Where is Joe?

Some on Twitter (yes, I know) seem concerned, but is this even a good question?

So, for the last couple of days, I have noted some noise on Twitter asking #WhereisJoe or #WhereisJoeBiden? Most promoters of this question appear to be folks from the more progressive side of the Democratic electorate who preferred another candidate for the nomination, frequently asserting how this all shows Biden isn’t up to the task, will lose to Trump, and/or that candidate X would be out there leading (more on that below).

Kevin Drum noticed as well, writing a blog post entitled There’s No Reason to Worry About Joe Biden Being MIA for a Few Days:

Ever since he won Tuesday’s primaries Joe Biden has mostly kept out of sight, something that has lots of lefties upset for reasons that mostly escape me. For one thing, it’s only been three days. For another, it’s normal for candidates to take a breather and review their strategy going forward after they’ve locked up the nomination—as Biden clearly has. Furthermore, even after locking things up, nominees have to be careful not to bigfoot legislative leaders like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, who are currently negotiating coronavirus legislation and don’t want to be undermined by Biden mouthing off with his own plans. Ego management is important at all times.

That was posted yesterday, so I guess we can assume it is now four days (I have not watched any Sunday shows to see if Uncle Joe or his mighty band of surrogates have gotten any love in the time of Corona). Still, I concur with Drum’s basis assessment (and his post details Biden’s plans for the week, which strike me as reasonable given this present moment).

But the point about bigfooting Schumer and Pelosi (and, even, the problems with trying to assert national leadership when we have an actual president at the moment)* is not an insignificant point. Indeed, it is what caught my mental attention when I first saw these complaints a few days ago.

I do expect Biden to make Trump’s response to Covid-19 part of his campaign. It would be irresponsible beyond words not to do so. It is, without exaggeration, the most pressing public policy issue we are facing at the moment. And, from a purely political point of view, it is a clear weakness for Trump who has demonstrated an inability to effectively govern and lead in this crisis. It is, therefore, Biden’s job as the essentially certain opposition candidate to effectively delineate how he would govern differently given these conditions.

However, one thing Biden can’t do right now is attempt to lead. For one, he is not an elected official at the moment. For the Democrats, leadership really has to come from Speaker Pelosi and, to a lesser degree, Leader Schumer (lesser because he is in the minority in his chamber). Moreover, like it or not, Trump is the president and it is his job to be the national focal point for dealing with this crisis. He is the head of government and head of state. It is, frankly, dangerous, to assert that an unelected private citizen should attempt to assert a leadership role at this moment in time (as some have done).

I acknowledge, fully, that I am reacting to a handful of folks on Twitter and not some mass movement, but the point is still worth making.

Still, it really should be repeated: Joe Biden is currently a private citizen holding no office. He should not attempt to lead. It is his job to make the case as to why he should get the chance to lead (and why the current leader needs to go).

So, it is the Democratic nominee’s job (and therefore almost certainly Biden’s) to effectively criticize the poor job Trump is doing and to sketch out how and why an alternative administration would do a better job. But any governmental leadership from the Democrats has to come from the Congress.

I think part of what we are seeing here is the unfortunate degree to which, despite being a representative democracy with power diffused to a number of institutions, many in the public often have a tendency to want to reduce government and leadership to a singular person. This is a disquieting tendency.

A concluding thought: to amplify Drum’s point quoted above, this really doesn’t seem like a terrible time for a campaign to be taking a semi-breather. The news cycle is consumed with the virus, so airtime is limited, and social distancing makes it necessary to rethink their approach to the campaign. And to range into cliche for a moment: this is a marathon and pacing oneself matters.

*And to be clear, I am, as regular readers know, fully cognizant of the limitations of said president.

FILED UNDER: Democracy, US Politics, , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Where is he? Who cares, as long as he stays alive for the election.

  2. Sleeping Dog says:

    Joe’s and old joe and needs his nappy, my moniker says it all.

