Biden really doesn’t get it

Joe Biden remains, for now, stubbornly atop the polls, but this really is really early.  I like to point out that in summer 2007, John McCain’s campaign was seen as dead-in-the-water and he, of course, went on to be the Republican nominee.  So, sure Biden still probably has a better chance than any other contender, but I still think, that, ultimately, a stronger candidate will defeat him.  In large part, because his weaknesses as a candidate (and I believe the gaffes are over-rated) will become increasingly manifest under increasing attention and scrutiny.  Anyway, some good stuff last week from Paul Waldman:

…according to The Post’s latest tally, four more candidates have said they’d get rid of it (including Jay Inslee and Steve Bullock), and another 12 have said they’re open to the idea.

But the person leading all the primary polls, former vice president Joe Biden, is not among them. He reiterated that on Thursday when he told reporters, “Ending the filibuster is a very dangerous move.”

This might seem like some kind of arcane debate about parliamentary procedures, but it’s far more important. In fact, the fate of the next presidency and everything Democrats want to accomplish could depend on the answer to this question. While we spend a lot of time probing the distinctions between the candidates’ policies, such as whether they support Medicare-for-all or something more incremental, the filibuster question is even more vital for primary voters to understand and consider.

It’s not surprising that the Democrats running for president have been evolving on the issue. They’re no doubt hearing about it from activist Democrats, who are both fed up with Republican obstruction and eager for ambitious policy change. And the more they talk to voters about all the things they want to accomplish, the more obvious it probably seems that they won’t be able to do it with the filibuster in place.

And we should note how absurdly undemocratic the filibuster is in an institution that even on its best day gives disproportionate power to small states. It allows the 21 smallest states, which together account for only 11 percent of the American population, to veto anything the other 8 out of 9 Americans want.

But Biden, despite having watched Senate Republicans use the filibuster thwart Barack Obama’s legislative agenda for eight years, still has nostalgic feelings about the institution where he spent 36 years. And he has insisted ever since beginning his campaign that once President Trump is out of office, Republicans will wake as if from a dream, rub their eyes and join with him in a spirit of bipartisan cooperation. “With Trump gone you’re going to begin to see things change,” he has said. “Because these folks know better.”…

Except they don’t. What they actually know is two things: They despise the entire Democratic agenda, and obstruction has been an extremely effective tactic for them, allowing them to thwart progressive change while paying no political price. They are not interested in bipartisan cooperation. Why would they be? [emphases mine]

And Chait:

Yet none of the Democratic senators running for president can match Biden’s adoration. The Senate’s traditions form his model for how politics ought to be conducted. “The system’s worked pretty damn well,” Biden recently told a reporter. “It’s called the Constitution. It says you have to get a consensus to get anything done.” In his presidential announcement speech, Biden frontally challenged the notion that the system had changed and made large-scale bipartisanship obsolete. “Some of these people are saying, ‘Biden just doesn’t get it. You can’t work with Republicans anymore. That’s not the way it works anymore.’ Well, folks, I’m going to say something outrageous. I know how to make government work — not because I’ve talked or tweeted about it, but because I’ve done it. I’ve worked across the aisle to reach consensus.” A key tenet of Senatitis is the belief that any negative developments in politics are but temporary setbacks, not in any way resulting from systemic incentives, and can be overcome though force of personality.

Voters lap up this kind of happy talk, so Biden would have reason to say this kind of thing even if he knew better. But if he were saying this out of political calculation, it would be odd that he would express the idea in such an uncalculating way — Democrats running for president in the 21st century usually try not to go out of the way to associate themselves with segregationists.

In any case, Biden has been delivering his senatorial restoration riff for so long, and so insistently, that there’s little reason to doubt his sincerity. Biden’s 2007 memoir laments “our bitter and partisan party divisions,” but insists, “from inside the arena none of it feels irreversible or fatal.” The dozen years since, under three presidents, ought to have confirmed that the partisan trend was indeed irreversible. Yet Biden did not seem to grasp that “the arena” he was “inside” was a bubble all along.

I’m for any Democrat who can beat Trump.  And I really think most of them can.  But, for a variety of reasons, I think Biden would make a particularly poor choice to actually be president.  And that matters.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

2 Responses to Biden really doesn’t get it

  1. Lawrence says:

    I think that this article has caused me to start reconsidering my support for Biden. I also believe that there are other democratic candidates that can defeat Trump, but Biden seems like the strongest at the moment.

    His position on the filibuster may be fool hardy because the Republicans he knew that would reach out across the aisle don’t exist anymore. He should know best given the lack of bipartisanship during President Obama’s 8 years while he was vice-president. His wishes are noble, but the reality is not likes he thinks it is.

    All the harm that has been done by Trump so far and will continue for another 16 months will not be reversed if the filibuster exists for the Republicans to stop anything the new democratic president tries. to do. Biden needs to face up to the changing times and support ending the filibuster or step aside.

  2. homeys44 says:

    Biden is the only current Democrat with enough self confidence to tell liberal activists “no” even sometimes. The rest are constantly “evolving”… in full pander mode. And they are still losing to him and Trump..Hopefully, GOP Senate candidates in swing states can use this “filibuster pledge” against their opponents.

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