The anguish of Joe Biden’s candidacy

Jeff Thomas, Contributor

Wouldn’t it be nice to vote for a candidate and not feel ashamed afterward?

Amid a crisis that has put the dysfunction of our political class on full display, it’s disgraceful that Americans are once again expected to cast a “lesser of two evils” ballot. The situation is especially miserable when considering the strong position Democrats were in just months ago.

For Democratic voters, 2020 was promising. The primary yielded solid candidates to take the nomination. Tensions ran high, but Democrats preached party unity. For a while, this was enough. But it wouldn’t be long until voters watched helplessly as the party tanked its primary.

Days before Super Tuesday the party orchestrated a coup, anointing Joe Biden and blocking Bernie Sanders. Talk of unity went out the window. Dread replaced optimism.

It’s hard to imagine a worse candidate to face Donald Trump than Biden. As loathsome as Trump is, virtually every critique applicable to Trump could also be applied to Biden. Not that intellectual integrity is a virtue of American politics, but how can Democrats credibly attack Trump for misogyny, racism and corruption when Biden’s career includes sexual harassment, co-authoring the crime bill and nepotism? In choosing Biden, Democrats forfeited leverage and political capital.

Today, COVID-19 ravages the country and the party base remains fractured. If Biden is going to succeed, his campaign must reconcile with those who he has alienated.

“This is a key challenge for Biden —  how to energize the Sanders voters,” says Oakland University Political Science Professor John Klemanski. “He won’t be able to make up votes by attracting Republicans … [Biden] needs to energize the Democratic base as Trump has done with Republicans.”

Arguments favoring Biden are logical. For instance, the argument for Democratic leadership. It’s hard to refute the fact Democratic Governors like Gretchen Whitmer have handled COVID-19 better than Republicans like Ron DeSantis. Another argument is the importance of Supreme Court Justices. A second Trump term would lead to Ruth Bader Ginsberg (and perhaps others) being replaced by lifetime conservative appointees, further shifting jurisprudence to the right for generations.

To people regularly engaged in politics — leadership and courts are important. Though it’s hard to say whether these factors will be enough to energize voters. The party desperately needs high turnout for the top of the ballot to supplement critical down ballot races. Will a milquetoast candidate like Biden motivate Americans who sat out the last presidential election to vote?

Polls show Biden leading Trump. But this far from the election, polls are complicated. Given the nature of the electoral college, national polls can be misleading as elections come down to a handful of battleground states. In 2016 Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania pushed Trump over the top despite a three million vote deficit in the popular vote. 

The pandemic has similarly made polls volatile.

While it’s true that Trump may fall on his sword, why not run a candidate that could beat Trump without a once in a century crisis? 

Democrats positioned themselves in a way that success has less to do with Biden and more to do with Trump’s incompetence, which is a shame. People are ready to engage in government, many have stood up for months now protesting the current administration. Enthusiasm exists, but Democrats never seem able to harness it. Despite repeated failures, the party continually rejects new leadership in favor of familiar faces —  corporate insiders.

As the party spirals downward, it continues to take the dignity of the American people with it.