    Steven, you touched on the points as to why this is a tempest in a teacup perpetrated by the loony fringe who don’t understand politics.

    I do hope that Joe and his staff are using this time to figure away to coop the youth vote who seem resistant to his entreaties.

    @Liberal Capitalist – Any Functioning Adult for 2020.

  3. EddieInCA says:

    Best thing Biden can do is stay off the stage for now. When your enemies are self-destructing, best to let them.

    Gov. Cuomo is showing what leadership looks like. Other Governors are doing the same.

  4. mattbernius says:

    About two weeks ago, before all this hit us full force, I got a chance to talk with someone who was in contact with a high level political operative in the process of joining Biden’s team. At the time, the strategy that they were apparently adopting (post Super Tuesday) was three-fold:

    1. Limit the amount Biden would talk
    2. Focus on just being decent
    3. Keep any and all powder dry

    The feeling then was that going too hard on the attack — either with Sanders or Trump — wouldn’t be helpful at this time and everything should be focused on planning for the post convention campaign.

    I think they are well aware that Biden cannot lead at this point (which puts him into a very different position that either Obama or McCain in 2008). I suspect that the modification at this point is to trust that Trump will be Trump and make lots of unforced errors. Biden doesn’t need to call those out now — but I expect that many will come up during the debates (turning the election into a referendum not so much on Trump’s performance for the last four years, but more so the last four months).

  5. mattbernius says:

    Aside on unforced errors, what’s the over-under as to whether or not Anthony Fauci makes it through this pandemic? Not an issue of him getting ill, mind you. The question is how long will he be able to keep finding ways to say the President is getting facts wrong within moments of the President sharing those facts and not get fired?

  6. Bill says:


    You missed your big chance to ask- Where in the world is Carmen SanDiego Joe Biden?

  7. @mattbernius: This strikes me as a sounds approach.

    @Bill: Drat! Missed opportunity!

  8. @Sleeping Dog: Naps are important in these trying times. It keeps the immune system strong.

  9. de stijl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I nap daily.

    Strongly recommend.

  10. Bill says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Naps are important in these trying times. It keeps the immune system strong.

    When you’re hospitalized, like I am now, they are just about impossible any morning. Doctor (s) come pay you a visit, your nurse to take your vitals, bring your medication, etc etc. I’m lucky to go 30 minutes without someone coming through the door.

    So I either read ‘Mutiny at Salerno‘ or watch this original Hawaii Five-0 two part episode. Earlier this morning I watched the Sunday mass video where my wife lectors.

    Me and the wife talked about a half hour ago. I’m going to try taking a nap now.

  11. @Bill: Hopsitals are the worst places to get any rest.

    I hope you feel better soon and are able to be back home as quickly as possible.

  12. Scott F. says:

    You didn’t name Candidate X, but I will. The Twitter noise is coming from Sanders’ supporters.

    Yesterday, I saw a post where someone shared a tweet stating categorically that Bernie was made for this moment. There was some blather about his work ethic, philosophy, and skills, but nowhere did they make the case. It was just self-evident to them that a cantankerous 78 yr old with a history of not compromising would be the steadying hand on the wheel in a health care crisis.

    I really wished they’d explained.

  13. de stijl says:

    Cuomo, who doesn’t realize it, is effectively filling Biden’s silence.

    This is what competence looks like.

    Rambling, flailing, self-congradulatory Trump vs. random governor, random governor wins.

  14. @Scott F.: Yes, it is mostly Sanders folks (but I have seen some Warren supporters also take up this argument).

    @de stijl: Cuomo is doing a really good job.

  15. de stijl says:

    @de stijl:

    I don’t even like Cuomo very much. Were I a New Yorker, I would have not voted for him last election.

    The dude I dismissed as unworthy stomps Trump in just basic competence.

    Major disparity.

