Joe Biden’s identity politics won’t beat Trump, or Bernie

 Former US Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the First State Democratic Dinner in Dover, Delaware, on March 16, 2019. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Former US vice president Joe Biden kicked off his 2020 presidential bid with an attack on President Donald Trump’s response to Charlottesville, but identity politics won’t be enough to defeat the Republican in the White House

Having weathered allegations of inappropriate behavior,  Joe Biden enters the 2020 presidential election race as the Democratic Party’s front runner.

The 76-year-old tops almost all polls with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders not far behind in second and collectively they are well clear of the crowded 18-member chasing pack.

Monmouth University poll. Image: YouTube
Monmouth University poll. Image: YouTube

Having spent 36 years in the Senate and eight as vice president, Biden’s instant name recognition has given him a distinct advantage over much of the field and it will be a renaissance of his time in the Obama administration which Democrats hope the 76-year-old can recapture.

Biden 2020 – identity politics and emotion over policy

Biden’s campaign launch video on Thursday was devoid of any policies but a strong indication of how he will strategize his general election campaign – identity politics.

Biden is blatantly trying to tap into Trump’s response to the events of Charlottesville on August 12, 2017, and the demonstrably false mischaracterization of Trump as a Neo-Nazi sympathize.

That day a car was despicably driven into a crowd of people protesting the “Unite the Right” rally, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 28.

Charlottesville was an aberration from contemporary America, racial violence is not a pervasive problem here.

Trump condemned that tragic incident but his words were completely taken out of context and Biden is clearly looking to attribute the murderous actions of a lone nut as a symptom of a Trump presidency – a shameful attempt to increase the minority vote.

An Image from Joe Biden's 2020 election campaign video. The video takes aim at Donald Trump and his reaction to the to the events of Charlottesville in August 12, 2017. Image: YouTube
An Image from Joe Biden’s 2020 election campaign video. The video takes aim at Donald Trump and his reaction to the events of Charlottesville on August 12, 2017. Image: YouTube

In election 2016 the black voter turnout rate declined for the first time in 20 years, falling to 59.6 percent after reaching a record high of 66.6 percent in 2012 – hence Biden positioning himself as a self-proclaimed “Obama-Biden Democrat man.”

But while Obama promised “hope” and “change”, Biden is stoking “fear” and “rage.”

Incendiary identity politics will not beat Trump in the general election, that card was played in 2016 – yet Trump sits in the Oval Office today.

Further, Trump surpassed Mitt Romney’s 2012 percentage among Latino voters and a McLaughlin & Associates poll revealed  Hispanic approval for Trump in March jumped to 50 percent which matched a January Marist/NPR/PBS survey.

Barack Obama (D-IL) supporters celebrate as his win of the presidential election is announced November 4, 2008 in Birmingham, Alabama. Birmingham. Image: Getty
Barack Obama (D-IL) supporters celebrate as his win of the presidential election is announced November 4, 2008 in Birmingham, Alabama. Birmingham. Image: Getty

By all significant barometers, minorities are doing better under President Trump than under Obama and Biden. African-American, Hispanic-American, and Asian-American unemployment have all reached their lowest levels ever recorded.

Trump has also led with prison reform including overturning the “three strikes rule,” introduced under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act 1994 when Biden was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. It has long been blamed for the sharp increase in black incarceration numbers and the US prison population as a whole.

Bernie and the Left

Instead of taking aim at Trump, Biden needs to focus on securing the Democratic nomination as he faces a very real threat from Bernie Sanders.

Sanders and his loyal supporters are still seething over the DNC wilfully enabling Hillary Clinton to the nomination in 2016.

Joe Biden needs to focus on Bernie Sanders before taking aim at Donald Trump. Image: Getty
Joe Biden needs to focus on Bernie Sanders before taking aim at Donald Trump. Image: Getty

One consolation from that campaign is that Sanders began this cycle with a leftover war chest of $10 million and has bulked that figure up to $26.6 million. Biden entered the race with $0 according to the New York Times yet unlike Sanders, Biden does not have a tangible small donor base.

Sanders dogged performance in a recent Fox News town hall last week was full of the same energy and gusto as before and his democratic socialist policies continue to resonate with millennials.

Biden needs to steer the debate away from some of the radical proposals that members have floated in the past two years – an almost endless list of giveaways – and steer the party toward the center-left.

From universal healthcare to free college and university to free money for those “unwilling to work” under the Green New Deal (backed by 13 candidates), Biden needs to give the party a dose of reality without scaring them into Sanders open arms.

US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, speaks during a press conference to announce Green New Deal. Image: Getty
US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, speaks during a press conference to announce Green New Deal. Image: Getty

Even reparations for slavery is at least tentatively supported by more than half the 2020 Democratic field.

Elizabeth Warren wants to clear student loan debt for 95 percent of indebted students – forgiving $50,000 in student debt for households that make under $100,000 a year at a cost of $640 billion to the taxpayer and while Biden will call for a more progressive taxation system, Warren has called for an annual wealth tax of 2 percent on households with more than $50 million in wealth.

If Sanders secures the nomination it will hand the presidency to Donald Trump as America simply will not elect a socialist.

Biden needs to go back to fighting Republicans on more traditional issues like health insurance, gun control, immigration reform, and climate change.

To win the nomination, Biden must embrace a wise “Uncle Joe,” only then can he take a swing at Trump.

This article first appeared in IrishCentral.com on April 26, 2019. To view the original version, click here.