If you’re feeling sentimental and nostalgic about the bromance between Barack and Uncle Joe, and you’re thinking about returning to that time, I gotta tell you, don’t.
I too have been a victim of the intoxicating drug known as nostalgia. You think everything was better back then. The TV shows were better, the cartoons, the music, even the food. And while there’s some truth to that, all it takes is a trip down memory lane to remind you some things need to remain in the past. Archie Bunker’s jokes didn’t age well past the 80’s, and no matter how hard you try, no one is ever going to be able to bring bell bottoms back, so what’s wrong with letting go? What’s wrong with saying, “it was great while it lasted, but there’s no reason to do that again.” One could argue nostalgia played more of a role than Russia did in the 2016 election.
On one hand, we had a revolutionary candidate in Bernie Sanders who had an unusual 40-year track record of being on the right side of history. He was going against the grain by raising money for his campaign through individual donors, $27 at a time, instead of through political action committees or lobbyists. Here was someone in his 70’s, more connected to the youth of this country, who vastly understood that investing in young people though healthcare, education and economic dignity was the most progressive vision for the country. And yet when it was all said and done, who did we end up with? A former President’s wife, who was Secretary of State under the former President and a former reality TV show host.
Why, you may ask? Well, there were certainly a number of factors, but ultimately most voters went with what they knew. They chose the safe route. “Hey, I know Trump, I’ve seen him on TV! He knows his stuff!” or “She’s been around for a long time. Everyone knows the Clintons.”
And at the end of nostalgia lane is us, head buried in hands, wondering aloud what ever were we thinking?
Policy Over Personality
To avoid the nostalgia trap, there are a few things we must do. The first is to take a genuine assessment of what our problems are as a country and rank them, then look at each candidate objectively and assess how aggressive they are going to work to fix these problems. Secondly, we need to stop lying to ourselves about 2016. If Russia interfered, it was minimal, and pales in comparison to the meddling the U.S has done in over 100+ countries. Hillary Clinton ran a terrible, arrogant campaign, and it was her and her staff that told mainstream media to hype up Donald Trump and other extreme candidates so she would seem tame in comparison. And once we accept these things, then it is time to do the hard work: focus on policy.
There are 25 candidates running for the Democratic nomination, their policies will be the only determining factor between them. Which takes us back to our first task. If you’re up to date on politics, your assessment of the issues we face should look something like this:
- Aggressive Action on Climate Change
- Health Care for all citizens
- Getting money out of politics
- Ending unnecessary offensive wars
- Investing in infrastructure
- Education reform
- Gun reform
- Expanding voting rights
- Legalizing marijuana
- Prison reform
And probably many more, but way down at the end of the list is defeating Donald Trump, which is the only thing Joe Biden is running on, which is great, but its certainly not unique. It would be a safe bet that out of the 25 democratic candidates running, at least 9 of them stand a good to fair chance of defeating Trump, but what happens next is the question. What are the next 4-8 years going to be if all you’ve offered is a chance to get rid of one guy? What tangible policies will you offer to combat the problems we’ve laid out for you? And how is just returning to a time before Trump going to do anything for protecting our future? How can we trust you’ll do any of these things and more if you’re already showing us you’re bought off by corporations and special interests? If the policies of Clinton and Obama brought about Trump, how is going back to that going to keep another xenophobic demagogue from rising?
Especially when defeating Trump for the presidency does nothing to erase the ideology in the minds of the millions of people who follow him. It is not enough to return to the Obama age when we are dealing with rampant income inequality, massive federal corruption, legalized bribery, war profiteers, and religious sycophants. How has Biden shown he’s going to do anything about any of that? And how much has his time in power already contributed to it?
The Age Gap
Right now, some 500+ days away from the election, polling would have you believe that Joe Biden is way ahead, almost double, his closest competitor. Even if they really wanted you to believe this was true, it isn’t. If for no other reason than the fact that every time there is a camera in Joe’s face, you can see him struggling to get more of his foot in his mouth.
But his appeal is undeniable among older voters. In a recent Emerson poll, they found that Biden’s favorability among 65-year-olds and older is 52% compared to Sanders at 7% among the same age group. It’s no surprise that the reason Biden appears at the top of every poll is because they conduct them through landline phones, where you are likely to get an oversampling of older voters. However, Biden’s voting base is all but guaranteed to come out in droves whereas the youth vote can’t always be counted on in large numbers.
Older voters remember a time when certain groups of people were excluded from voting, so they have a far greater understanding of voting’s purpose, even if they typically are not the most informed electorate. Older voters are not as active on social media, and don’t tend to seek out new information. And much like the younger voter, the work of staying up to date on the information coming out of Washington takes up entirely too much time, so vagueness and platitudes are easier to swallow than the ins and outs of legislation.
So for them, it comes down to name recognition. And there’s no name easier to remember in this race than that of the former Vice President.
Ultimately, what this proves is that Biden’s electability is only viable due to nostalgia, name recognition, and maybe being able to defeat the incumbent president…maybe. But that can’t be all. There has to be more. Because whomever wins will be the President, and there’s clearly more to the job than winning an election.