Alan Zendell, November 14, 2017
Jake Novak of CNBC thinks Joe Biden “is the exact opposite of the kind of candidate voters in both parties proved they want in the 2016 election.” He cites a lot of facts, like the populist appeal of both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, and the clear anti-establishment sentiment that characterized that election. He also talks about the democratic base shifting leftward toward Sanders and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. And then there are Biden’s inglorious attempts to run for president in 1988 and 2008.
Novak may have his facts straight, but I think he might be completely missing the point. Yes, voters at both ends of the political spectrum went for populism in 2016. And the success of the Trump and Sanders campaigns came from convincing people that the establishment of both parties had failed them, much the way Barrack Obama did in winning the nomination in 2008. But there’s an intangible side to politics that no amount of fact gathering can capture.
While one-third of the country loves President Trump, most of it is somewhere between disappointed and horrified at the way candidate Trump’s populism is playing out now that he’s president. His brand of political incorrectness turned out not to be cute and refreshing, but rather a vehicle for hate mongering and divisiveness. And there is little evidence that his promise to be the president for all Americans had any substance. Nastiness and amoral behavior have a cumulative effect over time that leaves voters feeling disillusioned and betrayed, and we see that occurring daily.
It’s possible that Trump is a fad that is quickly running its course. What appeared flashy and bright two years ago has taken on a dingy, unappetizing patina and a sickly odor. And like most fads this one has left many people wondering what they saw in it in the first place.
A lot of people go through life seeking their soulmate, wasting years, decades even, looking for all the wrong things in all the wrong places, ignoring the staid and true because it isn’t sexy enough. If they’re lucky, the people who’ve always been there and cared about them, those friends who could never be anything more than platonic, are still around when they finally see the light. When the fireworks that burned so brightly and made so much noise have been reduced to a smoky haze, we realize how good fresh air smells, has always smelled if we’d only bothered to notice.
That’s Joe Biden, a decent, eloquent, highly competent man who knows more about foreign relations than Trump and his cabinet combined, who sometimes lacks the luster of what seems to be trending (remember the Edsel?) but who looks so damn good when it falls apart. Many of the voters who were swept up in last year’s tide of populism are now beginning to realize what happened. And wise old Joe, with his gentle tones and old-fashioned values looks like that old friend we’d ignored for so long.
I think Novak is wrong. The sharp swing to the left that some Democrats are taking is a knee-jerk reaction to the nastiness of our elitist president. It’s another wave that will dissipate on the rocky shores of disillusionment, and when it does, honest Joe will still be there, hating no one and reaching out to help. He’ll be seventy-seven in 2020 but so will I, so I can’t hold that against him.
When the agents of change and revolution have all fizzled out, as Trump seems to be doing, someone like Joe Biden will be a different kind of populist. The Encarta dictionary says populism is a political ideology based on the perceived interests of ordinary people, as opposed to those of a privileged elite. Does that sound like Donald Trump or Steve Bannon?
It sounds to me like a definition written for Joe Biden. Pulling the country back from the brink and returning it to normality can also be a profound change. If anyone understands the hardship many Americans experience – he has lost a wife and two children during his life – it’s Joe, and in my opinion, his voice is exactly what our country needs to heal. Despite his losses there’s no bitterness in him. He’s the same gentle soul who’d rather love than hate that he always was.
But he’s always loved a good fight, too. I hope he still has the energy and desire in 2020. We need him.