Joe Biden is the Jennifer Lopez of Democrats - he's the guy who, always, is about 3rd on the national list of favorites. In 1988, he generated little real excitement. He was nowhere in 1992. Or 2004. And in 2008, he quickly got sidelined in the 3 way contest of Edwards, Clinton and Obama. Just as Lopez is nobody's absolute favorite singer, or seen as America's most talented actress, in a general way, Biden's on the national list because... well, he's been there a while and he seems intent on doing it.
I don't mind the idea of Biden running, yet again, for President... or anyone else for that matter. Let a thousand Bidens bloom, and let's sort it out with primaries - that, after all, is the kind of glory our system was meant to provide, and look how it's helping the GOP! But seriously, a fresh debate about the American left and a consensus on where to go from here could only help.
All I ask is, let's not pretend that Joe Biden somehow, magically, became a vastly better Democratic candidate for President than he's been in 30 years.
Since Maureen Dowd hit that new low - I know, in a career as horrendously atrocious as hers, that's saying something - of shamelessly suggesting that Biden's son Beau urged a run on his deathbed, the liberal left seems to think Presidential elections will only do in lieu of flowers. True or not, that should have been private, and it's surely the depths of shamelessness to make everyone complicit in what is profoundly unfathomable grief. Biden deserves, after all these years, the simple dignity of being taken on his own terms.
What the public deserves, though, is a thoughtful examination of each candidate, both pro and con, a full look at strengths and weaknesses. Neither Biden, nor Bernie Sanders has really gotten that kind of healthy scrutiny; driven, in no small measure, by a disdain for Hillary Clinton that borders on monomaniacal by her detractors. Where Biden and Bernie can do no wrong, Mrs. Clinton can do no right. We must be repeatedly told no one likes her, or trusts her, or believes a word she says - handy, self-fulfilling prophecies for those who live for the gotcha moment that will finally prove them right.
Mrs. Clinton deserves scrutiny, and by no means should our primaries be seen as preordained or a coronation... but still, she's an experienced public official with years of government service and stated positions on issues well in tune with the liberal tenor of the times. There's a positive case to be made for her that, just as myopically, is not being made at all. If we, as voters, should make a well informed choice, it's the providers of information who, really, ought to be on notice about failing to do the work, in every respect.
Then, too, the foolishness of this hot summer in politics is a reminder of modern realities - that conservatives have made a hash of the Republican Party, that they can barely hold together, that their clown car approach to the Presidential race is yet again a recipe for ultimate failure. Democrats have rarely been so well positioned to simply show up and succeed - yet the last couple of months have been full of the legendary ability of liberals to doubt the rightness of their own views (and to lurch, madly, at folks like Sanders for simply stating the obvious), doubting our leadership choices, and questioning the ability of the general public to vote for their own interests. Fear may be a great motivator, but liberalism needs the confidence of our actual convictions. The sickening attempts to pervert the decent work of Planned Parenthood, alone, is reminder enough that we have to believe what we say to fight for the things we want.
There may be a good case for a Biden presidency. That argument probably deserves to be made and given a hearing. It's also worth considering that our current President is a divisive figure, the results of his Presidency - outside of healthcare - are something of a mixed bag, and the sitting Vice President, surely, carries a weight of defending this Presidency that no one else will bear.The compelling mediocrity of the President and his team, as well, was reiterated this week as they stumbled from tacitly throwing much of their weight behind Clinton to a confused exercise of all but endorsing a Biden run. The Obama team - they'll stand behind you... until suddenly they run away. What will they do, a month or two from now, if Biden stumbles? What then?
Behind all of the roiling is a lot of much harder questions about what the left really stands for, realistically assessing the national mood and taking a hard look at what, really, even the most ambitious liberal President could accomplish. Revisiting the Biden dream is, in a way, a cop-out: it's a last gasp of the old, dem establishment machine cranking the gears of unions and faded urban coalitions, refighting the old fights, reasserting the old ways. Nothing on our side of the race is really about fresh blood - Biden and Sanders are over 70, products of sixties era political movements, as is 67 year old Clinton. Elizabeth Warren, the great hidden hope? She, too, is 66. All of them, any of them, will need a VP candidate pulled from a generation under 50, probably someone out of the new majority-minority melting pot. That we, as Democrats think the answer to not selecting a qualified woman candidate is reviving the prospects of an old white man isn't just reductive, it's thoroughly embarrassing. No wonder much of the energy, this summer, has come from young African American activists demanding greater accountability from our leaders. We should at least take a moment to actually be ashamed of where this is headed, if we just let fear paralyze progress.
Still, this is summer - it's hot, many serious, thoughtful people have taken the month, or months off, fall will return and things will likely look much different in 6-8 weeks. And maybe this fall and winter will be the exciting tale of determining whether Clinton or Biden is the best prospect in a serious examination of issues that matter, rather than shouting and fuming about the scandal du jour. We can always hope. We can, actually, take some control of this messy process and insist on better reporting and a more serious process. But mainly, we could be the liberal left we are capable of being - the people who aren't afraid to stand up, speak out, and do the work to change things. That's bigger, and more powerful, than even a thousand Bidens. If we choose to believe it. And do something.