The former vice president is a favourite to beat Trump in the 2020 US presidential election, but will his history of alleged sexual misconduct and establishment line-towing cost him the White House?
Joe Biden, septuagenarian and veteran US politician, has thrown his hat into the ring to become the Democratic nominee for the 2020 US presidential election.
The former vice president will join a crowded field of 20 candidates, energised by a more ethnically diverse, progressive, and socialist base within the party.
But Trump has shown himself to be a whiley and resilient opponent, and with more than 500 days left until the 2020 elections, there’s plenty of time for polls to shift.
Here's Biden in the same speech attacking Bush 41 for cutting back on border security, saying we need more border & immigration controls to stop drugs. He also demands the U.S. military go strike "drug lords" in the countries where they live: no safe haven for "narco-terrorists"! pic.twitter.com/cnuGgnKHgU— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) January 22, 2019
Joe the accused
Biden, a 76-year-old white man, was born in a different era to today’s millennials, many of whom carry an extreme awareness of America’s changing social and moral norms, a far cry from the era he was born and raised in.
The presidential hopeful recently felt the wrath of this social activism when he was accused by several women of unwanted physical touching that made them feel uncomfortable. In light of the accusations levelled at other rich and powerful American men this seemed to be Biden’s ‘Me Too’ moment.
One of the accusers, Lucy Flores, claimed that Biden smelled her hair and gave her “a big slow kiss” on the back of her head during a campaigning event.
“I wanted nothing more than to get Biden away from me,” Flores wrote in an essay published in The Cut.
Biden claimed that he could not recollect having “acted inappropriately”, but added he would “listen respectfully”. It’s too soon to say whether the eight women who have already come forward are the last. The accusations could also make it difficult for the former vice president to challenge Trump on moral probity.
Joe the Zionist
Unlike some of his younger opponents in the Democratic primaries, Biden has a long track record of being in the spotlight.
During the 2016 presidential race, the Trump battering ram went after the former secretary of state Hillary Clinton for her support of the Iraq War. In the public’s imagination, Clinton had supported one of America’s greatest foreign policy mistakes in the 21st Century.
Her drum beating for the war in Libya and the country’s later collapse into civil war was hung around her neck in a war-weary nation, with great impact.
Biden’s position mirrors that of Clinton. Like Clinton, he supported American involvement in Iraq and Libya. Subsequently, he said that the Bush administration had mismanaged the war.
Whether Biden’s later and partial renunciation of the Iraq war will be good enough in a Democratic primary filled with other veteran and younger politicians who were against it from the beginning, remains to be seen.
In 2015, speaking at an event honouring the former vice president under the Bush administration and chief neo-conservative responsible for the Iraq war he said: “I actually like Dick Cheney. …I can say without fear of contradiction, there’s never one single time been a harsh word, not one single time in our entire relationship.”
Another point of contention will be Biden’s avowed and full-throttled support for Israel.
"I am a Zionist. You don't have to be a Jew to be a Zionist," proclaimed Biden in a 2007 interview with Shalom TV, an Israeli TV channel. His more than 35 years of unconditional support for Israel will stand in stark contrast to a field of contestants that are against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and its wholesale oppression of Palestinians over decades.
The Democratic leadership, often around Biden’s age, have grown to support Israel uncritically and without limit. A younger more dynamic generation will not be so forgiving of Israeli crimes.
A Biden leadership bid will also have to contend with one of the most pro-Israeli presidents possibly in US history. On a whole host of policy areas, the Trump administration has given Israel free reign to do whatever it wants, including recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and accepting the Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights.
Anything less than these positions could hurt Biden with the wider American electorate while giving him significant problems in a Democratic primary which has become much more diverse and critical.
Joe the plagiarist
This isn’t Biden’s first attempt at running for president. In the 1998 presidential race it emerged that his speeches had copied comments by former British Labour party leader Neil Kinnock, even using parts of Kinnock’s biography as his own.
Compilations of Biden’s speeches were stitched together by his opponents to great effect, damaging his reputation. Soon afterwards it emerged that Biden’s plagiarism stretched back decades, to his time as a law student. Biden ended his campaign not long after.
Over the decades, Biden has cultivated an image as a straight talking politician who understands blue collar workers. The very voters that Trump has won in droves, securing him the presidency.
Biden’s gaffes (or racist remarks, as some have called them) have often burnished his image as a man of the people, his unfiltered approach alluding to his apparent honesty.
But is ‘Average Joe’ unfiltered enough?
Trump has introduced a level of poison into the American bloodstream that Biden will find hard to keep up with. He will have to contend with decades of baggage due to his involvement in the US and Democratic establishment.
Biden will find it hard to compete with new entrants into US politics who are genuine outsiders, holding to a new vision of what the US should look like.