Joe Biden is proof that timing is key and terrain is vital in running and winning the presidency.
Note: This column originally appeared in The Manila Times on November 10, 2020.
Joe Biden is proof that timing is key and terrain is vital in running and winning the presidency. Yes, the pandemic was the key that changed strategies on the ground. There was no persuasive campaign. There was purely Get Out The Vote or GOTV, defined as mail-in and EDay votes. It used to be that mail-in was heavily Republican, but with the pandemic, Democrats decided to use the pandemic to rally their base and do mail-in. Trump, on the other hand, asked his base to join the visibility campaign and set aside pandemic protocols. So, EDay was a target show of force. It is interesting that the Democrats studied how critical states would be canvassing the mail-in votes. Math and map controlled the endgame.
Biden ran twice in the primaries, dropping out in 1995 because of plagiarism allegations and in 2007, dropping out again but being picked by Barrack Obama to be his vice president. “Uncle Joe” was the “mature coach” to the young Obama, the first black president. He was the “dove” put by Obama in every debate during his term. Biden is again the “mature coach” to the first black female vice president, Kamala Harris. Biden is in a very unique position to wrestle with the main problem in the US, race relations.
Interestingly, it was African Americans who buoyed the campaign of Biden, coming from behind in the primaries. Two African Americans were in the primaries, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris. Biden was fourth in Iowa, fifth in New Hampshire and second in Nevada. Biden won big in South Carolina with 61 percent of African American voters going for him.
Biden started early in politics. At the age of 29, he became senator representing the state of Delaware, and he parlayed this into 36 years’ worth of experience in the Senate and eight years as vice president where he played a very unique role to Obama. Coming from middle-class America in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Biden became the attorney general of Delaware after completing his law studies at Syracuse University. At 74 years old, Biden received from Obama in 2017 the highest civilian honor to be given in the US, the Medal of Freedom. It is awarded to an individual who has “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
When his wife and daughter died, the giants of the Senate, Republicans and Democrats hand-held the young senator. If you look at the record of Biden in the Senate, he would always stay in the center of any given issue. He learned the ropes of the Senate through bipartisanship. He walked among giants and served as chair or ranking member of the judiciary and foreign relations committees. This experience will do well in shaping a world order where multilateralism is taking shape viz. hegemony.
After a bruising 18-month campaign, never before seen in electoral politics in the US of A, the Democrat tandem of Jose Biden and Kamala Harris finally claimed their victory against a backdrop of the incumbent exercising his legal right to pursue a recount in states where the lead is less than 3 percent or 1 percent. In their acceptance addresses, Biden and Harris laid down the quilt for Americans without missing what the voters have registered: the highest turnout since the 1900s, an almost even split among voters, and swing voters dictating the day with seats increased in the House of Representatives and the Senate potentially remaining Republican and Democrats securing the White House.
Based on the NBC News exit poll, the incumbent Donald Trump “won a larger share of the minority vote than any Republican since 1960. He won the largest percentage of the Black vote since 1996 at 12 percent, the highest share for a Republican candidate in the past 20 years.” Trump registered an improved 2016 performance of Latinos at 32 percent. The Blacks and Latinos registered strongest among males.
The increased turnout was because of those who sat the 2016 race going to the polls and splitting their ticket for Joe Biden by a significant margin: 61 percent voted for Biden and 37 percent going for Trump. Most of those who did not vote in 2016 and voted last November 3 were overall younger and heavily Democratic than the 2020 electorate. Fifty percent were under 30 years old, and 40 percent actually think Democrat. Voters who did not vote for either in 2016 split their votes for Joe Biden at 2:1. Sixty-two percent of those voters cast a ballot for Biden while 24 percent voted for Trump.
Much work has to be made in the US. A strong economy and managing race issues well will give credibility to the liberal Western order. Liberalism need not be interference or intervention in other countries. There are many things that unite the US and EU, the US and Asia if only countries are treated as equals. Nations believe in liberal values, but the world has changed in the four years of Trump. It would be interesting to see what a modern democratic agenda would look like under the era of Biden and Harris.
Lunchbox Joe is working America. He overcame his stutter and taught himself to speak through Irish poetry by WB Yeats. He read Yeats until it became for him what Yeats’ poetry is, “a cornice stone of civilization and a call to the restoration of the complete self.” He read and read these immortal lines: “Many times man lives and dies between his two eternities, that of race and that of soul, and ancient Ireland knew it all.”
Biden was adjudged by some as lacking in academic preparation, not being from an Ivy League university. He overcame personal tragedy twice all over and recovered from the mental anguish of losing his wife and daughter. Biden was not a heavy hitter, but his purpose was defined for him in clear ways. Who would think a person set to retire can be called back at 77 years old and lead the US in its new chapter.
Another Irish poet, Nobel Prize laureate Seamus Heaney wrote: “History says, don’t hope on this side of the grave. But then, once in a lifetime, the longed-for tidal wave of justice can rise up, and hope and history rhyme.”
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