The mysterious appeal of Joe Biden

Why is Joe Biden apparently the last man standing among the Democratic candidates?

He did virtually no campaigning and he wasn’t even able to raise enough money to carry on a major campaign until Super Tuesday.  His public image has always been that of a good-natured bumbler.

Joe Biden

Yet he led in public opinion polls all through the campaign.  Bernie Sanders never quite caught up to him.

More than any politician since the late Robert F. Kennedy, Biden got the votes of both African-Americans and white blue-collar workers—despite never having been a strong supporter of either civil rights or organized labor.

I think most people who voted for him would have a hard time identifying any major achievement of his or any cause that he stood for.

Part of Biden’s appeal is that he appears to be a genuinely nice person.  He was nice to Bernie Sanders, nice to Barack Obama and, in an earlier era, nice to the white supremacist Strom Thurmond.

He is nice to elevator operators and to the Amtrak workers he meets in his shuttles from Washington, D.C., to his home in Delaware and back.  He’s also friendly with the corporate lobbyists, particularly for the credit card industry, which is concentrated in his state.

Everybody likes him.  Unlike with Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump, nobody is passionately loyal to him, but nobody hates him and nobody fears him.

In the 2008 vice-presidential debates, the worst thing that Dick Cheney could find to say against him was that he couldn’t understand why he was running on the same ticket as Barack Obama.

Nobody smoothed his way for him.  He was in the bottom half of his classes at the University of Delaware and Syracuse University Law School.  He had to overcome a stutter.

He has not taken on the attitudes and speech habits of the cultural and financial elite, even though he is defends their interests.  He never went to Harvard or Yale.  I can’t imagine him using the expression “those people.”

He is what white Southerners used to call a “good old boy.”  A good old boy is good-hearted, extroverted and masculine, and able to get along with almost anyone.  He is somebody you can go to if you need a favor.  A good old boy doesn’t rock the boat.  He accepts the world as he finds it and makes his way in it as best he can.

He is everyman.  After 20 years of upheaval and disappointed hopes, he offers the promise of stability, safety and healing.  That’s what Dwight D. Eisenhower offered in 1952; it’s also what Warren G. Harding offered in 1920.

Will this be enough to get him elected?  Maybe not.  Aside from Biden’s lack of cruelty and vindictiveness, there are few bright-line distinctions between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

Biden was elected to the Senate in 1972 at the age of 30, which is the youngest you can be and still be eligible for that office.  When he left the Senate after the 2008 election, he was one of the longest-serving Senators.

Yet he is not remembered for championing any cause, except maybe cutting Social Security in order to balance the budget.  The legislation that he is most remembered for is the 2005 bankruptcy law, which denied bankruptcy protection to millions.

He is a war hawk.  He voted for military intervention in Iraq.  He served in the Obama administration, which launched failed military interventions in Libya and Syria.

He supported the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement and other pro-corporate trade agreements, which have facilitated the loss of American manufacturing jobs.

Bernie Sanders went easy on Biden on these issues.  Donald Trump will not be so gentlemanly.  Let me yield the floor to Peter Van Buren’s We Meant Well blog.

Exhausted, you end up with Joe Biden, running on three things: 1) he’s not Trump; 2) maybe he’ll die in office and his VP will take over early in his term and 3) Joe’s cognitive decline appears slightly less than Trump’s in the race for Mr. Alzheimer 2020 but we’re not sure.  Not exactly “Hope and Change.”

Biden candidacy also means sweeping three years of Democratic messaging under the bed.  The list of subjects Joe won’t be able to talk about is a long one. Russiagate imploded on its own. Impeachment centered Hunter Biden and ain’t nobody on the Democratic side gonna bring that up.

President Bone Spurs?  Biden received five student draft deferments during the Vietnam War, same as Trump. In 1968 when his student status was wrapping up, Biden was medically reclassified as “not available” due to asthma. Yet in his autobiography he described an active youth as a lifeguard and high school football player. He also lied about being on the University of Delaware football team.

Trump’s naughty finances?  After leaving the Obama White House Joe and his wife made more than $15 million, mostly via a sweetheart book deal. Biden and his wife made nearly twice as much in 2017 as they did in the previous 19 years combined.

The University of Pennsylvania gave Joe $775,000 to teach, and then was nice enough to grant him indefinite leave of absence from actually teaching.  Biden charged the Secret Service $2,200 a month rent for a cottage on his property so they could protect him. 

Since leaving office Biden made $2.4 million on speaking engagements, including $10,000 for travel expenses to the University of Buffalo.  A speech at Southwestern Michigan in October 2018 included $50,000 in travel expenses (for the rubes out there, travel expenses are not taxable income.)

Taxes? After failing to close the loophole with Obama, Joe left office to create his own S Corporation, so he receives money for things like book advances and speaking fees not directly, which would cause him to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes as with salaries, but laundered as divestitures from a corporation he owns.  As corporate money, nasty personal taxes are fully avoided, and the corporation can claim nearly unlimited “business expenses” to be deducted against those profits.  Joe’s S Corp also donated his own money back to his PAC. Legal laundering.

Trump’s sexism and racism?  Young people, Google “Anita Hill” now. You’ll be hearing a lot about her come the fall.

Biden represents to many Democrat voters semi-living proof they will never see healthcare reform in their lifetime (Biden’s comeback drove a $48 billion gain for health insurance stock; they know.)

