SAN DIEGO — Joe Biden is running for president — again. And it's about time.
Time, time, time. That's a word we're going to hear a lot over the next year or so whenever journalists and pundits talk about Biden's third bid for the White House — or, as the former vice president will package it, Barack Obama's third term.
We'll hear that this isn't Biden's time, that time has passed him by. We'll hear that, at 76, his biggest opponent is father time. We'll hear that, given Biden's history of being too handsy with women and girls, his campaign is a casualty of #TimesUp. And we're sure to hear that — as a straight white male who likes to seek the center — he's the wrong candidate for these times.
Still, Biden leads the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire. So his opponents will have to come out swinging if they want to send this senior citizen back into retirement. Some Democrats on the far left will imply that Biden is too white, too male, too old, too grabby and too boring. They might also claim that he is too closely tied to racist anti-crime and anti-drug legislation in the 1990s, which led to the mass incarceration of black and brown folks in a cynical attempt to steady the nerves of white folks.
The "lunch bucket" Democrat who has always been Biden's most loyal supporter is not exactly the biggest cheerleader for racial diversity. Show me an unemployed white factory worker in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, or Marion, Ohio, and I'll show you someone who thinks that minorities get all the breaks. When you say "diversity," what they hear is "identity politics." And they think that's bad news for them.
These fault lines in the Democratic Party will be laid bare for all to see by a Biden candidacy. And, over the next several months, Democrats will have to make some hard choices about which group deserves to be pandered to — the new voters they want to reach and bring into the tent, or the old voters who feel neglected and left behind.
The Democratic coalition isn't a bunch of kindred spirits who came together because they love and respect each other or because they have the same values and concerns. Rather, it's a hodgepodge of competing special interests who are only linked together by the fact that they all hate and resent the same people: Republicans. In fact, sometimes, the Democratic Party seems to be held together by nothing more than spit and glue. It won't take much pressure to break it apart.
Biden's campaign will apply pressure. Even so, it would be a tragic mistake for anyone to dismiss Biden and not give his presidential bid the respect it is due. The reason that the former vice president is still the Democrat to beat in the primaries is because he is the one Democrat who can beat President Trump in the general election.
Don't get it twisted. This could well be Biden's time, and Trump helped make it so. In presidential politics, it's the occupant of the White House who dictates to the opposing party what sort of candidate would be the most effective to send up against him.
Trump has a knack for lying, famously thin skin, a short fuse, no experience, a dreadful temperament, thirst for drama, a weak jab, extreme views, a tremendous ego, the wiles of a con man, and a tendency to take himself more seriously than the job he was hired to do.
That means, in 2020, the best choice for Democrats could be someone who polls high on honesty, has thick skin, keeps his cool, offers experience, boasts a calm demeanor, eschews drama, punches hard, sounds like a moderate, carries the humility that comes from losing loved ones, comes across as trustworthy to voters, and has dedicated his life not to his own self-aggrandizement but to public service.
Now who does that sound like? Perhaps a certain native of Scranton, Pennsylvania?
It's no wonder that Biden has already zeroed in on Trump, saying that his campaign is "a battle for the soul of this nation." The strategy is not to prove that Trump is a bad president. Rather, it is to remind everyone that he also comes up short as a human being.
Check the clock. Biden's candidacy could be right on time.