Biden’s Dilemma

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
February 10, 2020

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeOn Monday night I tuned into CNN to listen to the results of the Democratic caucus that had taken place in Iowa earlier in the day. By one am on Tuesday morning the Iowa Democratic Party (I.D.P.) had issued no results although some of the candidates made their speeches and headed off to New Hampshire to continue their quest to become the Democratic presidential nominee for the 2020 election.

The I.D.P. offered many reasons for its inability to produce the results of the election in a timely fashion. Many candidates hoping to use the result of the caucus to fire up the next leg of their campaign were disappointed. Joe Biden, the favorite in the race and the person who portrayed himself as the candidate best equipped to defeat President Trump, finished in a disappointing fourth place.

Paradoxically, the inability to name a winner that evening benefited Biden, the former vice president, who had the most to lose by not finishing among the top three winners. He was lucky. Katie Glueck, Jonathan Martin and Thomas Kaplan explained: “The slow drip of vote totals in Iowa—and a swirl of other major news events—may blunt the attention of Mr. Biden’s challenges. Iowa is an overwhelmingly white state, while Mr. Biden’s political strength is with black voters, who he is counting on for support in later-voting, more diverse states.”

Although Biden promotes himself as the candidate that is most likely to defeat Trump, he was unsuccessful in his previous quests (1984, 1988 and 2008) to be the Democratic presidential nominee. Barack Obama rescued Biden’s political career when he chose him as his vice president.

Biden has always been too early or too late in his quest for the presidency. He has also said some unfortunate things and taken some controversial positions that offended many of his constituents. Now, he argues that he should be given his party’s nomination because of the length of time he has served as a senator and vice president. I am not sure this approach is sufficient to warrant his nomination.

In 1836 Richard M. Johnson was Martin Van Buren’s running mate in the presidential election. Van Buren won the election with 170 electoral votes. Virginia rejected Johnson and the state’s 23 electoral votes went to William Smith of Alabama. Johnson needed 148 electoral votes to become the VP but only received 147, one less than the number required to elect him to that position.

What was Johnson’s sin?

He fathered two children with Julia Chinn, a mixed-race woman. The U.S. Telegraph proclaimed that no American would place “in the chair of the Vice Presidency a man who has for more than twenty years lived in open connection with a negro slave—who has recognized her offspring as his children, educated them, and endeavored to force them upon society, as in all respects equal to those of his free white neighbors, and now boasts that his black or yellow daughters, are as accomplished girls as any in the immediate vicinity.”

The Senate using its powers under the Twelfth Amendment selected Johnson. This led to “the dubious distinction of his being the only vice-president elected, not by the electoral college, but by the Senate of the United States” (Robert Bolt, “Vice President Richard M. Johnson of Kentucky.”

Things have changed. Now that the white voters of Iowa have deserted Biden, he needs the black vote to be successful which makes him particularly concerned with what black voters do in South Carolina and other states.

Can Biden convince black voters that he is worthy of their support? Can he come up with a program that attacks the persistent inequality and discrimination under which African-Americans find themselves? Can he close the increasing wealth gap between black and white America?

Obama elevated Biden to the vice presidency and allowed him to partially achieve his presidential ambitions. Biden thanked Obama for his confidence in him. There is no doubt that Biden’s presence on the presidential ballot contributed to Obama’s election.

Biden needs the black vote and the Obama’s connection to see him through. But will these connections be enough to see Biden through? Professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor of Princeton University argues that blacks supported Obama in spite of his troubling record with regards to black people.

She writes: “Mr. Biden continues to frame his own candidacy as an extension of the Obama administration. It’s unclear what that means. Will it be a continuation of Obama’s financial policies that benefited the richest Americans….Or, his dreadful immigration policies?…Will it be the same kind of reluctance to take on issues of racial inequality for fear of being pigeonholed as beholden to black interests?”

Unless Biden can answer these questions in a forthright manner, the black vote may not save him. The Senate saved Johnson even though he had a black mistress. Given how the Republicans pummeled Biden in the Senate last week, one wonders if he can survive the negative publicity that has dogged him from that quarter.

Let’s hope he can up his game and come up with an inspiring program and a message that inspire black people. Trump, it seems, is trying to cut into the black vote. It will neither be a free pass for Biden nor any other Democrat who is nominated to run against Trump.

The Senate saved Vice President Johnson in 1837. African Americans may come through for Biden in the forthcoming caucuses and primaries. If Biden is unsuccessful this time around I wonder if history will record that the Senate and the black vote as being responsible for his failure.

