Governor Bob Ehrlich Commentaries
Biden Has Broken a Longstanding American Tradition & It May Cost Him the Election
“If I’m elected and this [plan for racial economic equality] passes, I’m going to go down as one of the most progressive presidents in American history.” – Joe Biden
The 2016 campaign saw President Trump break with alacrity all of the traditional rules of presidential politics.
He ran as the anti-politician, more on a cult of personality, as an outsider with a small staff and little organization, using social media to challenge the establishments of both political parties.
He promised he would be the bull in the swamp’s china shop. By any measure, he has accomplished that goal: Swamp creatures of all ilks simply hate him. The accompanying vitriol directed his way daily is one measure of his success.
A different type of tradition is being broken this year.
It concerns the time-honored rule that candidates run to their base in the primaries, but turn to the middle come the general.
But “Biden 2020” is proving the exception. His advisers evidently see little gold to be gained in those moderate hills.
As a result, this latest iteration of Joe Biden has veered left from the jump — and kept on going. In the process, he has convinced the Democratic Party’s progressive stars to enthusiastically join his parade.
Check it out. Beto O’Rourke eagerly leads on gun confiscation. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez happily on the environment. Bernie Sanders with ominous self-assurance he can affect Biden on health care — and just about every other important plank as well.
Reliably progressive VP selection Kamala Harris fits in perfectly with this crowd.
This progressive juggernaut then asks you to engage in a new game: “Imagine.”
But this is no John Lennon song. It’s more like ordering à la carte off a menu of “defund options,” where you can choose to defund the local police department, a federal police agency such as ICE, the Pentagon or your local charter school.
Biden even defends the feckless Democratic mayors who have with cringeworthy diffidence allowed their cities to burn rather than cooperate with Trump-led federal police agencies.
As recently as four years ago, this path would have been seen as McGovern 2.0 — and a surefire way to re-elect a Republican president. American voters have traditionally operated “between the 20s.” For what purpose would a major-party candidate recklessly enter the socialist red zone?
But this is 2020. Nothing is traditional.
Big business is officially woke. Political correctness is now mandatory.
And so Joe Biden feels free to race down the progressive highway, ignoring the speed limit and the police. Indeed, law enforcement and the corrections system have but a very small space in his new world order.
The primary reason for this strategy is the opponent.
Biden’s handlers know that Mr. Trump is polarizing; no one would argue to the contrary. They also know that the pandemic and resulting shutdowns have inflicted real damage on the president and put the American people in a sour mood.
And so why not make the election a referendum on the incumbent?
Why not hide out in your basement and only emerge for the occasional controlled, lollypop interview? Why not run as if “Trump” is the only name on the ballot?
Of course, this strategy only works in conjunction with a compliant media, one that would allow a presidential candidate to avoid difficult questions, one that would never ask why the candidate’s current positions are so at odds with his 35-year voting record in the Senate, one that would acquiesce to a presidential campaign without debates (as Biden has now been repeatedly asked to do by Democratic principals.)
There is one other reason for the hide-(and seldom)-seek strategy. It has to do with Mr. Biden’s apparent difficulty in spontaneous speaking.
The media repeatedly refuses to acknowledge the 800-pound elephant in the room. But even the Biden campaign’s de minimis strategy has produced its share of gaffes — unforced errors and contradictions, e.g., on police defunding, that will be magnified should Mr. Biden ever find himself (sans teleprompter) required to fend off personal attacks from one Donald J. Trump.
(How would you like to be the Biden staffer who has to trot out Mr. Biden’s “clarifications” after each interview goes off the rails?)
You now better understand why so many prominent Democratic strategists have opined, even publicly, against Mr. Biden’s participation in direct debate.
Biden’s no-show strategy has worked relatively well to this point in time. Still, whether a presidential candidate in 2020 can win while running an invisible and hard-left campaign remains an open question.
If the combined power of the swamp can pull this one off, God help us.
If you enjoyed this column consider following Governor Ehrlich on Twitter