Consider two N.Y. Times opinion pieces about the ongoing strategic erosion of Joe Biden‘s would-be presidential prospects — Ross Douhat‘s “The Real Joe Biden Decision” (4.2) and especially Michelle Goldberg‘s “The Wrong Time for Joe Biden” (4.1), for which the subhead states that Biden “is not a sexual predator, but he is out of touch.”
They’re a one-two punch that says “it’s all over but the shouting — Biden doesn’t have the balls to run as the moderate, behind-the-curve guy he really is deep down, and if he tries to apologize and suck up to the wokesters he’ll seem like a weak sister to his older, mostly white hinterland and suburban supporters, and so he’s basically between a rock and a hard place.”
Goldberg and Douhat are not wrong. Joe is more or less done.
Because his neck-wattled, decent-older-guy centrism will ignite all kinds of missiles and grenades from the urban forces of “the Great Awokening” (i.e., coined by Vox‘s Matthew Iglesias). And after months and months of this Biden may, Douhat suspects, wind up losing as badly as Jeb Bush did to Donald Trump in the 2016 primaries.
Plus the somewhat squishy, always-looking-to-accommodate Biden probably lacks the courage, in Douhat’s view, to run a no-apologies, straight-talking campaign that politely but firmly talks back to the wokesters and says “hold on, take it easy, you don’t have an exclusive hold on wisdom and truth and divine, heaven-sent strategy.”
Goldberg notes that while Biden is “by most accounts a man of great personal decency, if he runs for president he will have to run away from his own record. To those desperate to unseat Trump, the centrist, establishment Biden might seem like the safest choice, but it would actually be risky to pick a candidate who will need to constantly apologize for himself. Particularly when he doesn’t know how to do that very well.”
Douhat says roughly the same thing. Biden “has a record that’s completely out of step with his party’s activists and ideologists, a highly…familiar personal style that promises further accusations like the ones already leveled by Lucy Flores and Amy Lappos, and a base of support that’s roughly as old as he is.
“The combination makes it easy to imagine Biden running a campaign that ends up feeling like an apology tour, in which he talks endlessly about how much he has learned and grown since the days when he was a tough-on-crime Democrat who opposed school busing and sometimes voted for late-term abortion limits.
“Some of the ideas apparently bandied about by his aides — a one-term pledge! Stacey Abrams as a running mate! — fit with this strategy, in which the goal would be to establish Biden as a temporary bridge to a woker future, a candidate ready to put his moderate past behind him and serve the new liberal consensus.”
Douhat believes that Biden’s only respectable option is to not run an apology campaign — to stand up, grow a pair and advocate sensible, not-too-crazy liberal humanism while advising the wokesters to back off a bit.
Douhat caveat: “But for Biden to run the way I’m suggesting, on his record rather than against it, would exact a possibly extraordinary cost. Just to campaign this way would make Biden hated by many liberals in a way that would make today’s Twitter animosity look mild. To win the nomination this way would produce fury on a scale that far eclipsed the pro-Sanders anger in 2016 and guarantee a strong 2020 showing for Jill Stein’s grifter left (if not a more sincere alternative).
“And to lose the nomination this way — which would remain, obviously, a strong possibility — would ensure that Biden exited the stage of liberal politics not as an elder statesman but as a wrong-side-of-history bad guy.
“Even as a biased outsider to Democratic politics, I can see why Biden would shrink from the strategy, shrink from dividing his party by challenging its new consensus, shrink from being hated by his co-partisans.
“If so, though, I hope he has the wisdom not to run at all.”