Joe Biden is the frontrunner, and he may not remain so. This is not necessarily a bad thing, because Joe Biden is not a particularly good man, nor a particularly good candidate.
Biden has been condemned for touching and massaging women, including young teens, without their consent. His first Presidential run, in 1988, was derailed as people found multiple examples of reflexive dishonesty in his plagiarism and blatant lies about his schooling (for example, he regularly claimed he was in the top half of his graduating class, while in reality he was very close to the bottom of the list). His family has benefited directly, by some lights inappropriately, from his political actions – long before and completely independent of the conspiratorial allegations about Hunter. There have been lingering rumors about him swimming naked, and only in front of specific female Secret Service agents… an activity which would certainly skirt the boundaries of sexual harassment. His indebtedness to unions and his willingness to pay them off in favors has long been a core component of his political success.
This is independent of his long history of gaffes, inappropriate jokes, nonsensical suggestions (such as in the 2013 Field & Stream interview where he advocated firing a shotgun through a door to scare away potential looters on the other side) and a string of failed Presidential runs. It’s independent of his decades-long history of being a poor fundraiser.
Far from being a champion of individual liberty, he stood at the side of President Obama and encouraged him as liberties were being restricted. Instead of standing firmly in defense of law and the Constitution, he was silent as Eric Holder obstructed justice in a way which eventually earned him a Contempt of Congress charge.
He is not a good man.
What he is, at the moment, is a better man. There is no sin or failure demonstrated by Biden which is not on display in a far more grotesque fashion in Donald Trump and there are many failings of Trump (such as infidelity) which are not echoed in Biden. He is not in favor of destroying our economic system, nor has he ever written about how much women fantasize about being raped, nor has he been a deadbeat dad – all unlike Bernie Sanders.
Biden is a man who, in a head-to-head matchup, can beat both Trump and Sanders, and is not nearly as horrible as either of them. If he chose to enact the moderate policy he’s currently espousing, he might actually work toward healing the country.
But this does not suddenly make him any better of a person, and we should not allow ourselves to fall into the emotional trap of elevating him simply because his contemporaries are so awful. That is the same trick that Trump fans use to draw in their advocates: framing the situation as Trump vs. Hillary or Trump vs. the Democrats, so that people stop considering the merits of Trump as a person or politician.
The stage beyond that is buy-in, where, having intellectually and emotionally committed to a decision, one becomes defensive of that decision. The longer a choice has been defended, the more invested a person becomes and an emotional attachment grows. In the case of political candidates, this attachment goes in one direction only, but most of their supporters are incapable or unwilling to recognize that fact.
By accepting Biden’s faults and benefits alike, we’re less likely to wade into that morass.
If Biden fails to catch on, it’s due in large part to himself. Whether it’s the stuff I’ve mentioned before or actual policy like his Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 that led to mass incarcerations and earned him some lasting enmity from the black community, he’s earned most of the arrows he’s taking.
He’s also getting a lot of cheap attacks in the form of Republicans and Russians alike promoting (and sometimes voting for) Bernie Sanders and some media figures gunning for him. We should recognize those slurs for what they are while not forgiving him his failures.
Lining up behind Biden as a hero instead of simply as “a somewhat honest moderate who currently has the best chance to oust Trump” is a recipe for disaster. We need to be better than that.
In the end, whether the Democratic nominee is Biden or Buttigieg, Bloomberg or Klobuchar, the focus needs to be on removing Trump and replacing him with someone who is going to be less damaging to the Constitution and the country. Currently, there aren’t any official contenders who would try to enact policy I’d like, but there are a few who would enact policy I’d hate less than that of the current anti-ally, pro-enemy, tariff-loving, free-spending nativists at the helm.