There’s a narrative among left-leaning pundits and activists that Joe Biden is just Hillary Clinton 2.0. Trump will beat Biden, they say, just like he did Clinton because he’s nothing more than another establishment shill. They’re wrong. I’m not sure Biden is the best Democratic standard bearer this year, but he’s not the same candidate as Hillary Clinton.
The success of Trump was driven as much by an irrational hatred of Clinton as a love of Trump. Ever since Bill Clinton had the audacity to appoint her, a woman and his wife, to oversee his failed attempt at health care reform, right-wingers have been creating conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton. They accused her of everything from having lesbian lovers to killing her former law partner. All the way through her stint as Secretary of State, Republicans looked for some silver bullet to take her out. Clinton conspiracy theories literally became a right-wing cottage industry with countless books and documentaries touting brutal fairy tales.
When the anti-Clinton social media campaigns began flooding Facebook and other platforms in 2016, they fired up the GOP base and reminded more moderate voters of the exhausting, scandal plagued Clinton years. Critics claim Clinton lost because she only ran against Trump but they miss the fact that on the GOP side, Trump ran mainly against Clinton. The 53% of white women who voted for Trump didn’t vote for him because they loved him. They voted against Clinton because they didn’t trust her. The relentless drumbeat of accusations over almost a quarter of a century took a toll and left questions in the minds of less informed voters about Clinton’s honesty and integrity.
Biden has baggage, but not about his character. On the right, conservatives believe Biden has been consistently wrong on foreign affairs. On the left, he’s criticized for his stances on busing, the crime bill that led to mass incarceration of African-Americans, his support for big banks at the expense of consumers and other, more ideological issues. He’s not seen as tainted by corruption and he’s not been the subject of high-profile attacks for 25 years.
Biden is seen as a happy warrior who likes people and wants to be liked. He’s the Democrat who eulogizes Republicans. He’s the everyman who grew up in a blue-collar family in a working class town. He’s the leader who suffered unbearable tragedy and uses his understanding of grief to comfort others who suffer unimaginable loss. That’s how he’s perceived by people who aren’t on twitter or reading much about the people running for president right now.
Whether he’s the right standard bearer for the Democratic Party at this particular moment in history is another argument, but Joe Biden is not Hillary Clinton. Clinton was the victim of a 25 year smear campaign that denied her the presidency. It fired up the GOP base and left other voters questioning her motives and integrity. Joe Biden starts at a much different place.
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 >