Alan Zendell, March 4, 2020
Donald Trump is terrified of Joe Biden. That’s why he tried to undermine his candidacy from the start. Trump believes Bernie Sanders would be easy pickings in the General Election. If Sanders were the candidate we’d be hearing Socialism and Communism until they were coming out of our ears. Utter nonsense, of course, but when did that ever stop Trump from speaking?
On the other hand, Sanders has gone out of his way to set himself up for those attacks. He revels in the self-proclaimed label of Democratic Socialist. He speaks loudly about the semantic difference, but the truth is that Sanders is a lifetime true-believer in his revolution. He’s so caught up in it that winning isn’t enough for him. He needs to rub Capitalism’s face in it. He wants to bring down what he calls the billionaire class and then dance on its corpse.
Sanders’ revolution requires a massive transfer of wealth from the one percent at the top to everyone else, and that’s quite different from proposing Medicare for All as a philosophy. Most Americans believe health care is an inalienable right. I certainly do. But Elizabeth Warren, who also believes that, isn’t willing to blow up our economy to achieve it. She calls herself a socially responsible capitalist. If Bernie were serious about social justice without having to vent his decades-long anger on the one percent, he’d call himself that too.
Bernie’s been practicing for his revolution for more than fifty years, and he’s become quite adept at arousing his base. He shares that skill with Trump, which is why many observers noted the similarities in their campaign styles in 2016. It’s also why many Democrats thought he had a better chance of defeating Trump than Hillary Clinton did. Much of their bases overlapped – the underemployed, people who felt victimized by banks and large corporations, and those who thought (incorrectly) that immigrants, legal or illegal, threatened their livelihood.
Trump won by expanding his base to include every hate-monger and racist he could pander to, with lies and outrageous hyperbole, and by slandering everyone who disagreed with him. He knows that won’t work this time, though. The 2018 Congressional election and yesterday’s primaries showed that Trump’s and Sanders’ bases have both shrunk since 2016. Trump’s ego may not let him see it clearly, but his advisers and strategists understand that many people who voted for him in 2016 or simply stayed home on Election Day are disgusted by his tweets, his lack of moral character, and by his general demeanor. They won’t make that mistake again.
Contrast that with Joe Biden, about whom Trump lapdog Lindsey Graham once said, “No finer human being was ever born.” We love to poke fun at Biden’s gaffes and call him on twenty- or thirty-year-old mistakes, but underneath, we know what’s in Joe’s heart. We also know that there’s no one better equipped to heal this country after the damage Trump has done.
Biden is respected by our allies and adversaries alike. They know they can’t bully him or manipulate him with visions of billion dollar sugar plums and they can’t bribe him with prostitutes. Perhaps more important, no one is better equipped than Joe Biden to erase the putrid stench that Trump has brought to governing. Just as Gerald Ford was the antidote to Richard Nixon in 1974, Biden is the perfect remedy for Trump.
Trump tramples the English language every time he opens his mouth. He’s more inarticulate than any president in our history, often misspeaking and having to walk statements back, especially his comments about Vladimir Putin. It’s embarrassing to most of us, and we’ve seen foreign leaders repeatedly mock him.
Biden stumbles over an occasional word when he speaks too fast and sometimes (like everyone else his age) misremembers details from decades-old events. But everyone knows he’s about love, equality and inclusion, an example of the best aspects of his Catholic upbringing. America may not have been ready for him when he ran for president in the past, but politics is as much about timing as anything else. We’re not only ready for him now, we desperately need him.
Sanders’ weakness as a candidate and his shrunken base were surprisingly exposed on Super Tuesday. At the same time, Biden became larger than himself as his former rivals coalesced around him proclaiming him the best person to end Trumpism and restore decency and respect for American values. With Michael Bloomberg funding his campaign, and the best strategists and organizers the Democrats can hire managing it, I believe there’s no stopping him. I haven’t breathed this easy since November of 2016.