EDITOR’S NOTE: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
As the Democratic presidential contenders begin a four-month sprint to the Iowa caucuses, the front-runner, Joe Biden, is in trouble. Biden surged to the lead even before he announced, buoyed by name recognition, experience and his service as vice president to Barack Obama. He was anointed the “most electable” of Democrats. But, now, his early lead in polls is fading, with Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) even inching ahead of him in a recent Iowa poll. This marks only the beginning of Biden’s fall: In reality, as findings from a new book by veteran Democratic pollster and strategist Stanley Greenberg suggest, among the lead contenders Biden might well be the weakest potential opponent to President Trump.
It is not his age but his history that bedevils Biden, and not style but substance that weighs on his candidacy. Biden got the big things wrong repeatedly over the last 40 years. In what he has since called a “big mistake,” he championed the infamous 1994 crime bill that contributed to the unconscionable mass incarceration that particularly ravaged the African American community. As Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, he left Anita Hill to fend for herself during the Clarence Thomas hearings. He defended President Bill Clinton’s repeal of Aid to Mothers of Dependent Children. He consistently backed pro-corporate trade treaties—from the North American Free Trade Agreement to letting China into the World Trade Organization—that savaged America’s manufacturing workers. He voted for the invasion of Iraq, surely the greatest foreign policy debacle since Vietnam. (He now claims he was duped by then-President George W. Bush.) And he was all in for Wall Street deregulation that helped lead to the worst recession since the Great Depression, then served in the administration that bailed out the banks, put no major banker in jail for what the FBI called an epidemic of fraud and left homeowners adrift.
Biden’s basic pitch is as the candidate of restoration. He paints Trump as an aberration and promises a return to normalcy. He boasts about the recovery under Obama and chafes at the populist rhetoric against bankers and corporate CEOs. But as Greenberg details in his new book RIP GOP: How the New America Is Dooming the Republicans, this isn’t where most voters are—and it certainly isn’t where the core constituents of the Democratic majority coalition are.
Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.