Opinion

The VP Pick Can’t Solve the Democrats’ Biden Problem, But Here’s What Can

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Posted: May 13, 2020 12:01 AM
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The VP Pick Can’t Solve the Democrats’ Biden Problem, But Here’s What Can

Source: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Tara Reade’s sexual assault allegation against Joe Biden has created a crisis for the Democrats.  But Democrats never let a crisis go to waste, and they might be able to use this crisis to their advantage if they weigh their options right.   

Option One is to stay with Biden, find a female vice-presidential candidate, and try to weather the storm.  Option Two is to find a face-saving way of dropping Biden and finding another candidate without Biden’s multiple problems.

Option One won’t work.

Early this year, the Democrats had severely damaged their credibility with their partisan impeachment effort.  To make things worse for the Democrats, the economy was in a record-setting expansion and President Trump looked unbeatable for having led that expansion.  But when COVID-19 closed the doors of businesses across the nation, it opened a political door for the Democrats.

Following the double-barreled hit of the virus and the economic carnage in its wake, the cold political calculation would normally be that revitalized Democrats should be stepping high, wide, and handsome through that political door as they head into the November election.  As Vladimir Lenin advised his followers during the Russian Revolution, “the worse, the better.”  Misery usually helps the party out of power, and so the simplest plan for the Democrats would be to attack and undermine Trump’s efforts to get people safely back to their jobs and paychecks.

But Biden is heading the Democrat ticket, and he has serious problems.  First, all those pictures of Biden with his hands on women and girls and his nose in their hair are odd enough.  But now Reade’s allegation has put Biden and the Democrats in an even worse spot.   When Republicans have been the target of such allegations, Democrats have claimed that all women should be believed.   Now, unless they treat the allegation against Biden as a disqualification for office, as they do when the accused is Republican, their ostensible concern for women will look grounded in tactical convenience rather than genuine principle.  Any Democrat woman in the No. 2 slot who defends Biden will only reinforce that perception.  

But that’s not the only problem with the Democrats’ current candidate.  Biden clearly has trouble articulating coherent ideas when he goes off teleprompter.   We’re not talking about the kind of gaffe that any candidate can make after endless days of campaigning, as when Barack Obama said he had campaigned in “all 57 states” or when Hillary Clinton insulted half the electorate by describing Trump’s supporters as “a basket of deplorables.”  We are talking about those frequent Biden moments in which he rambles and says things that just don’t make sense.

Those are moments such as telling Democrat voters in the presidential primary that he was a candidate for “the United States Senate” and advising them that, if they didn’t vote for him, they should “vote for the other Biden.”

Or when he tried to draw from the Declaration of Independence and told voters that, “We hold these truths to be self-evident.  All men and women created by – you know, you know, the thing.”

Or this in response to a question about dealing with the pandemic, “We cannot let this, we’ve never allowed any crisis from the Civil War straight through to the pandemic of 17, all the way around, 16, we have never, never let our democracy sakes second fiddle, way they, we can both have a democracy and elections and, at the same time, correct the public health.”

We need not speculate on the cause of Biden’s communication difficulties, but the effect is clear.  One of the most important impressions a candidate must make with voters – even more than being likeable – is that he or she is competent.   The media can cover for Biden with careful editing of his statements and with softball questions.  But eventually he will have to debate President Trump, and even the most biased moderators will not be able to make confused and rambling statements from Biden look like competent leadership. 

Selecting a woman as a running mate cannot dig the Democrats out of the hole they’re in with Biden.  A good vice-presidential candidate can supplement a ticket, and a poor choice can damage a ticket, but no vice-presidential candidate can save a ticket that is circling the drain.  The implicit message would have to be, “Pay no attention to the man at the top of the ticket.  It’s really the No. 2 that you’re voting for.”

Besides, Biden was only a way for the Democrat establishment to stop Bernie Sanders, who was letting the socialist cat out of the messaging bag by saying publicly what Democrats are only supposed to say privately.   In terms of generating excitement, Biden is anti-Trump, but that’s about it.  And that is where Reade’s allegation gives the Democrats a way to get Biden to step down and let them find someone who can energize their left-wing base.

But then there’s always Option Three. If the Democrats can get mail-in voting, any remaining protections against voter fraud will be knocked down.  Then it won’t matter who is on the Democrat ticket or, for that matter, the Republican ticket.  By Election Night the Democrats will know how many votes they need, and by morning they will have found those votes.

If the Democrats stay with Biden, even with all his baggage, they’re likely going for Option Three.