He’s old, boring, uninspiring, and offends no-one: surely he’ll fail miserably as President?
Joe Biden elected as President has a stronger chance than any Democrat President since LBJ of getting very strong domestic reforms done.
Biden is positioned to be one of the most successful left-leaning United States Presidents. Now, we know what he wants is the closest the Democrats have had to a full-throated New Deal in multiple decades:
Absent youth and rhetorical skill, what’s he got to achieve it?
The instinct of any ideologue left or right is that to win your boldest policy wins you need a firebrand. A Bernie Sanders, a Donald Trump, a Hubert Humphrey – or any other great radical wrecks.
If you can’t get a firebrand, settle at least for a very minimum: an outstanding orator and campaigner, like the first Presidential run of Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, or Robert F Kennedy.
But the only successful policy coherent outstanding orators for leftist causes are the two Roosevelt Presidents, rare as one per century.
In the place America is in right now, radical has just left everyone but a core 30% Trump base burnt out. We have the most divided American politics since Nixon. Trump’s Republican supporters are doing exactly the same way Sanders’ supporters would if Sanders were President: presume populist protest wins, brook no compromise, see no fault, throw everything at otherwise outrageous proposals, and expect their inherent righteousness to prevail. The lesson for the hard left or right is: a rock solid extreme base and a bulrush approach just fail.
There is a good chance now that America will elect Joe Biden for President.
Prime Minister Ardern is the other kind of comparison. The outstanding communicator of her generation, she will achieve a few very useful useful things. But mostly through fate she will be known as a crisis manager, and again through fate (like the Tiwai closure) as the person who accelerated green goals like 100% pure electricity generation. She doesn’t bring independent vectors of change like power networks, leadership experience, or institutional influence – just fate and charm: not yet enough to alter the direction of the country.
Biden, in contrast to Ardern, can accelerate change in the United States in 4 specific vectors:
1. By Handing Over…
Biden is clear that he is a bridge to the next generation of Democratic leadership. It’s a fundamental that he is the succession plan that America and the Democrats need. Sanders and Biden have unity on that.
Indeed too Kamala Harris gets him: he’s the good old ordinary Joe that she knows how to get the best out of:
Now, it’s up to the generation younger than Kamala Harris to figure who that will be – but that’s precisely as Biden intends.
So many outstanding political movements fail with lack of succession plan. This one is built in.
That is a stance both adroit in its uplifting challenge, and generous to the myriad of Democrat factions.
2. By Working The House …
There is no guarantee that a President Biden will be able to enact sweeping reform, even with a slim or tied Senate. Maybe they get to 50-50 and he and the VP marshals the House hard, harder even than ol’ hardass LB Johnson did under Kennedy. Here’s LBJ showing how as President he used that Speaker experience with real effect:
Biden knows how to apprentice Harris in the harder arts of the House. The value of long Committee and Vice Presidential experience is he successfully operates the levers of power and where the obstructions are. Because Obama and Trump really struggled here, their results weren’t consistent.
Biden is a clear illustration of the moral of Aesop’s The Tortise and the Hare: the old can win against the cocky with better tactics and experienced cadence to running the track:
Biden is also going to have to get a few of those terrifyingly hard-bitten and loyal Republican Senators over the line if he is going to get some of his big campaign pledges (which I’ve covered before). Joe Biden has a habit of being able to peel of some of the most unlikely Republicans and work with them to get things done. There is no stronger endorsement for this than old southern stalwart Lindsay Graham, who we see genuinely choking back the tears stating that: “The bottom line is, if you can’t admire Joe Biden as a person, there’s … you got a problem.”
3. By Translating Otherwise Unwinnable States into Political Capital
Better than Sanders or Obama, Joe Biden has the broad reach appeal that is putting unlikely seats in play like Georgia, Texas, Carolina, Arizona, Ohio, Colorado – many of which have not been within play for the Democrats since before Bill Clinton (who was very lucky Ross Perot split a lot of votes). Neither Obama nor Clinton really brought updraft like this.
What that tells you is Joe’s likable personality has some really long coat-tails. That’s exactly the opposite effect of putting a firebrand up for Presidency – just ask the Republicans now.
The lift on down-ticket races is tilting not only Senate contests, but also upcoming State Senate races as well. Strangely enough, Biden is the secret successful revival to the Democratic Party: he’s acceptable and attractive to more Americans.
A majority of Americans want a President to be more than their own personal political asshole. They now want to like their President.
That represents big banked political capital, even before he’s got the job.
4. By Rising on Precedent
He will be able to build on President Obama’s groundbreaking healthcare reform because he was present at its creation and helped it get through the Senate a decade ago. Here he is helping shepherd it through by tapping out the hospital industry:
He will be able to build on President Obama’s substantial foreign diplomacy efforts because he knows that field from the Foreign Relations Committee far better than Obama ever did. Here he sets it out.
Defence insiders are already really clear that defence spending is going to be much more heavily contested by Biden’s ambitious healthcare, climate change, post-Covid economic stimulus, and infrastructure spending.
Of course, none of this will help Biden raise the hairs on your arm.
But a skill to getting things done for the very long term is to take the people with you.
This old, white, Catholic, suburban guy might just surprise us.