There are a lot of new and interesting names in the 2020 Democratic field, and then there’s former Vice President Joe Biden. As far as polling goes, Biden has continued to sit at or near the top of just about every 2020 Democratic primary poll. He’s a former Vice President so of course, he will always retain a certain level of clout within the party, but does he have what it takes to compete in a crowded 2020 field? More importantly, is his personality and voting record compatible with the modern Democratic Party?

Charlie Mahtesian, writing at Politico, argues that Biden may be the strongest candidate with the least amount of commonality with the Democratic Party of today. Given Biden’s demographic as an old, white male, he immediately loses some ground to a party desperately seeking to reignite the coalition that twice hoisted Barack Obama into the White House.

Joe Biden, who leads the Democratic 2020 presidential field in early polls, has all the markings of a front-runner. He possesses a sterling résumé, access to a donor base, name recognition and eight years of loyal service to a president who’s loved by the party base. There’s just one problem: He’s also a deeply flawed candidate who’s out of step with the mood of his party.

Biden hasn’t announced he’s running for president, of course, but he’s made clear he’s seriously thinking about it. On Sunday, he confirmed it again on MSNBC’s PoliticsNation. The decision, he said back in February, will be based on whether it’s “right for me to do.”

But that’s the wrong question. What Biden should be asking is whether the party wants him, and not just whether he should seize his last chance.

Biden’s biggest sin, according to Mahtesian, is not his “handsy” personality or his propensity to create gaffes, but rather Biden’s collection of Senate votes from his time in the Upper Chamber that are notably out of step with modern progressive tenets.

One of them is the bankruptcy reform bill that he championed for years, until it finally passed in 2005. The political taint from that law—favored by credit card companies because it made it harder for consumers to get debt relief through bankruptcy—shows no sign of subsiding on the left. It surfaced as a thorny issue during Biden’s vetting as Barack Obama’s running mate in 2008, and reappeared nearly a decade later to haunt Hillary Clinton during her 2016 Democratic primary.

The 1994 crime bill is another ticking time bomb from Biden’s past. As Obama’s vice president and a key member of an administration that sought to reorient criminal justice policy, Biden was never truly called to account for his leading role in passing a Clinton administration measure that many in the party believe exacerbated an era of mass incarceration that disproportionately affects racial minorities.

There are other issues in Biden’s portfolio that would prove problematic with influential factions within the current Democratic Party—among them his vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq and his history on abortion rights.

By the end of his Senate career, Biden was a staunch defender of reproductive rights, but there’s still a collection of votes and quotes over the years that will raise questions about his reliability.

In other words, Biden may be the right candidate at the wrong time. In 2008, he couldn’t compete with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama so he bowed out fairly early. He spent eight years loyally serving President Obama and earned tremendous respect with the Democratic base for his time as a staunch defender of Obama’s policies. In recent months, Biden has turned his attention on President Trump, clearly with intention of signaling his eagerness to go after the current Commander in Chief.

Biden could connect with many of the same voters who crossed over for Trump. The Rust Belt is prime Biden territory, just as it was for Trump who easily appealed to blue-collar union households who felt as if Washington had abandoned the working class as a priority.

Unfortunately, for Biden’s 2020 hopes, the Democratic Party may not need them next time around either, as Mahtesian concludes:

Yet it’s a sign of the times that the familiar, out-of-power Democratic hand-wringing about how to win back the white working class has quieted. It’s no longer a universally held opinion that it’s necessary or even prudent for the party to chase voters who cast a ballot for Trump. Within some party circles, working-class whites are not viewed as essential to the racially diverse coalition that they believe represents the party’s future.

As a septuagenarian white male, Biden is a highly unlikely prospect to lead that new coalition. It’s a testament to his talents that it’s even subject to debate.

The Obama coalition proved in 2008 and 2012 that Democrats did not need to appeal to white working-class voters the way Bill Clinton and Al Gore did. The new coalition of younger, more diverse voters was more than enough to carry victory twice for Obama.

In 2020, Democrats will be deciding whether they want to find a candidate who can rekindle the Obama coalition, which Hillary Clinton failed to do in 2016, or anoint someone like Joe Biden to recapture the coalition built by Bill Clinton, and subsequently co-opted by Donald Trump.


  1. Let me get this straight. Joe Biden would be unacceptable to the Democratic party because he voted against irresponsibility (bankruptcy), felons, regardless of race, if you do the crime you do the time, peace loving at any cost (war vote), feminist (abortion lovers). If these people are the driving force of the Democratic party is it any wonder that the Democrats are out of power and probably will be into the foreseeable future.?

    This article talks of a multicultural nirvana. I’ve got news for you that scenario has never existed and it never will.?

    • I must have missed it but where in Nate’s post was there a discussion of a multicultural nirvana. Nirvana Day (Buddhism) is a holiday that celebrates and marks the death anniversary of Buddha. China has over a 100 billion people who follow Buddhism. Japan has 9 billion Buddhist faithful. 6 million Buddhists reside in America, which makes it the third largest religion in the United States. England is a multi-cultural country. So is Canada and Australia. Argentina, the Comoros, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Rwanda and Uruguay rank as the world’s worst in the diverse countries. The United States ranks near the middle, slightly more diverse than Russia but slightly less diverse than Spain.

