The second Democratic debate Thursday night will either prove or disprove the idea that Joe Biden is mostly Teflon when it comes to attacks against him. This might be why, incidentally, he’s a great opponent to defeat Donald Trump. Trump’s usual bullying tactics won’t work on Biden the way they will work on everyone else, from Elizabeth Warren to Kamala Harris to Pete Buttigieg. You might think that tough women can deflect Trump’s bullying but they can’t. He’s good at it. He knows where the weaknesses lie, and more importantly, he knows that enough men (and women) out there feed off that kind of cruelty.
But Biden? Biden seems to be that guy you can’t attack and come out the other side the winner, not in the post-Obama era anyway.
The main reason for this is that, despite the many missteps he’s made in the past and despite his tendency to phrase right thoughts in wrong ways — millions of people genuinely like Joe Biden. They like him a lot. You can’t really mess with that. Between mourning the death of his son, and the other struggles he’s endured in his long career as a public servant, Biden has slowly but surely embedded himself in the hearts of Americans, broadly. Black voters, white voters, men, women, young, old — they all like Biden. They like him because they know him. And knowing is probably why the attempts to call him out as a harasser or a racist haven’t really landed. Not so far.
There is no doubt that Left or “woke” Twitter isn’t particularly fond of Joe. But then, they really don’t like any white men that get in the way of their adoration for Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris. Praising both those admirable women draws the most support with RTs and hearts. Not many are out there virtue signaling Joe Biden. The regular non-Twitter users out there in the world though? They like Joe. Sure, some might worry that he is the wrong candidate for right now, or that clean-cut Joe can’t win against dirty-trickster Trump — but most like him.
That was why when Kamala Harris, who was already poised to be the superstar of the debate Thursday night, and many believe still won it, could have hurt her own chances as much as she helped them when she went after Joe Biden. She needs the support of the black community, which she doesn’t have, and there was one surefire way to do that — attack Biden on the issue of race. Will it work? Who knows. It will certainly give Putin and Co. a nice wedge to work with.
The reaction by many who watched was that it stung. Biden has a smile that the camera loves, and the camera also catches those moments when that smile cracks — whether it be in dismay or a sincere pang from unexpected wounding — his natural affable demeanor invites a lot of viewers to feel what Joe is feeling. Harris was doing well by being the only one to say “America doesn’t want a food fight” — but then proceeded to throw a cold glass of juice. Had she gone after Joe Biden in a different manner, it’s likely she would have ended the night one of the strongest contenders for president. She might still be — but it is too soon to say.
One thing we do know is that on a recent Economist/YouGov poll, Kamala Harris had about a 33% when it came to whether voters knew her or not in measuring favorability/unfavorability. If the first way they get to know her is that she attacked Joe Biden on race, how does that work for her vs. how does it work against her?
It’s a dangerous gamble when the end goal is to have the majority of people vote for you to do anything to upset the apple cart. In Twitter’s world, which is the media’s world, which is the feedback loop, only women can get us out of this mess. But an American election means you have to draw votes from everywhere. Attacking the guy who is polling high everywhere and who was President Obama’s beloved Veep for two terms might not be the best way to do that.
Twitter was alive with giddy praise: “She SLAUGHTERED him!” But when you looked at Joe Biden you didn’t see a guy who needed to be “slaughtered,” did you? His unfortunate gaffe was used to boost her own image but did it immediately make her a divisive figure rather than the uniter Democrats need?
Twitter craves bloodshed in the form of bullying, tribalism and insults. They NEEDED something like that to churn the machine for the next few days and they got it. Kamala Harris going after Joe Biden was like a brutal Twitter own, hashtag #snap. The problem is that it most likely didn’t read to broader America as nearly so cool.
That Biden polls so high when the bubble mostly hates him ought to be a sign that something somewhere is off, that Michelle Goldberg’s odd attack piece on Biden was off. Who are all of these people who like him? Twitter dismisses it as name recognition. I think that’s too easy.
Eric Swalwell acquitted himself even worse last because although Harris at least had a legitimate grievance regarding Biden’s record that affected her personally, Swalwell just went on and on about a “new generation,” and that again backfired. No one was cheering him on — they just suddenly hated him for going after “Uncle Joe.” Harris had a grievance, Swalwell had a taunt. It’s too soon to know whether any of it made an impact.
Joe Biden has come under attack for so many things throughout his career, especially recently. Attack attack attack from every side. Cory Booker is out there today on Twitter trashing Biden, in hopes of, I suppose, winning over Biden’s big lead with black voters, or cutting into some of that Kamala Harris action. All the male feminists on Twitter are RTing Fox News and other GOP folks who are going after Biden, piling on in hopes of snagging some of those juicy RTs and not getting ratiod like any white guy who dared to criticize Harris or Warren.
Through it all, and even today, Biden is still polling higher of all of the candidates because he offers a vast number of people comfort in a time of chaos and tribalism, a chance to rewind the last three years of Trump without the unknown and unknowable turmoil of a “socialist revolution.”
Whatever his flaws, voters forgive him. He’s polling higher than anyone else, not just against Trump but in places like Florida and even Texas and North Carolina. Biden can win in Pennsylvania and Florida. That is all the Democrats need to beat Trump. It sounds so simple — and yet…
If the polls begin to show Biden tanking and Harris soaring you’ll know that her gambit was the right thing to do. But if you don’t see that, and it barely makes a dent, for the love of god, people, stop helping Trump win this election by destroying your own frontrunner.
If you want to beat Biden, then do it by being the better option. Give us hope and something to reach for, not something to fight against. After all, Trump won with four words on a red hat that said “Make America Great Again.” That is where this whole thing has to start. You have to be able to offer Americans something much better — and not just a certain kind of American, but ALL Americans across all spectrums. We have to get rid of Trump as priority number one. If we don’t, shame on us.
What we’re fighting for is bigger than any one candidate. It’s for the soul of the country. Biden gets this. He’s one of the few who sent that message loudly and clearly Thursday night. He might end up being the only car that can drive us out of the desert. Why would we flatten the tires and break the windshield of the only car that could drive us out of the desert? Sure, maybe the A/C is on the fritz, and it isn’t pretty to look at, and it doesn’t make you feel young — but it gets us where we need to go. And that’s to safety.