WASHINGTON: Joe Biden is in trouble.
That surprises some people. Two years ago, Democrats wailed that he didn’t run for the presidency. Avuncular, reliable Uncle Joe could have beaten Donald Trump, they said. Black voters liked him, he built a large pile of political capital as President Obama’s VP, and he was more authentic than Hillary Clinton.
Two months ago he had (and still has) name recognition. His polling numbers were (and still are) at the top of the Democratic pack. His entry into the 2020 race could only be for the good.
Biden’s troubles are less of a surprise to close observers of Democratic Party politics. He’s old, white and male in a burgeoning Democratic field that’s as sexually and racially diverse as a CW TV show. He’s a traditional Democrat in an age of sexy socialism. His unfortunate comments about articulate black men, Indian-run quick markets and his legacy as a Welsh coal-miner’s son were in the background, not expunged, and he could be counted on for new gaffes.
And it was never a secret that he likes to touch people. But post #metoo, touching people with your lips and without invitation is just asking for trouble.
Is Joe Biden “creepy”?
Biden’s defenders point out that being touchy-feely isn’t the same as being creepy. Compared to people in other countries, Americans are unusually uncomfortable with public touching.
There are two fast responses to that: This is the United States of America, not France, and we don’t want to be France; Biden does an unusual amount of public touching.
Everyone but liberals has known that first fact for centuries. Oh, they know that we aren’t France, but they can’t understand why not. Everyone but Democrats has known that second fact for years. Even Democrats have known it, but they always rationalized it away. They liked Biden, after all, and he was Obama’s VP, so where others saw him pawing Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s wife Stephanie, they saw fatherly affection. They were in denial, and no one ever forced them to face reality: Joe Biden is, and always has been, that handsy uncle. He’s always been a creepy old man.
Some Democrats are still in denial.
The most recent incident really is, on its own, a silly and trivial thing.
He kissed her on the head? In a rational world, she’d get over it. But this isn’t a rational world. With regard to personal interactions, it’s a me-too world, a world the Democrats have made.
By the logic of that world, no touching without permission is ever excusable. That’s doubly true when the toucher is more privileged – white, male, cis-heterosexual – than the touched. By the logic of that world, what matters isn’t the intent of the toucher, but only the perceptions of the touched.
Some Democrats understand that they’ve created a problem – they still lament their sacrifice of Senator Al Franken on the altar of me-too-ness and hate Senator Kirsten Gillibrand for wielding the knife – but it’s a problem they can’t fix. You can’t take the right to claim victimization from any potential victim, just as you can’t tolerate the slightest sin in the temple.
So Biden is also a victim?
So far as you can be a victim of your own stupidity and the monsters of your own creation, yes, Joe Biden is a victim.
He’s popular with some of the party, the less woke, more traditional parts. But the Democratic base has moved on. They have shinier toys to play with. Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren have rekindled dreams of a woman in the White House, and both are “progressive”. The best Biden can offer is a black woman as VP, and if Stacy Abrams is smart – by all accounts she is – she’ll keep her distance.
The Democrats have black and Hispanic options. Beto isn’t Hispanic, but he can talk the talk and he’s a lot younger and prettier than Biden. And thinking of young and pretty, the Democrats have Pete Buttigieg. He has little experience, but he’s a Rhodes scholar, a war veteran, and he’s gay.
The press and the Democrats are besotted with all this diversity. And so the press no longer defends Biden, and the Democrats clearly see his shortcomings for the first time in years.
So much diversity, the best diversity!
How much diversity? The Democratic field is so diverse that some left-wing Democratics say without saying it that Buttigieg isn’t gay enough. Writing for Slate Magazine, Christina Cauterucci says,
To me, a queer woman, it seems hard to argue that the presidential run of this apotheosis of respectability politics is a major win for diversity. Buttigieg’s perception of queer sexuality as a not-sinful but ultimately unimportant distinction—“like having brown hair,” his coming-out essay said—doesn’t make him less gay. It does, however, put some distance between him and the queer communities he’s getting credit for being the first to represent.
There’s some hostility on the left to the “B-boys”: Biden, Beto, and Buttigieg. They’re all cis-gendered, white males, which in the epistemology of race and gender studies makes them more like President Trump than like Kamala Harris. They represent wealth, power and privilege, not the experience of the oppressed.
In this milieu, Joe Biden is worse than unnecessary. He’s an embarrassing inconvenience and a relic of the past. He’s done nothing recently that he hasn’t done before, but what he’s done is less important than what he is. And what he is is the sad, creepy old victim of people who don’t want him anymore.