the antithesis of Donald Trump, but he shares one key characteristic with the current president: Sanders can appeal to millions of Americans who no longer believe that politicians are on their side. That kind of appeal was the key to Trump’s victory nearly four years ago, and remains very much relevant today. I am convinced that if the Democratic Party nominates yet another establishment figure to “play it safe”, four more years of Trump await. And to me, that is the most amazing thing. It is incredibly hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that the democratic establishment seems to have forgotten the lessons they should have learned in 2016. Back then the party went out of its way to nominate Hillary Clinton because they believed her to be the safest choice. Today, democrats are on their way to making the same mistake. And for what? Is keeping the party intact more important than removing Trump from office? Has the democratic establishment forgotten every racist, anti-environmentalist, anti-LGBT policy enacted by the current administration? Whatever their motivations, failing to reflect on what happened in 2016 is incredibly reckless and irresponsible.

There is no easy path to the nomination for Sanders. The man is taking on the entire political machine of the Democratic Party, making new enemies along the way. Sanders cannot do this on his own. He needs allies. He needs new voices that will vouch for him on the national stage. He needs visible figures who will validate his message. Every democrat who calls themselves a progressive should get behind Bernie’s campaign, but Bernie stills needs political support from the likes of, say, Elisabeth Warren. Now, I know what you’re thinking, but remember: campaigning for political office is a nasty business. At the end of the day, Bernie is Warren’s closest ideological ally in the Senate and certainly in the democratic race. They are both representative figures of the party’s progressive wing and share many of the same policy goals.

In a matter of days (maybe today) Warren will end her campaign and be asked to make her position clear, just like her former primary opponents have done. I’m hoping she will stand by her principles and endorse Bernie Sanders, a move that would honor her. Anything other than an endorsement of Bernie would, once again, call Warren’s commitment to a progressive agenda into serious question.

Sanders needs Warren’s endorsement to give his campaign a much-needed boost after a disappointing Super Tuesday performance, but he will need other prominent democratic leaders to come to his aid if he is to secure the nomination. But the question remains: are democrats ready to accept the lessons 2016 taught us?