In the wake of the Bill Clinton impeachment, the perceived hypocrisy of the Republican Party led to the resignation of Speaker Newt Gingrich and his heir-apparent Bob Livingston because of their own extra-marital affairs. They had to settle on a pedophile. Back then I joked that the president got a blow job in the oval office and the whole Republican leadership had to resign.
Now, it appears that Democrats impeached the president for unduly influencing foreign leaders to meddle in our elections and the entire Democratic presidential primary is now in disarray. Again, the specter of hypocrisy may be the undoing of Joe Biden. Until the Iowa caucuses, he seemed a fairly solid frontrunner. Now, articles abound about his collapse and we haven’t even had a primary yet. What’s more, Bernie Sanders seems to be the chief beneficiary of the shift.
Sitting at a bar on Saturday night, I ran into two friends. Both are Democratic-leaning middle class white guys who live in the real world instead of political social media. They started grousing about the impeachment hearing. One said, “The biggest thing we learned is how sleazy Hunter Biden is.” The other quickly agreed, and said that Joe Biden should have recused himself for dealing with the Ukraine.
While people like me were listening to the damning evidence against the president and hearing Adam Schiff’s powerful arguments, people like my friends were just catching bits and pieces. That Trump is corrupt is not news to them. That Biden appeared to be engaged in similar behavior is. Among people who weren’t paying that much attention, Trump and the Republicans successfully muddied the water and did exactly the type of damage to Biden that Trump intended to do when he asked the Ukrainians to investigate the former vice-president.
Back when the Ukrainian scandal first broke, I wrote that Biden might be collateral damage. I didn’t really anticipate Trump coming out of the scandal even more powerful and I completely underestimated the subservience of the Senate Republicans to Trump. However, the relationships of people like Hunter Biden gave us Trump in the first place. While Democrats talk about various forms of inequality, a lot of voters pay more attention to the unfair advantage people in power have over those who work hard, play by the rules and still can’t get ahead.
It’s why Hillary Clinton lost in 2016. People didn’t trust her because they believed she and her friends benefitted unfairly from their connections and, now, people like my friends in the bar don’t trust Joe Biden, either. In the fall, they’ll probably vote for any Democrat over Donald Trump, but in the primary, they’ll look for someone who is not entangled in Washington intrigue and corruption. I suspect they aren’t alone.
Reports of Biden’s death may be premature. He’s still got time to recover. If he does, his resilience will prove that he should be the Democratic nominee. If he doesn’t, there’s a mad dash among centrists and moderates to figure out who will replace him as frontrunner. Like Trump in 2016, Bernie Sanders stands to benefit as the most anti-establishment politician in the field because of his relatively small but incredibly loyal base.