      • Within some party circles, working-class whites are not viewed as essential to the racially diverse coalition that they believe represents the party’s future.

        As a septuagenarian white male, Biden is a highly unlikely prospect to lead that new coalition. It’s a testament to his talents that it’s even subject to debate.

        Are you trying to tell me that you one of the most astute people on DISQUS can’t see the veiled message behind this article? The racially diverse coalition that will represent the Democrats future. Or the fact that poor old Uncle Joe is essentially disqualified because of the fact that he is an old white guy. To me I think that is enough of a veiled message to signify the hoped for multicultural Nirvana dreamed of by the Democrats.?

        • Thanks, Straight Shooter, for being decent to Berkley. He or she certainly is astute, as are you, when you tone down the emotion.

          I fully agree that Joe Biden is too old, and too old-guard. But that is also his strong point. He is attractive to many white, blue collar workers.

          Since Dems have worked so hard to appeal to women and minorities, maybe it would be smart to nominate someone who appeals to this alienated group. Is it really likely that women and minorities would vote for Trump?

          It’s still early. I remember the joy of the young JFK, following old-man Ike. Perhaps Democrats will find an exciting young person to go against the septuagenarian Trump.

        • Donald Trump is a septuagenarian as well as Biden. With the exception of Nikki Haley, Trump’s cabinet positions that are assigned are all septuagenarians and octogenarians. Are you just trying to say that the present U S government is being run by a bunch of old white men and one old black man?

      • Buddha? Nirvana? You’re supposed to talk about the article. Like explain how Biden would have brought NK to the peace table. Or how Biden would have gotten Kim to peacefully stop his missile testing.

        Do you suppose these great politicans, and I’m including the Bushes, are embarrassed about NK, etc.

        • It is time to remember that Joe Biden only holds an opinion. He was never authorized in any official capacity to deal with, or offer a deal to, North Korea.

          It was Donald Trump who made a significant concession to Kim Jung-un by becoming the first sitting U.S. president to extend an invitation to meet with the leader of the world’s most despotic regime. Trump continues to feed Kim Jung-un’s propaganda machine as it loudly boasts that the world’s sole superpower has been compelled to bow before its mighty nuclear arsenal. What is Trump getting in return? So far, not even freedom for the three American prisoner/hostages that Kim Jung-un still holds in jailed isolation.

          Trump, and you, might do well to review George W’s responses to North Korea. In 2007, George W reached an agreement with Kim Jong that if he would shut down his main nuclear reactor, the U S would send $400 million worth of fuel, food and other aid in exchange for him doing so. Just before leaving office, George W Bush sent a personal letter to Kim Jong Il reminding him to uphold his end of the bargain. Many things have been said about George W but no one can deny that he followed his cowboy code to the end.

          • Unbelievable. You, or your fake news, is so wrong about politics. You can’t even give Trump credit for bringing NK to the peace table. That is really sad.

            Why you think Trump is feeding Kim’s propaganda machine I’ll never understand. Obama/ Biden feed Kim’s propaganda machine. Hillary would have too. Trump has stopped them from shooting off missiles. South Korea is happy. Maybe you don’t care but South Korea does.

            Trump hasn’t made any concessions to NK at all. He’s brought them to the peace table. Which really must irritate you, Obama, and Bushy boy. You guys couldn’t have accomplished anything. You’d have given NK money , you don’t care as it isn’t your money, to make them stronger. Oh but they’d say “We promise to be Nice. We really promise.” And you’d believe them.

            When your man Obama made concessions to Cuba what did you think? His concessions were a slap in the face to Cuban Americans but he didn’t care.

            So you think Biden being VP wasn’t important. That means Biden is just another corrupt good old boy. Sad you think he was wasting his time. Must be being VP isn’t a big F ing deal.

            • The only duty the U.S. Constitution assigns the Vice President is to act as presiding officer of the U. S. Senate. He, or she, serves as the president commands.

              It is impossible to predict just what Kim Jong Un or Donald Trump will do or say next. Kim Jong Un can well afford to suspend tests because his nuclear arsenal is complete and is capable of accurately striking deep inside the United States. He has not offered to give up any bombs or dismantle any production infrastructure. As usual, Trump is declaring a great accomplishment when nothing of substance has, in facts or writing, been formally agreed upon.

              When Donald Trump, as president, threatens other countries with U.S. military warfare, every American needs to remember that their President, Donald Trump, used deferments (5) to escape serving in his country during armed conflicts. When those deferments were used up, Trump got his doctor to sign that he had bone spurs in one foot to continue to avoid serving in the U.S. armed services.

              Trump’s ban on normalized trade with Cuba stripped over $1 billion in sales each year right out of U.S. farmer’s pockets, the USDA said. Presently, Cuba spends about $1.6 billion annually on food imports, with over one-third of these imports such as wheat, soybeans, rice, and chickens, coming from the U.S. When formulating all his restriction on Cuba, Trump failed to take into consideration that foreign countries such as Russia and China are ready and waiting to supply Cuba with their food needs and will become Cuba’s new trading partners.

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