It’s now Joe’s to win and lose

by Earl Ofari Hutchinson, For New Pittsburgh Courier

There was good news and bad news for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on the same day. The good news was that Joe’s chief presidential foe Bernie Sanders threw in the towel. Sanders then gave a rousing denunciation of Trump and urged his supporters to do everything possible to oust him. That meant backing Joe, which Bernie promised to do.

Joe for his part extended the olive branch to Sanders die-hard backers and said he “heard” them. Presumably this meant he was on board with some parts of Bernie’s progressive agenda.

There was the other not so good news for Joe. This was yet another poll that showed him beating Trump in their November head to head presidential face off. But buried in the good numbers for Joe was a little tidbit that showed Republicans were far more revved up for Trump than Democrats were for Biden. There was still another worrisome note in the poll. That was that a significant number of Democrats thought that Trump would do a better job in stewarding the economy than Biden could.

This in themselves didn’t mean that Biden would trounce Trump or go down to flaming defeat in November. There are many months ahead in the race with probably lots of twists and turn, intangibles, unknowns and probable surprises ahead for Biden. With everyone’s eyes glued to the COVID threat and the media almost exclusively locked in on it, this further clouds the election picture—for now.

What is well known is that many Democrats have always fervently believed that Biden is the only Democratic presidential contender who can beat Trump. Trump certainly thought that too. Back in January 2019, he called Biden his “most dangerous opponent.” He unleashed a barrage of grotesque tweets ridiculing Biden as low IQ, for his alleged garbled sentences, and mental lapses. He hectored and arm twisted a couple of heads of state to try and destroy Joe by prodding them to investigate his son’s business dealings. This cost him impeachment. But Trump didn’t care. Joe had to be destroyed.

Trump didn’t succeed in that. However, that failure won’t stop him, he’ll almost certainly go after Joe’s past. This is cause for concern. Joe’s alleged political sins—Anita Hill, his Iraq War support, his anti-busing stance, his tout of the Clinton crime bill and his alleged propensity for being too touchy feely with women—have been repeatedly tossed up in his face. He’s been ruthlessly pounded for it.

In any other season, Joe’s past sins on these issues might not be a potential deal breaker. What’s different this time around is that he doesn’t have a prayer of wining the Oval Office without energizing mid-income, college educated suburban women and African American voters in the five or six must win states. A big, enthusiastic turnout from both groups is the only thing that can in part neutralize the big turnout Trump will get from his base in those states. They are less educated White male and female, blue collar and rural voters.

The assumption has always been that Joe has enough gritty, working class appeal to pry some of those voters away from Trump. That’s an untested assumption, if not downright risky assumption. Countless surveys have shown that many of those voters aren’t in ecstasy over Trump solely because of his bring back the job’s phony promise and his up again down again ratings for handling COVID. Their lovefest with him is based on race, or rather racial fear, panic and naked bigotry.

No amount of earthy, tough talk from Joe is going to crack that with them. So that brings it back to revving up Blacks and middle class, educated White women to march to the polls in big numbers. The great lesson and mistake that should have been learned from 2016 is that banking on their loathing for everything that Trump represents won’t ensure their storming the polls to oust him. Joe will have to convince them that he’s the real deal in the fight for racial and gender justice. This is a tall order that will get even taller if Joe’s past sins on race and gender are held against him.

Trump will have the bully pulpit of the presidency. He will again get piles of free media for any and every silly, inane utterance that he makes. He will have a near united, take no prisoners GOP behind him. He will have lots of voter suppression ploys still in place in key must win states to try and damp down the votes of Blacks, Hispanics, and young persons that would likely go to the Democrats. He will have a king’s ransom in campaign cash. Even with the COVID shutdown of the economy, he’ll still brag about all the jobs and supposed economic prosperity under his watch. This makes him no pushover and the election no walkover for Biden.

Biden’s counter is a possible united and energized Democratic party. Possible, only, because, he’ll have to pick well his VP running mate who can try and help him accomplish two Houdini like tricks. One is either to win over or at least not alienate Sanders supporters. The other is to win over or not alienate just enough rural, blue collar, less educated Whites in the five Heartland states and Florida that will decide the White House to Biden.

That is a heavy lift for Joe in the coming battle with Trump. A battle that is Joe’s to win and lose.

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