Absent a timely cardiac event, they will not see a woman president for who knows how many years.  Income inequality will remain the salient descriptor of our society.  To win, Biden will have to break the record for oldest man to be sworn in as president (Trump holds the title now.)

Source: We Meant Well

The coronavirus crisis is likely to mutate into a combined medical and economic crisis, and probably will be accompanied by weather- and climate-related disasters.

Right now, a majority of the public thinks President Trump is doing a good job.  Maybe his mishandling of those crises will be so obvious that Biden will be swept into office.

Or maybe Biden’s aura of trustworthiness and normality will be enough.   And, who knows? maybe President Biden will rise to the occasion.

But the more likely outcome would be a tragedy not only for the nation, but for Biden himself.  He has dreamed for decades of being elected President.  He may realize this dream only to go down in history as one who, like James Buchanan prior to the Civil War and Herbert Hoover during the onset of the Great Depression, was faced with a great crisis and was not equal to the occasion.

[Update 5/9/2020]  In view of Tara Reade’s credible charge that Joe Biden assaulted her, I no longer think of Biden as a nice guy.


The Case Against Joe Biden by Walker Bragman for Paste magazine.

‘Middle Class’ Joe Biden has a corruption problem – It makes him a weak candidate by Zephyr Teachout for The Guardian.

Joe Biden Has Advocated Cutting Social Security for 40 Years by Ryan Grim for The Intercept.

How Joe Biden Helped Strip Bankruptcy Protection From Millions Just Before a Recession by Luke Darby for GQ.

Joe Biden championed the Iraq war – Will that come back to haunt him now? by Mark Weisbrot for The Guardian.

How Joe Biden’s privatization plans helped doom Latin America and fuel the migration crisis by Max Blumenthal for The Grayzone.


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8 Responses to “The mysterious appeal of Joe Biden”

  1. Fred (Au Natural) Says:

    We can always hope that age has brought him a different POV. It has changed many of my opinions.

    We’re in crisis. When in crisis, people tend to vote for comfort and security. That’s what Biden represents. There are also a fair number of people who think that the Democrats have swung too far left and no longer have anything to offer the center. Biden fixes that as well.

    Biden could be an unintentional stalking horse. His VP candidate is almost more important than he is. He gets elected, resigns after 2 years and suddenly it could be President Klobuchar. That would be a hell of a gift to the Democratic party. But my experience is that no politician ever resigns when he should.

    Of course, one of the Democrat’s problems is that – despite being the choice of feminist activists – there are still few females within the party who have the stature people want to see in a presidential candidate. Typically American voters want experience at the highest levels in a candidate. Governors, Senators, Vice Presidents, Commanding Generals, and occasionally billionaires. Maybe Mayor of NY. Putting a less experienced person in as VP and then putting them front and center in an administration is a way to get that credibility really fast.

    I’m not seeing signs of Alzheimer’s in Trump, just his usual obstinance and pedestrian speaking style. OTOH, Biden’s natural stutter and known foot-in-mouth disease are easily interpreted that way. It’s a campaign weakness he will have to overcome. If Trump were to fall for some reason, Mike Pence would be very formidable.


  2. howdidthishappen755112381 Says:

    Biden is the nominee of the corrupt DNC, not the voters. The opinion polls are not trustworthy. Separately, the exit polls are routinely “adjusted” before they’re released, yet they still reflected that Bernie Sanders won the primary races. The readily manipulated electronic voting equipment is programmed with “proprietary” code that is excluded from scrutiny by any public-minded entity. Programmable equipment WILL BE PROGRAMMED to suit whoever pays the programmer. The manufacturers of this equipment are right wing moguls.

    The media is laced with CIA. We’re

    Liked by 1 person

  3. whungerford Says:

    “Aside from Biden’s lack of cruelty and vindictiveness, there are few bright-line distinctions between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.” This claim is absurd; I see no justification for it.


    • philebersole Says:

      Similarities between Biden and Trump

      War hawk. Check.
      Oppose Green New Deal. Check.
      Close ties to Wall Street. Check.
      Opposed to Medicare for All. Check.
      Willing to cut Social Security. Check.
      Enriches family at public expense. Check
      Often mistakes movies in head for reality. Check

      What do you see as the bright-line distinctions?


      • whungerford Says:

        It is unfair to smear Biden by labeling him with the same labels as Trump. One could make Gandhi and Marx seem alike with that argument.


      • philebersole Says:

        One thing that both Gandhi and Marx understood is how someone who is a decent human being in their personal relationships can be a supporter of a toxic system that causes misery and war.


    • philebersole Says:

      By bright-line distinctions, I meant differences on policy that are polar opposites, not differences of degree.

      For example, Joe Biden doesn’t deny the reality of human-caused climate change as Donald Trump does, but his ties to the fossil fuel industry explain why he hesitates to take action to mitigate global warming.

      The issues that matter most are (1) ending the wars, (2) nuclear disarmament, (3) economic injustice, (4) attacks on voting rights and (5) climate change.

      I don’t see Biden as a strong challenger to Trump on any of these questions. I do think more highly of Biden than Trump in terms of their personal traits. He wouldn’t be a bully. He wouldn’t be a hatemonger.


  4. thelevinelowdown Says:

    Thank you for this insightful post, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and hearing your thoughts! I have recently published an article on my blog about why I love Joe Biden. If you have time, it would be great if you could check out my post and let me know your thoughts! Thank you and all the best 🙂


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