Biden’s the best hope to beat Trump

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The fight for the Democratic soul reposes in two distinct groups, the young and the old.

By Sheila Copps
First published in The Hill Times on March 9, 2020.

OTTAWA—It is the American battle of the ages.

The fight for the Democratic soul reposes in two distinct groups, the young and the old.

The young have the energy, and social media savvy to make their presence felt. They are behind Bernie Sanders in unprecedented numbers.

Sanders is encouraging them to dream and dream big. Free post-secondary tuition, and a message that is unmistakably anti-capitalist.

He wants the bloodsucking on Wall Street to stop and has been keenly focused on taking down “the most dangerous president in the history of the country.”

Bernie’s message is sharp and focused. And he has been able to reach out to those millions of Americans who want to reignite a fairer America.

But Joe Biden has been able to convince the rest of battle-weary Democrats that the way to the White House is not through revolution but evolution. That was clear in the Biden bounce.

Sanders says the party should not challenge Donald Trump with a Washington political insider. The place needs an explosion that he will administer.

Although political polar opposites, Sanders and Trump actually have the most in common.

Trump rode to victory on the notion that the capital was a swamp that needed to be drained. He promised to do the draining, attracting millions of disenchanted citizens who believed that Trump would be the one to upend the cozy capital and its entitled residents. Trump was even dubbed the blue-collar billionaire in honour of his commitment to get industrial jobs back into the American rustbelt.

He captured and solidified the blue-collar vote in states that had always been solidly democrat.

That is the same group that Sanders message appeals to.

In addition, Sanders has galvanised the left wing of the Democratic Party who have not had a champion in the White House since Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal. That was introduced before the Second World War as a way to lift the country out of the Great Depression.

Since that time, all successful Democrats have leaned into the centre. That’s where the votes are.

Sanders will ignite the young, but in general, that demographic has the worst voter turnout.

Successive political parties try to inspire the young voter, but the bottom line is, the older you are, the more likely you are to actually get out and vote.

And the less likely you are to support revolution over evolution.

Raging Grannies are generally in the minority because as people age, they become more comfortable with the art of the possible.

In the current, divided American political climate, the Democratic nominee can only win the presidency by convincing some Republicans to switch sides. That moderate path leads directly to Joe Biden.

Biden, weighed down with Washington baggage, has not been the kind of inspiring candidate who could rivet the country.

But he doesn’t need to be. He needs to be unthreatening enough to convince moderate Republicans that they can switch to the Democrats.

Super Tuesday applied a tourniquet to Biden bleeding. His campaign has certainly been dull and lacklustre. In the early days, he came across as out-of-touch, arrogant, and a Washington insider. Those early stumbles at the gate cost him dearly. When confidence ebbs, uneasy supporters quickly move into more winning camps. And the money follows.

But Michael Bloomberg’s bomb out and Amy Klobuchar’s surprise endorsement of Biden led to the Biden bounce and injected new life into the Biden campaign.

The race is not over. But the momentum is certainly in Biden’s direction.

And notwithstanding Trump’s tweets about Bloomberg, he obviously is very afraid of Biden as an opponent.

Otherwise, why would he waste political capital trying to tie Biden up in his Russian/Ukrainian shakedown scandals?

From this vantage point, it looks as though the Democratic nomination will be Biden’s to lose. Along with the delegates elected in primaries across the country, he can count on the majority of super-delegates, those who get to the convention because of their status in the party as officials or former office holders.

They represent almost 15 per cent of all delegates. Under new rules established in 2018, super delegates cannot vote on a first ballot.

In the Super Tuesday post-mortem, it was clear that Biden got overwhelming support from African Americans, and older, moderate voters.

Sanders continued his groundswell with young people, and Latinos, leading to his capture of coveted California.

The path ahead is clear. Democrats will elect Biden. He is the best hope to beat Donald Trump.

Sheila Copps is a former Jean Chrétien-era cabinet minister and a former deputy prime minister. Follow her on Twitter at @Sheila_Copps.