Donald Trump, the traitor-crook-racist in the White House, is already running as if we’re in the thick of the 2020 general election.
Trump’s henchmen have revved up their fundraising machine to give him a head start. And even if the Democrats nominate a reincarnated George Wallace, Trump campaigners will still try to smear the Dems as socialists. So it’s been said, and I agree.
A brilliant thinker like Elizabeth Warren would be copacetic if electability weren’t Criterion #1, but the best anti-Trump defense would be, yes, exactly what some have already called for: a Joe Biden-Kamala Harris ticket.
How might this and other actions unify the Democrats before it’s too late? What follows is in the realm of “could and should” rather than “will.” But an old Biden friend just may be reading this column—I won’t go into the details—and I fervently hope she passes it on to him.
I’d remind them both that the “Never-Biden” movement is alive and well among certain young and progressive Democrats. Even arguments about Trump and global warming—Biden isn’t perfect but is much less of a threat to Planet Earth than the coalhead in the Oval Office—aren’t working. Wounds from the explosive Democratic National Committee memos still fester. That’s what the Russians wanted in leaking the memos via WikiLeaks, and that’s what they got. In matters such as hiring, financial arrangements and strategy, the Clinton’s people controlled or at least unduly influenced the DNC even before the primary results were in.
Countless Sanders boosters now think that the Clintonites, not Trump and the Russians, were the real villains who stole the last presidential election. And they’ve transferred their hostility to Biden, an establishmentarian like Clinton.
I myself voted for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primary and emphatically believe that the DNC stacked the deck against him, as the just-given links shows. But I still cast my ballot for Clinton in the general election. And I’ll do the same for Biden next year, if he’s the Democratic presidential nominee, despite my preference for a more progressive candidate and my worries over a gerontocracy. Polling results could change overnight, but for now, one survey shows Biden would beat Trump 54 percent vs. 41 percent among registered voters—leaving the other Democratic candidates in the dust. I don’t think name recognition explains it all. Pragmatism, please!
Without Biden or an equivalent, if one exists, Democratic prospects may suffer outside liberal bastions like California, New York and Massachusetts. The “socialist” smear, alas, might work in, say, Georgia and even Virginia, where too many rural voters won’t distinguish between Sanders-style Democratic Socialists and the Stalinist or Venezuelan variety. “Biden” is a comforting enough name to banish or at least substantially mitigate such fears.
Here, then, are seven friendly suggestions for the ex-VP—at least right now the most likely Trump-slayer.
Number One: Get Harris as a running mate ASAP, months before the convention, because you two complement each other so well. You’re a white male born one year after Pearl Harbor. She’s a 54-year-old woman of color and a generation younger. Given your history with Barack Obama, you’re more likely to pick up nonwhite votes than most Democratic candidates. But there’s no such thing as too many. In a close election—where you can sway only so many of Trump’s Kool-Aid drinkers—you must increase friendly voter turnout to the max.
Kamala Harris also will help you among younger voters and others who’ve taken such a bad economic shafting, in part because traditional Democrats didn’t push back hard enough against the Republicans’ billionaire-optimized policies in areas such as trade and student loans.
Will Harris go along with being your running mate? For now, I doubt it. But keep chipping away. Just like the Sanders people, she needs to consider the possibility of an even crazier and crueler Trump in his second term; imagine America under a real dictator, not just an aspiring one. Biden and Harris—stronger together! Among your big strengths is your appeal to working people. Harris isn’t so warm and fuzzy but is a street fighter who could help you tear Trump apart.
Number Two: Practice, practice, practice for the debates with Trump in the general election—even some of your friends said recently that you aren’t as quick on the draw as when you were younger. Set aside enough time in your schedule to duel with a Trump surrogate.
Number Three: Don’t overdo, but be more of a showman—you’re running against a reality-TV veteran, after all. Is it true you can do a bunch of push-ups? Then, yes, actually follow up on your challenge for the obese Trump to compete with you in public. Hey, Donald, can’t you beat “Sleepy Joe”? If Trump keeps turning you down, use his video clip or tweet in campaign commercials. Ridicule him—your taunts will ring true. His followers may or may not care. But you’ll energize the people on your side. Please—something visual for the cameras! Worry less about dignity and more about results. You’ve already made it clear in other ways that you’re far more “Presidential” than Trump. While you’re at it, get serious and tell how Trump’s malevolent school lunch agenda threatens the physical fitness of K-12 children.
Number Four: Bring your environmental policies closer to the Green New Deal vision so beloved to progressive Democrats—the same for policies in other areas, such as racial and criminal justice. You needn’t go all the way, but you can keep an open mind in exploring the feasibility of the individual items on the progressives’ agenda. If you don’t compromise more, then too many progressives and other skeptics—including those in crucial states in the Electoral College—will dismiss you as just another “corporatist.”
Guess who in effect helped put Trump over the top in 2015? Nonvoters, simply by not voting. Many just couldn’t understand the difference between the two major parties or otherwise didn’t care about the election. Democrats need to tack left in appropriate ways and take stronger stands to clarify the distinction even if the old GOP is now the wacky Trump Party. The venerable word “Republican,” alas, still carries enough brand appeal to conceal the party’s true nature and the authoritarian mindset of its current leader.
You can be green and otherwise progressive without the “socialist” smear sticking to the extent it would with your Democratic rivals. This is like Nixon and China. He was freer in 1972 to warm up relations because he was familiar to voters as a prominent Cold Warrior. You’re not a Nixon, blessedly; but you are a traditional Democrat with more friends in the business community than someone like Harris or Warren. So you’ll better cope with Trump’s “socialist” bilge.
Number Five: At the same time, while considering more drastic health care reforms in other respects, stick to your guns and avoid calling for the immediate abolition of private insurance. Too many union members and other voters are benefiting from gold-plated insurance plans.
Number Six: Don’t abandon your union friends in other ways. Fight for the right to organize, rolling back efforts in the other direction. Unions are or should be among the biggest poverty-reducers in existence. If more money went to workers through a better distribution of rewards, that would help the S&P in the long run. Employees could better afford new automobiles and washing machines. In a related vein, pick up Elizabeth Warren’s idea of imitating Germany and even having union members sit on the boards of large corporations.
Number Seven: Act like a genuine “Middle-Class Joe.” The millions in book royalties I can understand. What I can’t is allowing your relatives to try to peddle influence using the B word. You yourself may be clean. But the “optics” will still get in the way, as shown by the past Ukrainian activities of your younger son, as reported by the New York Times. Politico also made quite a fuss over the influence-peddling issue. Hire Richard Painter, the former White House ethics lawyer from the George W. days, to scandal-proof your family. Imagine what Trump will do if you aren’t sufficiently proactive.
Image: “Former Vice President of the United States Joe Biden and former Second Lady Jill Biden at the Fourth of July Iowa Cubs game at Principal Park in Des Moines, Iowa,” by Gage Skidmore. Creative Commons licensed.