Margaret Thatcher once said that her greatest legacy was Tony Blair; in other words, that in its desperation to depose her, the Labour Party had moved permanently to the right. In America, the Democrats are at risk of handing Trump a similar victory, even if they unseat him. An apocryphal piece of strategic wisdom is becoming common knowledge both in the liberal commentariat and the Democratic Party establishment. It can be summarised, more or less, as ‘anyone but Trump’. The idea is that all the Democrats should be focusing on is defeating Trump, and that at the 2020 election, policy comes second. Making Donald Trump the benchmark by default lowers the quality of candidate that the Democrats field. Ultimately, that might not matter, because if they stick with this strategy, they will almost certainly lose. Hilary Clinton said little about policy, took huge donations from Wall street and big business, and believed that if Trump was given enough rope, he would eventually hang himself. In doing so, she lost to the least popular candidate ever to be elected president. Last week, Joe Biden entered the race, something he has been threatening to do since late antiquity. In a video announcing his decision to seek his party’s nomination, he failed to mention a single policy.
Subsequently, he has informed us that he doesn’t have time to discuss his stance on healthcare. Biden is a forceful campaigner, which makes Trump’s nickname for him, “sleepy Joe Biden” all the stranger. One is forced to wonder whether Trump’s own history of insalubriousness is what stopped him from drawing attention to recent revelations that Biden is, to say the least, extremely hands-on in his interactions with women.
IN A VIDEO ANNOUNCING HIS DECISION TO SEEK HIS PARTY’S NOMINATION, HE FAILED TO MENTION A SINGLE POLICY
It cannot be denied that Joe Biden is currently experiencing a bump in the polls. Undoubtedly, this is why he held off on announcing his campaign. That said, the much-publicised polling that has him 30 points clear at the top of the Democratic field is nonsense. As ever, these polls massively oversample older voters, based on the assumption that young people will not vote. Yet it is entirely possible that Biden could become the Democratic nominee. As already mentioned, he is ferocious in debate and on the campaign trail. One need only re-watch his Vice-Presidential debate with Paul Ryan to be reminded of how he ran rings around a smart, articulate, and visibly younger opponent. This time around, Biden’s primary, (in both senses), opponent is one year his senior. Bernie Sanders, who ran an exceptional if unsuccessful insurgent campaign against Hilary Clinton in 2016, has massively shifted the politics of the Democratic base to the left. Recognising this, almost all the Democratic candidates have come out for some form of single payer health care, a position popularised by Sanders. Although the Democratic establishment don’t realise it, if they really wanted to run the best candidate against Trump, they would align behind Bernie. This might seem counterintuitive; what chance does a self-avowed democratic-socialist have at winning back Middle-America and the Rust-Belt, compared to good old, relatable, I could have a beer with him, Joe Biden?
BIDEN IS WHAT A PRO-LABOUR DEMOCRAT LOOKS LIKE
The answer lies in their voting records. In their policies, to use the dreaded p-word. Trump beat Clinton by campaigning against the trade deals that have denuded the American landscape of its steel mills and factories. He ran against the interventionist wars that have dismembered so many working-class families, in exchange for no tangible change in America. Biden may be spiking in the polls now, but his record on war and trade is calamitous. Donald Trump will be licking his Botox-ed lips at the prospect of running against a candidate who voted for NAFTA, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), and China’s admission to the World Trade Organisation. All were positions that Trump used to cudgel Clinton over the head with in 2016, and win over Rust-Belt voters who had previously backed Obama. Biden’ support for the war in Iraq is the molten cherry on top. Fortunately for the Democrats, Bernie Sanders, who passionately opposed TTP, NAFTA and the Iraq War will also fancy his chances. Inside the Washington bubble, Biden is what a pro-labour Democrat looks like. The Democrats had better hope that it is Sanders who exposes his anti-labour record, and not Trump.
Finally, if – as we are ever reminded – turning out black voters is the key to Democratic success, the Party establishment and affiliated media may want to tone down their accusation that Sanders is an old white man, running an all-white campaign. If the race to become the Democratic nominee remains two horse, African Americans will likely recognize the difference between Sanders, who marched for civil rights with Martin Luther King, and Joe Biden, who opposed the desegregation of buses.