My Take on the Democratic Primary

I learned in 2016 not to make predictions. First Brexit happened. Then Donald Trump won the American presidential election. I didn’t expect either. Indeed, I went so far as to urge Republicans in the United States to purge Trump’s nativists from their party after what I was sure would be his defeat.

I allowed my own biases to reject what the polls showed to be very real possibilities. Rather than improve my predictions and try harder to be neutral, my resolution has been to prioritize analysis of what is happening over what could happen and own up to my biases, sometimes explicitly, so you can better make up your mind. This is an opinion blog, after all, not a newspaper.

To that end, I’m giving you my take on the Democratic presidential primaries, which kick off in Iowa on February 3. I don’t think I’m a partisan for any candidate, but my thoughts and feelings about them probably inform everything I write about the election. Best then to share them.

I’m excluding Michael Bennet, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Deval Patrick, Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang. All are polling under 4 percent nationally and far below the 15 percent support needed to win delegates in Iowa. Read more “My Take on the Democratic Primary”

The Underestimated Joe Biden

Nguyễn Phú Trọng Joe Biden
American vice president Joe Biden listens as Nguyễn Phú Trọng, the general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, makes a speech in Washington DC, July 7, 2015 (State Department)

Former vice president Joe Biden has consistently led the polls, with 25 to 30 percent popular support, as well as the endorsement primary, which tracks support from prominent party members, for the Democratic presidential nomination in the United States.

The only other candidate with such a solid base is Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, but his support is under 20 percent and few elected and party officials back him.

So why are we treating Sanders’ supporters as true believers and Biden’s, as Jonathan V. Last puts it, as “just a group of voters who haven’t abandoned him yet”? Read more “The Underestimated Joe Biden”

Romney-to-Clinton Voters Prefer Biden

Joe Biden
Former American vice president Joe Biden campaigns in Des Moines, Iowa, August 8 (Gage Skidmore)

In the six states that could decide the outcome of the 2020 election in America, Joe Biden outpolls his Democratic rivals, in particular among minority voters and white voters with a college degree.

The New York Times reports that middle-income voters in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin prefer the relatively centrist former vice president over the more left-wing Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

The head-to-head figures against Donald Trump are mostly within the margin of error and probably not predictive a year out from the election.

But they do give Democratic primary voters vital information as they make up their minds about whom to nominate. Read more “Romney-to-Clinton Voters Prefer Biden”

Don’t Be Too Hard on Politicians Who Change Their Mind

American vice president Joe Biden gives a speech on board the USS Freedom in Singapore, July 27, 2013
American vice president Joe Biden gives a speech on board the USS Freedom in Singapore, July 27, 2013 (USN/Karolina A. Oseguera)

Don’t be too hard on Joe Biden for changing his mind on federal funding for abortion.

The former American vice president, who is the top candidate for his Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, has a reasonable argument to make. He previously opposed federal funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest and where the mother’s life was in the danger. “But circumstances have changed,” he told supporters on Thursday.

Republicans have been working overtime to restrict access to abortion in the states they control. The most egregious example is Alabama, which recently outlawed abortion after five or six weeks of pregnancy. Few women even realize they’re pregnant at that stage. Georgia, where Biden spoke, could see a similar law come into effect next year.

“I can’t justify leaving millions of women without access to the care they need,” Biden said. Read more “Don’t Be Too Hard on Politicians Who Change Their Mind”

Joe Biden Is a Stronger Candidate Than You Might Think

Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama meet in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, August 27, 2014
Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama meet in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, August 27, 2014 (White House/Pete Souza)

Joe Biden might look out of sync with today’s Democratic Party. 76 years old, Biden is a Third Way-style liberal who used to be “tough on crime”, voted for the Iraq War and now faces his own #MeToo accusations.

Yet he is the frontrunner for the party’s presidential nomination.

RealClearPolitics has Biden’s support at 39 percent, 23 points ahead of the runner-up, Bernie Sanders.

We’re still almost a year away from the first primaries. Polls are not usually predictive at this point in the contest and say more about name recognition. But Biden is also ahead in the endorsement primary, as measured by FiveThirtyEight. The former vice president has already convinced eighty prominent Democrats to support him against 55 for California senator Kamala Harris. (Who I think is actually the second strongest candidate at this point. Read Frank Bruni’s column about her in The New York Times.)

