Elizabeth Warren’s Supporters Aren’t Thrilled About Joe Biden, But Who Is Really?
Joe Biden may want to run for President, but does anyone else? It doesn't really seem like it.
Elizabeth Warren may have met with Joe Biden, but her supporters aren’t too thrilled about the idea of the Vice-President running for President:
Joe Biden is no Elizabeth Warren.
That’s the message being sent by former leaders and foot soldiers of the draft Warren movement after the vice president met privately with the Massachusetts senator on Saturday, in preparation for a possible presidential run.
Unlike Warren or Bernie Sanders, the Vermont progressive who’s assumed the support of many Warren backers, Biden is a pillar of the Democratic establishment, vice president in an administration that many progressives consider too centrist.
That puts him in roughly the same position as Hillary Clinton: liberal on many issues, but a traditional party loyalist at the end of the day.
“He enters the race in the same place she is,” said Charles Chamberlain, president of Democracy for America, which helped operate the pro-Warren grass roots group Run Warren Run.
That’s a considerable problem because Biden, to be successful, would need to appeal to a large majority of progressives who are disenchanted with Clinton, while persuading them that he’s a better vehicle for their beliefs than Sanders, who’s been drawing huge crowds and gaining on Clinton all summer.
Winning the support of Warren, who remains neutral in the race, would be key. She’s probably the best-known Democrat other than Clinton and Biden, and retains a strong hold over millions of progressive voters.
Still, it’s not like the Warren acolytes have been sitting around waiting for a new leader. The vast majority have already signed up with Sanders, from the more casual to the top professional political leaders: Kurt Ehrenberg, the Run Warren Run point person in New Hampshire, and Blair Lawton, the point person in Iowa, are both now working for Sanders.
The Vermonter, for one, brushed off the news of the Biden-Warren conversation in New Hampshire on Monday, saying, “I’ve had many, many meetings with Elizabeth Warren.”
Meanwhile, most of the pro-Warren political machinery and organization in the early states has already moved over to Sanders with them, leaving Biden with little to claim.
“Warren’s endorsement would have an impact. Would it be a strong enough impact to make a candidate get more support among the members?” Chamberlain said, referring to his group. “The answer’s yes. Is it enough to win the majority? I don’t know.”
At the end of the day, Chamberlain added, “I think it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll see a lot of switching from people who support Bernie Sanders to support Joe Biden.”
This isn’t really surprising, of course. As noted, Biden essentially comes from the same wing of the Democratic Party as Hillary Clinton does, and while he has a reputation of someone who speaks for so-called “working class” Americans, he most assuredly isn’t party of the progressive wing of the party that had gathered around Warren after she won her election in 2012 and which now seems to be mostly backing Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Certain aspects of Biden’s record, in fact, would arguably be anathema to many of the people who might look to Warren or Sanders as a leader. In the early 1990s, he was the principal sponsor of a tough new crime bill that expanded the use of the Federal death penalty, expanded mandatory minimum sentences, and was otherwise the centerpiece of the Clinton Administration’s “tough on crime” policies at the time. With the expanded awareness of issues surrounding police abuse, faulty convictions, and atrociously long sentences for people convicted of non-violent drug crimes, Biden’s history in this area in particular is likely to be a problem for many parts of the Democratic Party coalition, including not only those gathered around Warren and Sanders but also the crucially important African-American community, which at the moment seems to be overwhelmingly supporting Hillary Clinton.
These reports just reinforce the arguments that I’ve made before questioning the viability of a Biden For President campaign. Where, exactly, is Biden’s constituency in the Democratic Party? Ordinarily, of course, a Vice-President is seen as the natural successor of a successful two-term President, but it’s been clear for some time that this was never really the case with Biden. In part, of course, that was due to the fact that Biden was already in his late 60s when Obama named him as his Vice-Presidential running mate. As with George W. Bush’s selection of Dick Cheney in 2000, the perception at the time was that Biden was put on the ticket at least in some part for the purpose of balancing out the Presidential nominee’s youth and inexperience. Even before the events of September 11th and the Iraq War, few people thought that Dick Cheney would actually run for President himself if Bush served two terms. Similarly, it’s never seemed until the last few years that anyone really considered the idea that Joe Biden would run for President for a third time at time when he’d be in his mid-70s.
Instead of Vice-President Biden being the perceived natural successor to President Obama, it has long seemed that that title has belonged to Hillary Clinton. In part, of course, that comes from the fact that the two had fought a long and close battle for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2008 and that, in an different era under different circumstances, Clinton may well have been the one to Obama’s running mate instead of Biden. Even without the Vice-Presidency, Clinton still seems as more the natural successor to Obama than the Vice President, and to a large degree the Democratic Party seems to agree. Even if the Vice-President gets into the race, it’s hard to see that changing.
In the end, the only way that Biden would seem to have a viable path to the Democratic nomination is if Hillary Clinton’s campaign completely collapses, and that just doesn’t seem likely. It’s true that she’s facing many problems of late. The stories about her email server and possible misuse of classified information are certainly a problem that’s not going to go away any time soon, for example. And there are some signs that the campaign is embattled in both Clinton’s personal favorability numbers and the fact that Bernie Sanders continues to do well in states like New Hampshire. All of that is far from saying that Clinton’s campaign is about to collapse, though, and it may well be that six months from now all those stories will be a distant memory. If that all that Biden would be pinning his hopes on, then I’m sure that it makes much sense to get in the race at all.