In the incipient quest by Democrats to find an alternative to Hillary Clinton, the once unthinkable is now being seriously discussed:
Mr. Biden has not yet announced whether he will join the race for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, but reports over the weekend that the 72-year-old former Delaware senator was seriously exploring a bid reignited discussion among Mrs. Clinton’s advisers about what his potential candidacy would mean for the contest ahead.
When Biden was announced as Barack Obama’s running mate in 2008, there were countless tongue-in-cheek theories about his selection. My favourite was that Joe Biden as Vice President would make Barack Obama assassination proof: Even the most deranged of Islamists would shrink from the thought of a Joe Biden presidency.
Apparently it isn’t a joke anymore.
While the Republicans are preparing for an epic battle to select their nominee — one that will likely provide great drama and good headlines — the Democrats are experiencing Hillary fatigue a full fifteen months before the general. This is not a good sign for them. Nothing is so dull in political life as a coronation. Matched with Hillary’s impervious tone and robotic personality, the DNC is looking at a very hard and very long sell.
At this stage, admittedly, reports of a Biden candidacy are driven by a certain media desperation. With little else to talk about but Hillary — and a few Sandereques sidebars — the poor Beltway reporter must find fodder where he or she can. Talking about a President Biden, however unlikely, at least fills the hours until Donald Trump’s next piece of insightful commentary. But leaving aside the exigencies of a 24-hour news cycle, is the idea even plausible?
Joe Biden is famous for being America’s somewhat embarrassing crazy uncle. His poor turns of phrase and legendary wandering hands have been Twitter staples for years. We all know people like Joe Biden in our personal lives. This makes him eminently relatable. You can imagine meeting Joe and perhaps, if you were in a really good mood, kind of liking him. Though few of us would be quite as enthusiastic as Leslie Knope.
In contrast, few of us know a Hillary Clinton. Some of us may have worked for someone like Hillary Clinton, though none would look back upon that time with any fondness. Beyond whatever we may think of her ideas there is the woman herself: The mechanical lust for power, the rictus grin and the ability to make brazenly contradictory statements with shinning smoothness. If a brilliant satirist were to emerge from the ether, intent on discrediting the modern political process, he would invent Hillary Clinton and hope to be believed.
This means that even when we are talking about Joe we are really talking about Hillary. I don’t think we are in too much danger of a Biden presidency. His usefulness is as a kind of stalking horse. If candidate Biden could break into the double digits, rather better than he did in 2008 when he barely cracked the 1% barrier, it would prove beyond doubt that Hillary is vulnerable.
A strong Biden showing would quickly become a powerful incentive for big-footed Democrats to jump into the race. Andrew Cuomo, one of the few plausible Democratic Governors remaining, comes to mind. Perhaps if the stars align Elizabeth Warren — the George McGovern of the modern era — might deign to take a run.
Enjoy the Biden moment while it lasts: It’s best comic relief you can get at taxpayers’ expense. We can even start talking about “Joementum” and sorting through a list of possible running mates (I’m looking at you, Al Franken). It’s going to be a long election so have fun with it. We all know Joe Biden will.