The Problem With Joe

Vice President Joe Biden talks to people as he checks out the stage at Wells Fargo Arena before the start of the second day session of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Tuesday, July 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Former Vice President Joe Biden mimics shooting a gun as he speaks at the Chuck Hagel Forum in Global Leadership, on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Omaha, in Omaha, Neb., Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

I’ve always believed President Obama was never really a big fan of Joe Biden. The Democrats and powers-that-have-been saddled him with Biden as a way to add some “gravitas” to the then-young, inexperienced senator’s campaign. I wondered if Obama felt resentment about having to have this “old guard” white man alongside him in order to add legitimacy to his candidacy.

Perhaps that was a part of it, but having seen Biden out on the campaign trail in the past few months it is becoming clear why his former running-mate may not be his biggest fan. Joe Biden may be the consummate politician, but he isn’t very self-aware.

There was a time when the touchy-feely senator’s political skills were very relevant. He has always struck me as the type of man who has stumbled upward his whole life, largely due to his good looks and the type of confident, masculine charm that has been beaten out of the political class by the social justice warrior set these days. Whatever his intellectual bonafides – or lack thereof – Biden was a man of his day and he was smart enough to make a lifetime career out of his toothy smile.

Understandably, Democrat voters were anxious to see Uncle Joe get in the race. In a crowded and bland 2020 field, his lifetime of experience and more notably his resume over the last decade make him their best hope to put a dent in Trump’s relentlessly engaging brand of leadership. In an era when Trump rules the news cycle all day every day, a guy like Biden has enough name recognition to at least earn some primetime coverage.

It was perplexing to see Biden biding his time to get in the race, but the more he talks the more obvious it becomes that his team knew what we are only now seeing – the current political era has moved on and Biden has not moved with it.

Trump has ushered American politics into uncharted waters. Biden was built for the fuzziness of traditional American politics – a world where the ability to say nothing while talking nonstop is rewarded above all else. In 2019, an effective candidate needs to be able to match the bluntness of Trump. Biden can’t match that bluntness and he’s too proud (and maybe too experienced) to fake it. While his 2020 colleagues curse and sling insults in a poor facsimile of Trump talk, he is left with an antiquated diplomacy and the stereotypical fear mongering that American voters are growing increasingly numb to.

The other thing that has made Biden such a successful politician is that he’s been limited to fits and bursts of public commentary. He has rarely been handed the public platform for long periods of time with heightened media interest. In soundbites, Biden is a pro. Long-form Biden is significantly less impressive. The longer he has to talk the more obvious it becomes that he has no real ideas and no real opinions.

The pace of the race has changed this election cycle. Biden wasn’t able to get his footing in the opening Democrat debates because he doesn’t have the stomach for the new speed. The man has coasted in his job for decades, never having to really fight for time or attention. Now he’s being asked to throw some swings but it’s not clear that he has the reaction time to connect.

The good senator from Delaware didn’t even realize that you aren’t allowed to respect your political opponents as human beings anymore. He’s certainly aware now, but I don’t think he likes it and it shows.

The longer this campaign goes on the more obvious it becomes that the world Joe Biden was first elected to has changed dramatically. It is a world he no longer fits into. Much like his Republican counterpart Jeb Bush, he is a legitimately experienced and skillful politician but also symbolic of the old guard – a relic of a time that may not ever return to the political universe.

In a race that boasts several minority candidates, Biden can’t even count on the endorsement of the president he served for eight years. Alongside that unfortunate reality, the legacy of Obama’s administration is fading fast under the bright lights of the Trump era and their record is becoming a burden rather than an asset as more and more details of Obama’s ineptness come to light.

Joe Biden says he’s a fighter, but the longer he talks the more time people have to realize he’s just not up to the task of navigating modern political sensibilities. I’ve never thought of him as a bad guy, just a typical politician. I suspect the former vice president  finds the current political climate distasteful and is having a bit of a tug-of-war with this staff about succumbing to the current environment.

Love him or hate him, Joe Biden has been a fixture on the American political scene for ages. That deserves some sort of recognition, but the era of the “legacy” candidates is over…for now, anyway. Biden is still way ahead for now, but at some point he will not be able to depend on his name recognition to keep propelling him forward. His voting base is too desperate to beat Trump, and they’re paying too close attention to every utterance and syllable of their candidates.

That is turning out to be his biggest problem of all.