I’ve never been shy in my assertion that Joe Biden is an awful presidential candidate – and that was before the pandemic meant he was resigned to his basement.
Usually, when electing leaders to positions of immense power, being able to speak, finish coherent thoughts, and remember one’s current location are all pretty essential prerequisites – but, oh well, this is post-2016 American politics.
The New York Times reported that Obama “counseled Mr. Biden to keep his speeches brief, interviews crisp and slash the length of his tweets, the better to make the campaign a referendum on Mr. Trump and the economy, according to Democratic officials.” If he convinced Joe to minimize exposure to humiliating gaffes and brain freezes, Obama is already worth his weight in gold to this campaign.
With COVID-19 deaths continuing to decline steadily, the media will only be able to provide cover for Biden with their ridiculous “total suspected infections” stats for so long. Regardless of the renewed lockdowns and fear-mongering, there will come a time when the realities of the outcomes on the ground can’t be hidden with hysterical (and dishonest) charts and graphs.
And on that day, people will expect the Democratic challenger for the presidency of the United States of America to emerge from his basement and run a campaign.
I don’t think he can do it.
That’s why Barack Obama will ultimately prove to be the MVP of this election cycle for Democrats. If he wants to remove the man from office who’s spent the better part of three years attempting to undo his legacy, Obama will have to do the heavy lifting between now and November.
It makes sense in a way; even before the former President was willing to inject himself into the proceedings, Barack cast an enormous shadow over the election cycle. Biden’s entire message to voters throughout the Democratic primaries was, “I’m Obama’s buddy; he picked me to be his VP!”
He never really offered much else besides a return to the simpler times before Donald Trump, as if the country could just hit “Reset” and return to 2010 – or that we’d want to.
I seem to remember a devastating recession, brutal suppression tactics used against Occupy Wall St (for daring to be furious over the bailout robberies), and a whole lot of drone strikes and foreign military campaigns.
But Barack Obama is many magnitudes the orator of Donald Trump and carries himself with considerably more class, so all is forgiven by liberals everywhere.
Never mind Mr. “Hope and Change’s” role in disenfranchising voters to the point of desperation for an outsider candidate; affluent suburban Democrats just want to go back to not caring again – and they can’t do that until Trump is off their television screens.
The point is that someone will have to pick up the slack once this turns into a real presidential campaign. If the Democrats want to rid themselves of Donald Trump, finally, Barack Obama will have to be the one to do it.
(I realize Biden is currently leading in the polls by a substantial margin by staying quiet and making the election a referendum on Trump. But there are still four months before Election Day, and I don’t they can maintain this lead once the pandemic starts to die down and the economy is reopened.)
Obama’s Return to the Campaign Trail
Obama participated in his first official Biden campaign event on June 23, co-hosting a virtual fundraiser with his former running mate. The two raised over $11 million throughout the online conversation, including $7.6 million from 175,000 individual “grassroots” donations.
The former President’s importance to Biden’s election effort became immediately apparent.
Not only was it the campaign’s most successful fundraiser of the election cycle, but it also allowed Obama to speak directly to Democrats, an opportunity he used to implore them to increase their engagement with the ticket.
“We can’t be complacent or smug or suggest that somehow it’s so obvious that this president hasn’t done a good job because look, he won once, and it’s not like we didn’t have a good clue as to how he was going to operate the last time,” Obama said.
In his first real cooperation with Joe Biden’s campaign, Obama did more to boost his declining ex second-in-command than the primary nomination itself. All the while delivering a colossal injection of much-needed cash for a Democratic nominee whose war chest is already significantly smaller than the Republican opposition’s.
Some might argue that Barack Obama’s influence over the 2020 presidential election began much earlier than the June fundraiser – even before he’d formally endorsed Joe Biden. The former President is alleged to have played a central role in organizing the coalescence of moderate establishment Democrats behind the eventual nominee while effectively derailing the Bernie Sanders movement.
Earlier in the primaries, there were rumors of Obama discussing with DNC officials when he should step in to stop Bernie if it came to that point. Instead, Biden’s win in South Carolina inspired a series of maneuvers that sealed his fate in a more subtle manner.
An NBC News article from March 2 claims the Barack was the “hidden hand” behind the rapid consolidation of the centrist lane. The former President is reported to have called Pete Buttigieg personally when he dropped out of the race. Within 24-hours, both Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar had exited the primary and endorsed Biden.
Elizabeth Warren was not asked to step aside. Her job was to keep the campaign alive through Super Tuesday to ensure maximum damage to Sanders, allowing Joe to cruise to a sizable delegate lead.
If Obama indeed was the orchestrator of those moves, he’s already the MVP of the Biden campaign, considering he’s solely responsible for its continued existence.
