THE HUTCHINSON REPORT
By Earl Ofari Hutchinson
In my weekly column in March 2019, I posed the question who would win in a head to head match up between former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump.
I wrote this nearly one year before the first Democratic presidential debate and a year and a half before the first debate between Biden and Trump.
A month later, I expanded the column into a series assessing the strengths and weaknesses of Biden and Trump in the 2020 presidential showdown. I published it as an Amazon eBook, “Biden versus Trump: Who Would Win?”
This was not prescience or soothsaying in predicting that Biden would be the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee many months before it happened. It was simply based on a brutal political calculus. Biden was the only Democrat who had any realistic chance against Trump — and the Democrats were darn lucky to have him.
Choosing Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, or any of the other long list of Democrats who tossed their hats into the 2020 presidential campaign would not only have ensured a Trump reelection, but a walkover reelection.
I took much heat for bluntly saying this, particularly from the legions of impassioned Sanders and Warren backers. Progressives doggedly argued that only a progressive such as Sanders with his supposed millions of young, activist-energized backers could beat Trump.
Biden was ripped as too old, too corporate, too capital beltway establishment, and carried too much life-time wheeling and dealing baggage. There were dark warnings that if Biden were the Democratic nominee, millions of progressives would be so turned off that Biden’s candidacy would be dead on arrival, and the Democratic Party would be hopelessly torn and fractured. The Biden bashing intensified with his initial relatively poor showings in early Democratic primaries.
The Biden can’t win line was repeated so often that it almost became a point of gospel fact. That was myth and nonsense stuffed with way too many illusions and delusions about the hard nature of American politics.
It is true there have been major voter demographic changes in the country. There are more Black, Hispanic, Asian, youth, suburban college educated women and LGBT voters. They trend heavily Democrat. However, this does not change the brutal political truth that America, both politically and ideologically, is a right center country.
The proof is in two parts. One is the most cursory look at the presidential electoral map. Apart from the two coasts where both the old and the new voter demographics trend Democrat and have grown in numbers, the bulk of the country is solid red. That is heavily rural, blue collar, less educated, evangelical and traditionally conservative.
The second part is Trump’s 2016 win. He won with that constituency. A huge part of which has been rock-solid in their almost devotional backing of him.
The number of counties that Trump won throughout America dwarfed the number that Hilary Clinton won in 2016. With few exceptions, such as Arizona, that base of support has remained unchanged in the four-year run up to the 2020 presidential campaign.
Then there’s the Electoral College. It, not the popular vote, decides the presidency. The talk is endless of its gross and outdated unfairness. It heavily tilts toward putting Republican presidential candidates such as Trump and George Bush before him in 2000 in the White House. Yet, the college is a set-in stone fact of American presidential political life and will remain so, thus giving Republican candidates a boost in the heartland and southern states.
The argument often made about Sanders is that in primaries in a few heartland states in 2016 he peeled off a share of the blue collar, conservative voters, the Trump base. Yes, but it was in the Democratic primary and those were Democrats.
The only hope Democrats would have in 2020 to make any inroads here is with a candidate who did not stir the politically frozen, suspect notion these voters have of a Democratic presidential candidate. Biden was the only Democrat contender who could accomplish that.
He is moderate, but blunt, plain spoken, from a heartland state, and thus politically non-threatening. He looked and spoke like well, a regular Joe.
Biden sealed the deal when he took pains to distance himself from Sanders and Warren and other Democrats by rejecting Medicare for All, and a frontal tough regulation assault on Wall Street and the big corporations.
That gave Biden the edge to cut into Trump’s white male blue collar numbers in a couple of key Midwest swing states that Trump won in 2016. This time he lost them.
However, even with Biden’s regular guy image, it would still be an uphill battle to unseat Trump. But as I said in my March 2019 column, without him the Democrats would never have dodged the presidential election bullet. Put bluntly, without Biden it would have been a Trump walkover.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of the forthcoming “What’s Right and Wrong with the Electoral College” (Middle Passage Press). He also is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One and the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.