  16. Lounsbury says:

    Ignoring the Twitter Drama Queens has served Biden very well so far since they’re always searching for Drama of the Moment, everything is a Big Crisis and a Big Deal(tm). Had certain candidates not gotten sucked into Twitterer driven policy positioning to their regret.

    @Sleeping Dog:

    I do hope that Joe and his staff are using this time to figure away to coop the youth vote who seem resistant to his entreaties.

    Bah, they should be looking at the reliable voter segments and maximizing.
    Positioning for Activist Twittering Youth is mistaking a loud minority (the small minority who are college educated youth and also online) who don’t vote reliably or in numbers or in places you need them for the wider demographic.

    Converting suburban votes in the middle states, that is what I hope Biden is thinking about.

  17. Lounsbury says:

    @de stijl: Of course Cuomo has a proper governmental position, so it’s quite appropriate for him to play foil to flailing Trump.

  18. Monala says:

    @Lounsbury: a recent political cartoon illustrates this well. An older black man is wearing an “I voted” sticker. When he walks past a young white guy in a “Bernie or Bust” t-shirt, the young guy asks, “Wow, where’d you get that cool sticker?”

    (You may already know this, but just in case since you’re in the UK, Americans are given “I voted” stickers at polling places after they cast their vote).

  19. wr says:

    @de stijl: “I don’t even like Cuomo very much. Were I a New Yorker, I would have not voted for him last election.”

    Here in NYC, many people can’t decide whether it’s harder to get used to being shut in with nowhere to go or to find that they’re liking Cuomo.

  20. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @de stijl: No disparity. Just a demonstration of how low the Outperform Trump bar really is. Even people you’re unwilling to support are better than Trump. Pretty. Darn. Low.

  21. Michael Reynolds says:

    If Biden falls ill I know who the Party would like to nominate to replace him. Unfortunately a governor leaving mid-pandemic is not a good look.

  22. de stijl says:


    Please check bottom of Saturday open thread.

    I am very sorry we miscommunicated earlier.

  23. Kari Q says:

    The election won’t be won or lost by anything that happens right now. If you’re a candidate who has won a primary, this is the best moment to release any negative news about yourself. It will be old news come fall and have no impact.

    If, like Biden, you’ve been in the public eye for decades, sit back and wait. The campaign isn’t going anywhere right now.

  24. dazedandconfused says:


    Aside on unforced errors, what’s the over-under as to whether or not Anthony Fauci makes it through this pandemic?

    Aside from Ivanka I believe Fauci to be the safest person in the bunker. Trump’s gut’s self-survival acumen should conclude that firing that guy will hurt it’s re-election chances as Fauci is their one and only thread to credibility. Furthermore Fauci has shown skill in only contradicting what absolutely must be contradicted.

  25. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Bill: One of the times I was in the hospital I spent my mornings answering the exact same questions from one doctor after another, usually in the company of 2 or 3 others. I finally had it with the insanity and asked, “Why do you all feel the need to ask me the same damned questions? Don’t you guys ever talk to each other? Or are you trying to catch me in a lie?”

    “Mumble mumble something innocuous mumble.” was the answer.

    I’d say “rest up” but I know you can’t do that there.

  26. Liberal Capitalist says:

    A story that should surprise no one: Trump mad because quomo’s news conferences are getting better ratings.


    * sigh *

  27. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Liberal Capitalist: A web cam of sleeping zoo lions would get a better rating.

  28. Lounsbury says:

    @Liberal Capitalist: This brings a small bit of joy.
    And will be useful in the future.

  29. EddieInCA says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: @Bill:

    OzarkHillbilly says:
    Sunday, March 22, 2020 at 16:41

    @Bill: One of the times I was in the hospital I spent my mornings answering the exact same questions from one doctor after another, usually in the company of 2 or 3 others

    Years ago, I was in a very, very bad car accident that resulted in my being hospitalized for 9 weeks (This was in 1984, and my work insurance – ABC Television – covered it 100%, including the ambulances, surgeries, and all rehab). Anyhoo….. After a few days in the hospital after I was somewhat back to normal, I got tired of answering the same f*king questions over and over again. My solution? I had a large posterboard printed out with 8 answers and numbered them 1-8. Anytime I was asked any question, I just said the number of the answer and pointed to the board next to my bed. Turns out that I could answer almost every single questions with 1-8.

