Please run, Joe. Please, please, please.
The news is suddenly filled with reports that Vice President Joe Biden is seriously considering a run for president. I think this is great news on three levels.
1) Hillary needs another challenge.
For a second time in a row, she has planned to be the “inevitable” candidate. But no one should ever be inevitable, least of all Hillary Clinton.
“Inevitability” was always just a bluff to cover up how weak and shallow her base of political support actually is. The problem is not just the usual air of scandal that follows the Clintons (most recently, her use of a private e-mail server to hide official correspondence). It’s also that her own party’s voters regard her as calculating, insincere, and motivated by nothing but raw ambition. The political establishment that supports her does so for equally calculating reasons, motivated by fear or favor.
Some say the problem is that Democratic voters aren’t sure who Hillary Clinton is. I think her problem is more fundamental and much harder to fix. It’s that everyone knows exactly who she is.
That’s why Democrats have been flocking to Bernie Sanders, a bewildered old hippie who really seems to mean all that woozy socialist claptrap. But Sanders is perhaps a little too far out, man. He’s used to being an independent gadfly and not being near the center of power, whereas Joe Biden is vice-president, which is—well, it’s not near the center of power, either. But he used to be a senator who was actually in charge of important committees. So he may pose a more formidable challenge.
The early response to the idea of his candidacy, including some pretty gushy prose, confirms our suspicion that everyone—the press very much included—really wants to see someone other than Hillary Clinton as a contender for the nomination.
But Biden’s importance isn’t so much whether he wins, but whether he blows the race wide open.
2) Because Democrats need another old white person in the campaign.
I’m joking, of course. Joe Biden is 72 years old. Hillary Clinton is 67. Bernie Sanders is 73. The only Democratic candidate who is not eligible for Social Security is Martin O’Malley, who is the former mayor of Baltimore, which pretty much disqualifies him. Joe Biden doesn’t exactly add diversity to that mix, but by breaking up support for Hillary Clinton, and particularly now, well before the contest has really begun, he opens the slight possibility that someone new and actually interesting won’t be scared out and might enter the Democratic race.
Democrats have been gloating about the disarray of the Republicans’ chaotic 17-person race, where the debates are going to be more an exercise in crowd control than an intellectual exchange. With no clear front-runner or heir apparent, this contest has attracted any Republican with an ounce of political ambition. But at least we’ve got a lot of young, dynamic, viable candidates.
Democrats could use some more of that kind of chaos. Don’t ask me who they’ve got coming down the pike, though. The great political disaster of the Obama administration is the way he has managed to win re-election for himself while hollowing out his party, not just in Congress, but on the state level. That’s precisely why they need any new blood they can find to provide some illusion of vitality.
But of course, Joe Biden provides plenty of his own peculiar brand of energy.
3) Biden levels the playing field of crazy.
Here’s the deal: if Republicans get Trump, Democrats should get Biden. It’s only fair.
I’ve already pointed out the similarities between the two:
You know which political figure reminds me the most of Donald Trump? Joe Biden, the famous senatorial blow-hard who turns every congressional hearing into an arena for personal grandstanding, and who is also famously unable to control his mouth. The only real difference between Biden and Trump? One had bad hair plugs, the other has a cross-hatched double comb-over.
Biden is a gaffe-prone and slightly creepy glad-hander with a history of pompous grandstanding, using plagiarized personal anecdotes, and proposing astonishingly bad policy ideas. But, as with Trump, all those glaring flaws are regarded as proof that at least he’s genuine. Here’s Mike Barnicle:
He is, perhaps, the least complicated man in public life. It’s all right there, on display, for anyone and everyone to hear and see, to criticize or applaud. There is no filter, sometimes to his detriment. There is never any pretense. There is never, not ever, any attempt to hide or even disguise an emotion…. Nobody wonders who Joe Biden is.
Well, Trump isn’t exactly a riddle inside an enigma, either. It doesn’t mean he’s going to make a good president, or that it’s a good idea to place in the highest office of the land a man who seems to lack proper impulse control.
But I’ll give Joe Biden one thing: he might actually be more entertaining than Trump. Maybe it’s the flashing whitened teeth and the blue-collar colloquialisms. Or maybe it’s just that it’s always a lot funnier when it happens to the other side.