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Est. April 5, 2002
Mar 26, 2020 - Issue 811
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Will Biden Beat Biden in 2020?

"It appears that the Biden campaign is relying on
Trump’s dismal political handling of the coronavirus
catastrophe to weaken his reelection status. That is
a mistake. His advisors should remember that Hillary
held out the same false hopes that the Access Hollywood
tapes that showed Trump at his misogynistic best one
month before the 2016 election would cinch her victory."

Let’s be clear in our understanding that Joe Biden is leading this presidential race because of circumstances and individuals beyond his control. He is a major beneficiary of a growing intensity among a majority of the nation’s Democratic voters to remove Donald Trump from office. Having largely failed in the primary debates and at raising competitive campaign funding, until recently, he has the winds of victory at his back.

But perhaps, the most important sources of his resurgent success are the Democratic powerbrokers backing his run: Congressman James Clyburn (with the spiritual energy of his late wife Emily) who launched his roaring comeback in the South Carolina primary, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe who unleashed his political operation with those of his fellow Virginia party activists along with those in the other Super Tuesday states.

But by far, the most important contributor to Biden’s success is former President Barack Obama. Biden’s deference and loyalty to the first African American president from 2009 until 2017 has resulted in his overwhelming support and turnout from African Americans in in primary states since March 3rd, a show of appreciation for his stellar service as Obama’s Vice President.

Without this singular achievement in his long political life, coupled with the support of the Clyburn family, Biden would be dead, politically, like Freddie, a minor character in the 1970s Super Fly black exploitation movie. Biden would have experienced a similar fate in the 2020 Democratic primaries.

Although he has expressed repeated gratitude to the black community for his good fortune, especially to African American women, who spearheaded his political turnaround, he has failed to take and implement the sage advice of Congressman Clyburn and Gov. McAuliffe. They told him early on that his top campaign staff needs to be retooled, and he has ignored their advice.

That failure is beginning to reveal itself more noticeably during the present-day coronavirus crisis which has resulted in traditional political strategies—rallies, small group meetings, etc.--being negated. As a consequence, Bernie Sanders, while trailing Biden by more than 300 delegates, making it significantly difficult for him to win the nomination, is quietly gaining ground.

Bernie is still raising money at a steady clip, and he is dominating the internet, digital, and social media in his ongoing campaign. He is unlikely to throw in the towel until the summer Democratic national convention and will continue to ankle bite Biden, like a political junkyard dog, as he did to Hillary in 2016.

In addition, Bernie is being aided by governors in upcoming primary states who have postponed primaries in response to COVID-19. He is using this time to refine his message and to rev up the passions of his diehard supporters. Bernie is throwing caution to the wind as he, like Biden, knows this is his last opportunity to win the presidency.

Bernie’s digital operation is only rivaled by the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee who have put together an exceptional online apparatus to track and communicated with their voters. There is no one on the Democratic side other than Michael Bloomberg who can compete.

Therefore it is more than urgent that the Biden reach out to Bloomberg to get permission to integrate his Hawkfish digital platform into his campaign operations. It would enable him to counter Bernie and to position himself to confront Trump should he win the Democratic nomination, which appears likely right now but is not assured.

It appears that the Biden campaign is relying on Trump’s dismal political handling of the coronavirus catastrophe to weaken his reelection status. That is a mistake. His advisors should remember that Hillary held out the same false hopes that the Access Hollywood tapes that showed Trump at his misogynistic best one month before the 2016 election would cinch her victory.

However, on November 8, white women helped Donald Trump to win the White House despite his opponent being one of their sisters. This political oxymoron should give Biden and other Democrats pause in underestimating Trump again. Since Biden shot to the top of the Democratic field, he seems to be coasting as did Hillary in 2016.

Instead of challenging Trump at every turn in the final weeks of the campaign, she made a vanity appearance in Arizona (a state she had no chance of winning) instead of going to or spending money in Wisconsin, a battleground state she needed to win. She also took a lackadaisical attitude toward Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania three other states which sealed her loss.

Biden so far is headed down the same path as he and his campaign are acting as if the defeat of Trump is at hand. Holed up at his home in Delaware, he (like Trump) is making selective appearances on friendly TV shows (the View on ABC and Deadline White House on MSNBC). On the View earlier this week, Biden, in response to a COVID-19 question, somewhat parroted Trump that a “… cure will make the problem worse, no matter what.”

Obviously, his staff has not been successful in eliminating his inclination to making untimely gaffes. Biden is still beating himself. Might it be time for him to heed the previous counsel of Clyburn and McAuliffe to shake up his campaign staff? Like Hillary he looks to be knowingly saddling himself with a losing team.

Yet a more pressing issues for Biden are news reports and a statement from Dr. Georges Benjamin, the black executive director of the American Public health Association, that state that African Americans, particularly men, are at greatest risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19 as compared to other American population groups.

This reality is a function of a disproportionate percentage of blacks having already been discriminated against (and continuing to be) in the health care and economic systems and also being disproportionately likely to have the underlying conditions—diabetes, asthma, heart disease, autoimmune deficiencies and so forth—that make them susceptible to the coronavirus.

Donald Trump, despite his failure to lead effectively during this emergency, has polling numbers that are on an uptick showing a March job approval rating of 49 percent, one of the highest during his presidency.

While Biden is hiding out at home, his campaign is in stasis, and Bernie is making major moves on digital and social media. Unintentionally, Biden is, perhaps, beating himself even before he runs into the Trump onslaught.

links to all 20 parts of the opening series Columnist, Dr. Walter C. Farrell, Jr., PhD, MSPH, is a Fellow of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado-Boulder and has written widely on vouchers, charter schools, and public school privatization. He has served as Professor of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and as Professor of Educational Policy and Community Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Contact Dr. Farrell and BC. 

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