What explains Biden’s popularity? Read more “Joe Biden Is a Stronger Candidate Than You Might Think”

Do Good Men Have What It Takes to Be President?

American vice president Joe Biden appears on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, September 10
American vice president Joe Biden appears on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, September 10 (CBS/John Paul Filo)

A great politician isn’t necessarily a presidential one. This week, Americans saw one of their greatest politicians frankly sharing his doubts about running for the highest office and another drop out of the race.

In an emotional interview with The Late Show‘s Stephen Colbert on Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden reminisced about speaking to military families shortly after losing his son, Beau, to brain cancer in May when a soldier stood up and announced himself as having served with the younger Biden in Iraq.

“I lost it,” Biden said. “You can’t do that.”

“I don’t think any man or woman should run for president,” he continued, “unless they can look at folks out there and say, ‘I promise you have my whole heart, my whole soul, my energy and my passion.’ I’d be lying if I said that I knew I was there.” Read more “Do Good Men Have What It Takes to Be President?”

India, United States Want to Quadruple Trade: Biden

American vice president Joe Biden gives a speech on board the USS Freedom in Singapore, July 27
American vice president Joe Biden gives a speech on board the USS Freedom in Singapore, July 27 (USN/Karolina A. Oseguera)

American vice president Joe Biden, the first to visit India in three decades, spoke of the two countries’ mutual desire to quadruple bilateral trade at a speech given in Delhi last week.

“Our bilateral trade has increased fivefold to $100 billion over the past thirteen years. We see tremendous opportunities (in India) and there is no reason that if our two countries make the right choices, trade cannot grow fivefold or more,” Biden said.

However, he acknowledged a lot needed to be done to remove trade barriers and that India needed to address its “inconsistent” tax system and barriers to market access. Read more “India, United States Want to Quadruple Trade: Biden”

Biden Reiterates Uncompromising Iran Policy

Joe Biden Barack Obama
Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama speak with officials in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, September 11, 2012 (White House/Pete Souza)

One year ago, President Barack Obama received a standing ovation from the pro-Israel lobbying group American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) when he sternly committed to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Containment of Iran, the president said, is not an option, adding that on his watch, Tehran would never be allowed to construct a nuclear device without dealing with the threat of military force first.

Twelve months later, Vice President Joe Biden laid out the same policy to an AIPAC conference. As if to underscore just how serious the United States consider a nuclear armed Iran, Biden framed his remarks in a blunt but strong tone: American policy is, and will continue to be, “to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Period. Period. End of discussion.” Read more “Biden Reiterates Uncompromising Iran Policy”

After Obama Win, Democrats Look for Successor

Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama speak with officials in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, September 11, 2012
Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama speak with officials in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, September 11, 2012 (White House/Pete Souza)

Even if Barack Obama was reelected mere days ago, his Democratic Party has already to look for presidential candidates to run in 2016.

One of the reasons for Republicans’ poor showing in the 2008 election was that George W. Bush didn’t have a successor. His vice president, Dick Cheney, had always ruled out a presidential run of his own. Several high-profile Republicans, including former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Arizona senator John McCain and Mitt Romney, tried to secure the nomination. McCain won but failed to enthuse conservatives.

Romney, similarly, was nominated after a long primary battle this year and without fully winning the confidence of his party’s base.

Obama proved in 2008 that a long and divisive primary campaign hasn’t to stop a candidate from the winning in the general election while Al Gore’s defeat in 2000 showed that an orderly succession isn’t a guarantee for victory.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to have a presumptive nominee early, especially if the other party is locked in a fierce nominating contest as Republicans could well be again in less than four years’ time.

In a country where 40 percent of voters identifies as “moderate,” the Democratic candidate wouldn’t want to be hampered from appealing to the center while vying for left-wing primary votes. Settling on a candidate early in the process should help Democrats position themselves as the natural ruling party for the twenty-first century while chastising Republicans as old fashioned and out-of-touch as Barack Obama’s reelection campaign did successfully this year. Read more “After Obama Win, Democrats Look for Successor”

“General Motors is Alive”, But at What Cost?

Vice President Joe Biden’s case for reelecting Barack Obama in November is simple. “Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.” He reiterated that message at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina on Thursday.

The president, Biden argued, “saved more than a million American jobs.”

He added,

If the president didn’t act immediately, there wouldn’t be any industry left to save.

The first statement is true, at least in the short term, but the second is patently false. Read more ““General Motors is Alive”, But at What Cost?”