Barack Obama will be the most highly valued contributor to the Biden campaign through November because removing Trump from office is of personal importance to the President’s predecessor. Obama’s motives range from defending his legacy to protecting himself from potential legal recourse should the incumbent see a second term.
For starters, Donald Trump has been extremely critical of Obama’s tenure in office from the very beginning. He was a leading voice in the “birther” movement, which posited that then-President Barack Obama was born in Kenya, couldn’t produce an “official long-form birth certificate,” and was thus ineligible to be President of the United States.
When Trump won, Obama “slumped in his chair in the Oval Office” and told an aide, “I am so done with all of this,” speaking of the job.
“This is personal for Trump; it is all about President Obama and demolishing his legacy. It’s his obsession,” said Omarosa Manigault Newman, an “Apprentice” veteran, and a former Trump White House official. “President Obama will not be able to rest as long as Trump is breathing.”
And President Trump has followed through on his revenge fantasies. He’s scrapped Michelle’s healthy school lunch program, worked to dismantle Obamacare, and rolled back all sorts of regulations and environmental protections. He even had the White House curtains changed, telling a visitor in early 2017 that Obama “had the worst taste.”
Russiagate / Obamagate
Then there’s the matter of Russiagate or Obamagate, depending on your preferred source of news. However you feel about Donald Trump, what the Obama administration pulled with the FBI investigation into trumped-up accusations of Russian collusion would have been a monumental scandal at any other time in history, if anyone other than Trump were the victim. Everything from the debunked Steele dossier to the bogus FISA warrant, to the wrongful prosecution of Michael Flynn, was filthy.
If anyone in America still had an interest in objective truth, even when it’s not convenient for our preferred political affiliations, Obama would likely be on trial. And he could still end up there if damning information continues to come out. That’s another massive incentive for Obama to campaign for Biden like his life depends on it. He needs a friendly face in the White House before the public learns anything else about this story.
Vitality, Wit, and an Ability to Communicate
More than anything else, the presence of Barack Obama lends credibility to Joe Biden. The Democratic strategists aren’t dumb; they know their presidential nominee is on a steep decline. It’s unlikely that he’ll ever be more than a figurehead – an empty suit representing a vote for “Not Trump.” If elected, his administration will do all of the real work, and they’ll just wheel Biden out for the occasional speech and ceremonial duties.
From the launch of Biden’s campaign, his entire message has been predicated on his relationship with Barack Obama. If it weren’t for that association, the 77-year-old wouldn’t be a viable candidate. Beyond his inability to keep his place when answering questions or string together multiple coherent sentences, Joe’s record as a politician is abysmal.
A (Beyond) Flawed Candidate
While protests motivated by police killings of unarmed Black Americans raged on, the author of the 1994 Crime Bill – one of the most damaging pieces of legislation ever signed, in how it impacted African American communities – remained unscathed.
Here’s a man with a documented history of agreeing with segregationists, whose bill directly led to the unfair imprisonment of countless Black citizens. He has a credible sexual assault allegation out there about him, and nothing ever sticks.
It pays to be a member of the establishment.
Barack Obama’s job is to make us forget about all of those uncomfortable realities. We’re not meant to be thinking about Joe Biden. If you’re a “good Democrat,” you’ll support the ticket out of pure, unadulterated hatred for Donald Trump.
Obama’s presence in the race will be even more vital in this regard. If the negative anti-Trump stops fueling your enthusiasm, maybe a dose of nostalgia will! Remember the good old days when your President seemed smarter than you and spoke eloquently and seemingly had the respect of the world’s foreign leaders?
Remember when you could turn on the cable news, and it wasn’t 24/7 Red Scare tactics or stories about right-wing fascism undermining our democracy? Remember the world before the term “fake news” was a thing?
For these next four months, Barack Obama’s job is to work the campaign trail, give the answers Biden is no longer capable of handling, and convince Democrats, moderate Republicans, and Independents that it’s possible to go back in time.
It’s not possible, but he’s going to make you believe again just like he did in 2008, before following through on exactly none of his progressive campaign promises.
That’s where Barack Obama truly shines. He’s an incredibly gifted communicator. He can give long, impassioned, flowery speeches that move and motivate the masses. His participation in Biden’s campaign is guaranteed to convince a significant number of people to show up at the polls on Election Day, who otherwise wouldn’t.
When the 2020 presidential election is over this November, the contest will be remembered as:
- a referendum on Donald Trump, with far more ballots cast in opposition to him than in favor of Biden, and
- an appreciation of Barack Obama’s legacy, with droves of voters showing up to support the Democratic ticket because a vote for Joe Biden is a vote for the former President. Charisma can take you a long way.