  30. mattbernius says:


    Aside from Ivanka I believe Fauci to be the safest person in the bunker.

    We all should hope.

    Fauci definitely comes across as a highly astute political actor (in the small “p” sense) as well as a consummate expert. honestly that is an amazing combination.

  31. Bill says:

    @de stijl:

    Please check bottom of Saturday open thread.

    I am very sorry we miscommunicated earlier.

    I apologize too.

    What I was trying to say yesterday is- 1 statistically with a population of 1.4 billion that there not being any new cases is a big longshot. 2- It is human nature not to want to relate bad news. Just one person not reporting the facts because of that, and the numbers are off. 3- There is just simple human error. And we’re talking about a country of 1.4 billion people.

    For the sake of the world, I hope I am wrong.

    My hospital stay

    1 Not having my wife able to visit is mentally tough for me. Patients need an advocate because nurses are human and make mistakes. I can share a couple of stories. One time where my wife got a hospital supervisor at 4 am in the morning because I was being mistreated by my nurse less than 48 hours after open heart surgery. I got a tube in my throat but the nurse wouldn’t provide a pen and paper so I can write notes. Leonita took action. If I was having difficulty how was I supposed to tell anyone and I was having difficulty. The intubation hadn’t been done right. That and pneumonia I came down with made my hospital stay a week longer than it should have been.

    This stay I’m not having problems but shit happens.

    2- Salisbury steak for dinner again. Just about the only thing on the dinner menu here they can’t make a mess of.

    3- Funny story from my heart surgery stay. A nurse mistook my sister-in-law for being my daughter. Me and Leonita were both born in 1961, Leonette in 1972 but she has a baby face.

    4- Two of my nurses now, Mary Grace and Barry, cared for me after I had heart surgery too. Right now there are at least two other nurses around too.

    MG remembered me well. Even for my edict- Please fully close my door on the way out. I’m not far from the nurse’s station and a even partly open door and I can hear everything going on loud and clear.

    Barry said he put a sign on my door asking people to close it.

    5- No word yet when I will get out of here.

  32. de stijl says:


    Should have been a House episode.

  33. de stijl says:


    What were the answers?

    Why does the word answer contain a spurious W?

  34. An Interested Party says:

    A story that should surprise no one: Trump mad because quomo’s news conferences are getting better ratings.

    An even better comparison related to this post…Trump’s daily…whatever they are seem to cause the Stock Market to drop every time he opens his mouth…meanwhile, Biden is hidden away somewhere, plotting and planning hopefully…and wasn’t it the Trump Campaign and his various bootlickers who were trying to tell us that Biden was going senile? Who looks senile now…

  35. DrDaveT says:

    @de stijl:

    Why does the word answer contain a spurious W?

    It’s not spurious; people are just lazy when they speak :-).

    “Answer” is from Old English andswaru which translates roughly as “against-swear”. The sense is “a sworn statement in response to a charge.” If anything, the “w” helps remind us of those origins. It will wear away eventually, of course, but for the moment it’s a little bit of fossilized history.

  36. de stijl says:


    I love you. That was very cool.

    Etymology is fascinating.

    It was one of the first things I nerded out about when I was wee.

    I flirted quite hard with majoring in linguistics.

  37. de stijl says:


    You picked up on a tiny thread. That was a throw away sentence only meant to amuse me.

    My linguistics professor was super cool. A German lady of a certain age.

    The Department was tiny: she and a quite uninteresting white dude.

    Btw, “nerding out” is a neologism.

  38. de stijl says:

    @de stijl:

    As is “btw”.