Truthdig! - August 21, 2019

"... There is a reason so many voters are obsessed with the idea of electability, and that is because mainstream media outlets have long measured election races by the same yardstick. Rather than focusing on candidates’ policies and positions on issues, corporate outlets have turned elections into horse races, fixating on who could win, what they need to do in order to win, or why they are likely to lose. It’s no wonder that after years of digesting such analysis, voters now consider themselves experts on electability. We have been trained by pundits to think like pundits. But punditry should have lost credibility in 2008 and 2016."

The problem is that voters aren’t particularly good at guessing who is electable. “In late 2007, presidential candidate Barack Obama was viewed as much less electable than Hillary Clinton,” The Washington Post reminded its readers. In 2016, voters assumed Clinton was best poised to beat Trump. In both recent cases, the assumptions of electability failed. If Trump managed to win in 2016 by beating Clinton in strategically important states, why would the Democrat most like Clinton (i.e., Biden) have a significantly better shot? Why would Democratic primary voters risk repeating a failed experiment?

Biden’s weakness will be Clinton’s weakness: an inability to express strongly what he stands for and a reliance on the fact that he is not Trump. Trump’s base picked him because they liked what he stood for—racism, anti-immigrant and anti-abortion policies, gun proliferation. He laid out his views clearly, and they picked him without a care about his electability. In fact, Trump was considered the least electable candidate in 2016, possibly even in his own view. Isn’t it fair to assume that in a general election, a nominee’s principles are going to be his or her strongest assets?

Imagine Biden facing Trump in a presidential debate ahead of the general election. Imagine the confident incumbent smirking as he says, “Even your own wife admits your policies aren’t as good on health care as some of the other candidates’ were.” Jill Biden’s tacit admission that her husband stands for nothing much beyond a vague idea of electability could hand the election to Trump.

Even Barack Obama seems to have doubts about Biden’s ability. “Mr. Obama took pains to cast his doubts about the campaign,” says a recent New York Times story detailing the relationship between the two men. The former president is not planning to endorse Biden (or any other candidate) ahead of the primary and has also “hammered away at the need for [Biden’s] campaign to expand his aging inner circle.” So worried is he about Biden’s candidacy that he is apparently warned Biden not to “embarrass himself” or “damage his legacy” during the campaign.

If Biden’s own wife and his closest former colleague are not giving him a full-throated endorsement, why should voters? ...
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