Regardless of his effects on the other frontrunners, it should be clear by this point in his political career that Joe Biden has pretty much zero chance of being elected president. He’s already given the presidency two cracks and failed pretty convincingly each time, with the then Delaware Senator being forced out of the 1988 Democratic primaries after a plagiarism scandal and failing to poll above 5% at any point during his second run in 2008. Granted, his popularity has certainly risen during his time as vice president, but that acclaim has always come with the knowledge that the former senator from Delaware was essentially acting as President Obama’s biggest champion in The White House. Biden’s finest moment as veep arguably came during the 2012 election, when he eviscerated Paul Ryan during the campaign’s lone vice presidential debate, rallying a Democratic base that desperately needed an injection of enthusiasm after President Obama sleepwalked his way through his 1st debate with Mitt Romney.
In this, his “Malarky Manifesto”, Biden showed everything that makes him the perfect running mate for a sober, straight-laced presidential candidate like Obama. At his best, Biden is a dogged, determined fighter who can out-scrap any politician in the country and is able to use the pathos and common ground inherent in his life’s journey to resonate with the American people.At the time, I described watching Biden go at his opposite vice presidential number as being akin to watching a Bull Mastiff that has been chained up outside and not fed for a week unleashed on an unsuspecting trespasser. It was a wonderful sight to behold and that, along with his defining, if not intentionally public, commentary on the passing of Affordable Care Act—it was a big f***ing deal—are at the core of why so many of us have a certain affection for Vice President Biden. He’s our Uncle Joe. He is quick with an encouraging word, is loyal to a fault and can be counted on to liven up any party, but he’s not the guy you necessarily want running the show.
Much of Biden’s reticence for throwing his hat into the ring is due to the unfortunate death of his son Beau, but I would also imagine a decent amount of it comes from the grilling he knows he’ll be subjected to by his opponents, especially around criminal justice reform. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee from the late 80s to the mid 90s, Biden was responsible for pushing through his fair share of regrettable legislation, the most toxic piece of which was the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which put in place a series of “tough-on-crime” policies that directly led an unprecedented spike in the number of incarcerated Americans. During a time when a second civil rights movement is coalescing and the #BlackLivesMatter movement is arguably the most transformative force in contemporary politics, being one of the biggest boosters for a bill that put a disproportionate number of black and brown Americans behind bars and that introduced the 3 strikes rule into our legal system isn’t a great thing to have on your resume.
Hopefully, Joe Biden will listen to the more reasonable members of his inner circle who are cautioning an emotionally exhausted 72 year old man away from running for President again and he’ll be able to avoid such scrutiny, opting aside to ride off into the sunset as one of the most beloved vice presidents in recent memory. But I wouldn’t count on it.