4 thoughts on “Biden’s Dilemma”

  1. Politics in America at this time is like four dimensional chess, and the operative playing this four dimensional chess is not Biden, nor Sanders nor Buttigieg nor Warren or even Trump, it is corporate America. Corporate America wins no matter who is in power, their four dimensional chess has made it so. Look at the facts. Corporate America, in the form of the corporate media, gave Trump billions of dollars in 2016 of free air time. They still do. It’s a Trump world now. It’s like one person exists in the world and is heard 24/7 – Trump. Everybody else is a prop, a disposable bystander in a Trump’s reality show. In 2016 all we heard about Hillary was “the emails”. And here is where four dimensional chess comes in, the mainstream media attacks Trump all the time, in a funny kind of way, in a normalizing kind of way, so that while corporate America gets the benefit of trillions of dollars in tax cuts given by Trump to big corporations, nobody points their finger at them because they are criticizing Trump. They have their cake and eat it too. It’s all about misdirection.
    Everybody was saying Biden is corporate America’s handpicked puppet, but when you look at the facts, Biden wasn’t getting corporate America’s money, Buttigieg was. More criticism in the media was directed at Biden than any other candidate, and not the normalizing kind of criticism that made Trump look like people, it was the kind that made Biden look like a senile, racist, crooked politician. Corporate media has also attacked Sanders; they have done a number on him, but mostly by ignoring him, by pretending he doesn’t exist, by negating his presence. Buttigieg is their guy. Glowing tributes have been written about Buttigieg from the beginning of his candidacy right through to his self-proclaimed win in Iowa. Sanders won the popular vote in Iowa, but Buttigieg won the SDEs, State Delegate Equivalent. One columnist, Bill Boyarsky, has said that “the Iowa caucuses are a mortal threat to democracy…The caucuses are a travesty of the American political system…They are … undemocratic, unfair, unrepresentative and overly complicated.” The Democratic Party has long complained about the injustice of the Electoral College, the Iowa caucus is no different. It doesn’t count the winner as the candidate with the popular vote; it has a complicated system of awarding delegates according to a formula. And in this year, there were many discrepancies both in reporting votes and calculating SDEs. The Democratic Party is said to be a diverse party. It is said that to win the primaries, you have to have the support of people of color. And yet Iowa, which is 90% white, is supposed to set the trend for Democrats. Black people are supporting Joe Biden more than any of the other contenders, yet they are supposed to go along with what 90% white Iowa thinks. It’s like if their opinion doesn’t matter.
    I may not agree with all the policy positions he has taken and put forward, but Biden in my opinion has the best chance against Trump. He would appeal to working class people in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Polling showed him as the only Democrat beating Trump in Florida. Polling has shown him consistently beating Trump nationally. For many months, polling had shown him behind Sanders and Buttigieg in Iowa, which is 90% white and has a caucus rather than primary election. So why the surprise at the results in Iowa? In addition there have been many discrepancies in the calculating of the results in Iowa. It has been a fiasco for the Democratic Party. Biden was only projected to start winning big when the South Carolina primary was held. That’s where his support from blacks kicks in.
    While I think many of the positions Sanders has taken are supported by the American people, I think the label “socialism” hurts him. And Trump is going to go after that word. Sanders has made the counterargument about Trump being a “corporate socialist” but that may not be effective. The word already has a loaded punch to it. It brings out a picture of poverty, of a failing economy, of dictators, etc. It does not bring to mind a picture of Trump playing golf and hobnobbing with other billionaires. Socialism is a loaded word. Buttigieg, on the other hand, will drive the white evangelicals to the polls in a frenzy of apocalyptic expectancy. He will bring out the anti-gay religious folks in all denominations. People make the comparison between Buttigieg and Obama, but more than 90% of blacks and a huge percentage of Latinos were inspired to go to the polls for Obama. Buttigieg has in the low single digit support from people of color and he has a troubled relationship with blacks in the town of South Bend of which he is mayor.
    Republican strategists saw Biden as the dangerous opponent and Trump was willing to ask a foreign country to investigate Biden and his family. It ended in impeachment for Trump, that’s how much Biden was feared. The primaries in Nevada, South Carolina and on Super Tuesday will show who gets the nomination; results from the big states, California and Texas, with huge amounts of delegates, will come in. Until then we will witness many four dimensional chess moves by corporate America to manage and manipulate the process. It may result, ironically, in Bernie Sanders being nominated and corporate America facing its biggest nightmare, an implacable enemy who is focused and determined. Time will tell.

    1. Agree that in the capitalist world ‘socialism’ is a loaded word. Therefore the likes of Bloomberg, Steyn, Trump and many of the billionaires should be referred to as ‘corporate socialists’.

  2. Mike Bloomberg will probably emerge ss the Democratic nominee. Latest pools have shown him beating Trump by the widest margin nationally. Also, a poll released today shows him with 22% African voter support compared to Biden at 27% without even factoring in any primary as yet. He also has massive resources as a billionaire ready to take on Trump. Biden is already concerned about a shortage of funds.
    The Democratic field appears weak and limited. Bloomberg could easily emerge.

  3. Joe B has too many forces working against. He has the Ukraine scandal, he has been in Washington since age 30, he is known to be not as sharp as he used to be. The Biden brand will be tied up by Trump war chest since he and Pelosi moved against the Donald. Whilst Biden will be put on the ropes by a series of attack adds his message, vision, will be stifle as he defends himself.

    Trump started his campaign with “make America great again” it was a resonating campaign theme. This was followed by the build a wall along the Mexican border. Thousands of Latinos with their caravan to the border has been stopped. Then Trump took on China and gave the economy a giant boost. Unemployment is very low and because of that it will be difficult to beat Trump. He is cleaning the swamp.

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