25 June 2020
Biden his time?
by J.R. Thomas
It’s not going well. If there were a Presidential election that both main candidates could lose, this might turn out to be it.
Joe Biden is busy… busy doing what exactly? Not a lot, seems to be the answer. He attacks the President, which is like shooting fish in a bucket (apologies to fish lovers and indeed bucket lovers, but there is no better analogy). The President opens his mouth and out comes some strangely distorted version of what one might, if one were kind, assumed he meant to say. Joe leaps up, or perhaps not quite leaps, and taunts Mr Trump’s utter failure to sound Presidential or even coherent, criticises his inadequate responses, and the utter failure in these troubled times to show leadership. But it can’t truthfully be said that Mr Biden is doing much better than this; here is a wonderful opportunity to sound Presidential and healing and uniting, and nothing really emerges.
Why should this be? Mr Biden is very well supported by minority ethnic voters and in particular by the black community, who respect him for his role as Veep during President Obama’s presidency. That is all being cemented by Mr Obama’s strong support of Joe now, but Mr Biden just does not seem to be able to build on it. In an era of instant news and virulent social media, of focus groups and voter sensitivity analysis, of endless polling, there is a good reason for this. Candidates tend to get fascinated by the stats and not enough by what they ought to feel in their bones. Mr Biden is aware, acutely, that the Black Lives Matter campaign could start to rebound on those who support it too loudly. Indeed, there are signs that is already happening, with continuing violence and with the increasing politicisation of the BLM organisation – which is very leftish. Not to mention, Joe knows too well, an opponent who will not hesitate to use any opportunity or opening that may occur to fight a vicious campaign.
A nervous candidate, or one who is over advised, might well hesitate, pondering what should happen next. But we have words of advice to Joe Biden in this respect. Speak from your heart. Draw dreams for a better America, of peace and harmony, where bad behaviour is punished, but where opportunities are truly open to all, where the past is past (not forgotten, but learned from) and the future will be golden. JFK and in particular, Robert Kennedy, showed true leadership in bad times by messages of hope beautifully articulated. Do that, Joe; capture the agenda, steal the themes, create the ideas, show love and humility, and make them yours. Never mind the experts and the pollsters and the gloomsters, set off now, galloping, and never let Donald catch you up. You have a golden opportunity just at this time, as you approach the moment when you must choose your running mate. That Vice Presidential pick, a woman, you have committed, is more than usually relevant (especially given the age of Mr Biden; sorry, but let’s be frank) and if you find the right one, it could guarantee you the winning hand in November. There are several good candidates out there, and Senator Amy Klobuchar’s withdrawal makes it easier; surely it must be Kamala Harris, Senator for California.
Senator Harris ran a bad presidential nomination campaign last year, but this year she has recovered her reputation, attacking Mr Trump with some success, especially on his handling of Covid-19, supporting Mr Biden, and striking the right poise on Black Lives Matter. A ticket with her on it would be incredibly well balanced. The rumour is that it will be her. Time to make that announcement, folks.
There is though one other Democrat candidate. For this thought we have to thank John Bolton, briefly Mr Trump’s Secretary of State and now his sworn enemy, and even more dangerously, one with a book to sell. The Democrat candidate, said Mr Bolton, is already in the job. That would be one Donald John Trump. Mr Bolton has joined the ranks of those in the Republican Party who say that the President is no Republican, but in fact a closet Democrat, albeit not a card carrying one (though he used to be). Certainly in overseas matters they have a point – it is hard to see how a Democrat president would have done much different from the Donald, disengaging the USA from foreign fields as quickly as can be. Though that is not that quickly, in truth. It is not easy to cease policing the world with all the hugely expensive and mostly invisible infrastructure that modern surveillance and warfare requires, a military that still likes some action and combat, and indeed a Presidential nature that is inclined to shout and bluster and be emotional. But Mr Trump has certainly pulled back from foreign adventures much more quickly than his recent predecessors in office; no Republican hawk he. In domestic fields also the President has been surprisingly low key on traditional Republican agendas. He did cut taxes, it is true, but even Democrat Presidents have done that now and again. The Wall stays on his little list, but it was on Obama’s list too. He is of federalist rather than centrist inclinations, though often, we concede, when it is of political advantage. There have been no recent bold initiatives, the White House waits for things to happen and then it reacts. Recently, very clumsily.
And there you have the truth of his Presidency; Trump is a pragmatist, not a man of any particular ideology. He is a businessman of liberal leanings and has no particular urge to promote any great cause (other than a second term for himself). “Make that deal” is the President’s core nature.
Trump in his politics is an Eisenhower, not a Reagan. But an Eisenhower who really does not understand the liberal consensus or democratic processes (or if he does, hides it well), and whose basic instincts when trouble comes are not so considered as those of Ike. But that’s what got Donald elected in the first place. Eisenhower was, maybe surprisingly for a soldier of such authority who had exercised great power, a man who understood the ways of American democracy. A man, furthermore, who had served under Roosevelt and Truman and had learned from that experience. Donald has always been the boss; the King, making the deal, hiring and firing. In his mind, he is the Sun King. What he wants, must happen. If it doesn’t, he gets angry. He becomes incoherent, foolish, distracted, making gestures that make little sense to those watching him. He is still the Sun King but late in his reign, when charm and humour has gone, and fury and irritation drives him on.
Which is not to say that he will lose the election. Events may yet go his way. The virus is diminishing, it seems, and he may be able to turn that to his advantage. He can avoid blame for the economic downturn. His attacks on China stir the masses. The fury in the streets could drive the silent electorate, seeking protection and strength, towards him. An opponent that does not impress with either veiled strength or shimmering vision is liable to leave the Trump campaign driving the themes – and that could mean another victory. “Impossible” say the liberal press. It probably is. But they said that last time.