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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/26/20

Joe Biden and the Return to Normalcy

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Message William Barth

'America's present need is not heroics, but healing;... not nostrums, but normalcy;... not the dramatic, but the dispassionate...'

Warren Harding, 05/14/1920


'Donald Trump is like a child,' Joe Biden blasts US president's Covid-19 response Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden travelled to must-win Pennsylvania to attack President Donald Trump for what the former vice president ...
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Joe Biden's dramatic lead, according to a recent New York Times poll that revealed voters prefer Biden over Trump by 54% to 35% (6/24/2020), goes against the political wisdom that favors the re-election of an incumbent President. Some pundits attribute Biden's lead to a low-key approach first popularized by the presidential campaign of Warren Harding; that is, a 'return to normalcy'. This principle has definite appeal, given the current chaos of a health pandemic that has resulted in an economic depression, as well as nationwide street protests over police violence against people of African descent. A return to normalcy (or, more accurately, normality) was offered by Harding in opposition both to military adventurism in Europe, and to domestic big government initiatives, an approached that promised voters calm during chaotic political times.

In response, the Trump campaign has claimed that Biden's lead is unreliable because Trump defied the polls in 2016 to defeat Hillary Clinton. Unlike Biden, Trump relies upon a political strategy that solidifies his voter base to achieve electoral success, offering policies that not only appeal to supporters' ideological preferences but that also increase the enthusiasm necessary for them to get out and vote. For example, another recent Economist/YouGov poll (06/14/2020) revealed that 68% of Trump supporters are enthusiastic about their candidate, by contrast with only 31% of Biden voters. The truth of the matter is that Biden voters lack a similar excitement about their own candidate.

In short, Biden's campaign suffers from a very common political problem, namely, the candidate's inability to provide voters with a raison d'être for their candidacy other than that of prior experience as justification for a job promotion. It is no surprise that the recent Economist/You Gov poll (June 14-16) revealed that most of Biden's supporters are negatively voting against Trump (62%) rather than voting for Biden (35%). Clearly even Biden's supporters do not believe that experience by itself is enough to justify his election as leader of the free world.

Furthermore, successful candidates appeal to moderates outside their voters' narrow ideological base. For example, Trump displayed this strategy in his last campaign by nominating Mike Pence to satisfy his base of religious-conservative voters, but thereafter broadening his appeal to more the secular voters-minded needed to defeat Mrs Clinton.

By contrast, Biden has alienated part of his own party's progressive voter base. He has, for instance, marginalized Bernie Sanders' supporters by relegating Sanders' convention delegates to a unity-task-force study, which is intended to distract progressive-voter opposition to Biden rather than genuinely promote actual party unity. This so-called unity-task force, established jointly by Biden and Sanders, is supposed to generate progressive policies for Biden's campaign in relation to criminal justice, the economy, education, healthcare, and immigration.

Unfortunately, the Democrats' task force is, in reality, a convenient method to bury progressive aspirations, thereby permitting Biden to endorse more centrist policies that are acceptable to his big-money donors. Entirely against the unity-task force's goals, Biden has intensified his opposition to progressive policies such as Medicare-for-all; a universal basic income (UBI); a Green New Deal; and an end to regime-change war(s). For example, on criminal-justice reform, Biden defied his own base by endorsing a shoot-the-leg strategy (used by the Israeli military to police the Palestinians in Gaza) as the appropriate reform for reducing extra-judicial police killings of people of African descent in the USA.

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Dr. William K. Barth's book is entitled, On Cultural Rights: The Equality of Nations and the Minority Legal Tradition (Boston, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2008). He received his doctorate from the Univeristy of Oxford.

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