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Est. April 5, 2002
July 09, 2020 - Issue 826
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Advantage Biden
Can He Keep It?

"Biden must outline a detailed agenda of his response
to the COVID-19 pandemic, the future of public education
in the aftermath of and/or in concert with the coronavirus,
and the revamping of police training and transparency in
law enforcement’s interactions with communities of color."

To set the context for the November 3rd presidential election, the Democrats must agree that Donald Trump will be “wilding,”-- going on a protracted and politically violent rampage: intentionally attacking African, Asian, Native and Latinx Americans; immigrants; and progressives. In this death match for his reelection, all bets are off for any form of political decency.

Since Trump has escaped all threats of sanctions for his past and current political crimes, he is a man without fear. This is his last stand for victory, and unlike General George Armstrong Custer, he has a credible chance of winning. His chosen weapons for this battle are bigotry and non-stop appeals to the vilest instincts of a segment of the American electorate that he believes will rally behind him as he staves off the lessening of white power and white supremacy.

This approach has increased saliency as the makeup of the nation is steadily trending toward becoming majority minority. Trump is seizing on this demographic transition and using it to appeal to the self-interests of America’s white ethnics and to steer changes in the nation’s laws and federal judiciary toward the creation of an apartheid-type legal and civic wall between the increasing numbers of Americans of color and the decreasing numbers of their white brothers and sisters.

These methods, if even moderately successful, could decimate Biden’s lead in the same way that Republican Vice President George H.W. Bush’s racist Willie Horton TV commercials eviscerated the 18 point lead of his Democratic presidential opponent, Gov. Michael Dukakis, in 1988 and led to a comfortable Republican win.

Hence, Joe Biden is at a crossroads in the 2020 presidential campaign although, at the moment, he is leading Donald Trump outside the margin of error in the average of national polls and in the battleground states (Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) that were the key to Trump’s unexpected 2016 triumph. The wind is at Biden’s back, but there are doubts among his supporters and adversaries as to whether he can keep his polling advantage through Election Day.

While Trump has consistently stubbed his political toe in his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his constant endorsement of xenophobic imagery, his most recent action is his collaboration with his political helpmate, Vladimir Putin. U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation is funneling a $100,000 bounty to the Taliban for each American soldier it kills.

The New York Times and other reputable news outlets have reported exhaustively about this issue, and White House staff has claimed that the President was never briefed on the matter because it never cleared the proper security channels due to an alleged inter-agency disagreement. Trump’s emphatic pushback and denial appear to have once again enabled him to evade what is apparent to reasonable observers.

The Democrats seem incapable of laying a glove on Trump even when they have him pinned in a political corner much like Muhammad Ali, who came in as a 4–1 underdog against the heavy-hitting, supposedly unbeatable George Foreman, parried repeated punches and won the heavyweight boxing championship in the historic 1974 “rumble in the jungle” in Kinshasa, Zaire.

If Biden and the Democrats don’t get a grip on the current political reality, Trump will steamroll over them in the same way he steamrolled over their last standard bearer in 2016. It is imperative that Biden hone a coherent campaign message, carefully prepare for what are sure to be raucous debates, and wisely make a consequential vice presidential choice he needs to help pull him across the finish line in first place.

So far, Biden has not developed a precise and engaging message that has captivated the body politic. He has succeeded primarily by not making mistakes and by reinforcing in the public’s mind that Trump’s continuing gaffes and personal narcissism make him unfit to lead the nation during these trying times.

Biden must outline a detailed agenda of his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the future of public education in the aftermath of and/or in concert with the coronavirus, and the revamping of police training and transparency in law enforcement’s interactions with communities of color. The messaging should be easy to grasp; repeatedly rolled out in TV, digital, and radio ads; and infused into his debate responses. But most important is that the latter messaging be more responsive to protesters’ “defund the police” demand.

Additionally, progressives’ enthusiasm has already been diminished as revealed in their vigorous pushback against Biden’s statements about his willingness to compromise with Republicans during his recent address to the National Education Association. Their opposition to old-line liberal Democrats was earlier demonstrated in their landslide defeat of three-decade Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who was beaten by his first-time progressive opponent in the June 2020 Democratic primary.

Joe Biden’s vice presidential selection may well determine whether he wins or loses. Given the stealthy and dishonest electoral battle schemes of Donald Trump, Biden’s running mate must be able to hit the ground running and to galvanize his get-out-the-vote operation across the Democratic base, especially within African American communities where turnout will be decisive.

Therefore, to be effective at this historic juncture in societal relations, the vice-presidential candidate should be an African American woman. (Biden has already stated that he will name a female.) More crucial, however, is what she brings to the ticket.

She must have a keen understanding of the voter suppression strategies that have been employed to disadvantage communities of color and ways of counteracting them. Ability to think well on her feet and a readiness to respond to political and personal attacks with the utmost diplomacy are critical assets as well. She must also possess electrifying oratorical skills and be capable of inspiring multi-racial and multi-age groups and communities. All females under consideration must meet these criteria.

Since her primary tasks, initially, will be to help him maintain and extend his advantage over Donald Trump, it is most important that the future female vice-presidential running mate is simpatico with Joe Biden. Cutting to the chase, let us acknowledge that not just any black female will do. Being more specific, however, we need to accept that both cops in contention, Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), present a special set of problems.

During these times when protestors are putting their lives on the line to object to unjust police and criminal justice practices, Demings’ and Harris’ past pro-cop initiatives such as ignoring and/or dismissing police abuse, supporting pro-police legislation, and in facilitating mass incarceration would serve as kindling that the Trump campaign would surely take advantage of to suppress turnout among millennials and progressives.

While white donors and advisors, unfamiliar with the nuances of the situation, may see the aforementioned women as viable options, they must take a back seat and allow African American counsellors, who possess an enhanced understanding of individual and personality types that would excite blacks and other members of the Democratic base and allow them to be the main influence in the final decision. An erroneous pick could doom Biden’s chances for victory. Again we ask: can Biden keep his advantage? 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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