I don’t buy the so-called “electability” argument too many people are making about Joe Biden. He’s not leading because he’s a white man. He’s leading because, right now, he’s the best candidate in the field. His campaign is offering a broad message of hope and taking the fight to Donald Trump while other candidates are running down rabbit holes chasing individual constituencies or making process-based arguments.
In fact, Biden’s race and sex are his greatest liabilities, both in the primary and the general election. At a time when the energy in the Democratic Party is with people of color and young people, he’s an old white guy. His nomination runs the risk of alienating the base and leading to a less than enthusiastic turnout.
However, to counter that, he’s giving Democrats a target to vote against. He’s betting he can overcome his disadvantage by keeping the base focused on Trump and all of his liabilities. It’s a lot easier to get people fired up to vote against something than vote for something. Just look at Trump’s campaign in 2016. It was all about voting against Crooked Hillary. His campaign slogan was as much “Lock her up” as it was MAGA.
Biden understands that the majority of Democrats and independents want a return to stability and respect for the office of the presidency. They are tired of the reality show presidency. Biden offers reassurance, not bold programs. He’s focused on the economic security of working class people of all races and genders and not pandering to specific interest groups within the Democratic coalition.
Right now, he’s the only candidate that’s growing his support. If he continues this momentum, he could lock up the nomination before the primaries even begin in earnest. I hope that doesn’t happen. Instead, I hope that somebody in the field understands what he’s doing and starts to challenge him. A sharply contested primary will make stronger candidates, whether the nominee is Biden or somebody else.
Kamala Harris should be the strongest candidate in the field. She brings diversity to the ticket and has a background as a prosecutor and attorney general. Instead, she sounds like she’s running for President of California, using language that might animate the left flank of the party but doesn’t appeal to the moderates who make up the bulk of the voters. She argues that African-American voters make up a substantial number of voters in the Midwestern states that Democrats need to win. She’s right, but they’ve always been more moderate and less ideological than the activists to whom she’s been addressing.
Harris was brilliant in her questioning of William Barr and Brett Kavanaugh. She should use that to her advantage and continue to demand accountability from the administration and talk more about the economic problems that leave too many people behind. Instead, she’s fighting the pundits over the electability argument. You’re almost never on message when you’re arguing with the chattering class about your campaign instead of talking to the voters about what matters to them.
We have primaries for a reason. One of them is to make potential nominees better candidates. Joe Biden is demanding somebody step up or he’s going to make everybody sit down. Somebody should take his challenge.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >