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Joe Biden’s Four Surprising Vectors for Success

Written By: - Date published: 7:00 am, August 14th, 2020 - 15 comments
Categories: Donald Trump, jacinda ardern, Left, uncategorized, us politics - Tags:

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.

15 comments on “Joe Biden’s Four Surprising Vectors for Success ”

  1. RedLogix 1

    All persuasively optimistic Ad, but it's my sense that a Biden Presidency will be consumed largely by domestic issues. My thesis is that the USA by virtue of it's unique geography has been a stable and prosperous society, but has achieved this with a fragmented, mediocre system of governance at all levels. COVID has cruelly exposed it's weakness.

    Both the Dem and GOP parties are in a process of redefining themselves, and big factions of voter land are still moving about the board looking for a new political home. Expect a decade of instability as they respond to this crisis.

    As for the rest of the world, the USA will remain a substantial actor, but not in the mode we have been accustomed to. A distracted US increasingly just doesn't care all that much about very large parts of the world anymore. NZ may well be on the very outer limit of what they are prepared to commit resources to. At this point it's hard to understand what a Biden Presidency stands for in foreign terms, but again I suspect the overall trajectory toward isolationism will continue. The forces driving this are much larger than one President.

    • Tricledrown 1.1

      The election in November will change how the US behaves .The GOP have controlled Congress for so long and Driven policy .

      If both the House of representatives and Senate go Demcratic there will be big changes.

  2. Andre 2

    5: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is generally a solid obstacle against making progress. But the orange asteroid that destroyed a party of dinosaurs has demonstrably broken so many norms and structures that society values that there is clearly need to fix things, which clearly opens the door for the rebuild to be better.

    But the sheer scale and breadth of the wanton and malicious destruction that has been done means that progress will likely be achieved in just a few areas of the many where it needs to happen. There will also be a lot of slap-dash half-assed fast actions to just hold the status quo or just restore the pre-2016 status quo.

    • RedLogix 2.1

      But the sheer scale and breadth of the wanton and malicious destruction that has been done means that progress will likely be achieved in just a few areas of the many where it needs to happen.

      Trump and COVID have merely accelerated the process of exposing the flaws; they were always there. We are seeing turmoil in their policing/justice, health and education sectors all at the same time. As these systems fail ordinary people, the gap between rich and poor only grows, fueling further protests and riots. It’s potentially a dangerous spiral to be heading down.

      Perhaps the best thing that we might expect from a Biden term is for the provocation to stop long enough for the American people to catch their breath and start to think constructively about how they need to evolve better, more unified systems of governance and accountability.

    • Phil 2.2

      the orange asteroid that destroyed a party of dinosaurs has demonstrably broken so many norms and structures that society values that there is clearly need to fix things,

      Trump has managed to blunder past all manner of political norms with absolutely no consequences from a feckless cadre of boot-licking republican officials, and still holds significant levels of support with the American public.

      To me that shows, clear as day, that the notion of maintaining political norms and structures is entirely of disinterest to Americans.

      • Andre 2.2.1

        feckless cadre of boot-licking republican officials … is a remarkably polite description of all those fighting each other for the opportunity to climb far enough up PalPutin's ass they could shake hands with Hannity. Nevertheless, that's apparently only representative of around 40% of Americans.

        That such a convincing facsimile of a potted plant as Biden is registering around 50% in the polls, apparently purely on the strength of being not-Drumpf, suggests to me that ideas of norms and good governance actually do still hold some sway among the American public.

  3. "So many outstanding political movements fail with lack of succession plan. This one is built in."

    Like the Clinton-Gore one? A very narrow failure, it's true, but still a failure.

  4. Peter 4

    There might be four surprising vectors but from a distance there is something else which is stark.

    I probably watch too much of American politics, but this week Biden looked like a normal human being (albeit a politician) with some coherent idea in his mind of what he wanted to say and was capable of saying it. The difference to Trump is astounding.

    No immediate fleshing out by resorting to 'strongly' mode. "We've done really strongly, things are looking really strong and they're going to get stronger."

    No manic first cab off the rank plunging into comparatives and superlatives. Trump's mind is a railway line. The sidings the train goes onto are undefined and have infinite sidings off them but it's as if there are no rails, the train runs free.

    The thousands of hours of Trump speech-making surely will be a rich source for ridiculing him, but it also will be a bank of material for those mixed up in the world of study of public speaking. In terms of comparisons? Biden's ordinariness made him look exceptional.

    • Peter 4.1

      Just found someone who agrees and says almost exactly the same thing. 'Trump in Trouble: Biden & Harris Sound Normal at 1st Event"

      "Hey, this is kind of normal and we like it." The first minute of here says it, and what follows demonstrates it.

  5. Tiger Mountain 5

    This post on Mr Biden seems little more than an apologia for all the gutless centrists that could not bring themselves to support the real thing–the Sanders Campaign–nor indeed, the fine peoples movements involved. No that was way too far for people quite fine with the American corporate duopoly that is US party politics, legal voter suppression and skewed Electoral College included.

  6. Adrian Thornton 6

    "Biden is positioned to be one of the most successful left-leaning United States Presidents."…. holy shit! fantasy that could only be believed by a walking talking fantasist.

    The Democratic party has made it plainly clear that they do not want progressives of any colour or stripe anywhere their party…and anyone who thinks that that party would do even the most mild of left wing reforms without serious pressure from that exact group is as I just said living in some sort of fantasy world that has no connection to facts or reality.

  7. DS 7

    I actually like Joe Biden as a person. He's also been around for so long (entering the Senate in 1973!) that he comfortably predates Clintonian neoliberalism.

    Problem is, his specialty has always been foreign affairs – and on domestic policy, he's going to be blocked on everything by the Republican Senate. The real danger is that the Republicans have a field day in 2022, because Democrats are incapable of turning out.

    • Ad 7.1

      On current trends the Democrats will get at least a 50-50% split in the Senate.

      That's where the VP as Speaker becomes so necessary.

      It's waaaay too early to count a Trump victory out. But Harris will assist black and female turnout.

  8. Jackel 8

    Trump/Pence or Biden/Harris? A soulless choice for a soulless nation. Makes me grateful I'm a New Zealander.

  9. sumsuch 9

    The sudden joy of LBJ. That Joe will take up that only banner. As per his plagiarisation of Kennedy's speeches. This fallow shallowist has summat at his heart? It's not out of the reckoning. Ideas.

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