How the Hell Did We End Up with Joe Biden?

Peter Van Buren
6 min readMar 17, 2020

How did the Democrats end up with Joe Biden their presumptive nominee?

After three years of preparatory media fire about diversity and change, and chumming the electorate with promises of free college alongside all the healthcare-they-care-to-eat, Democrats started with six women, a couple of black people, the gay guy, and progressive ideas ranging from the necessary to the kooky. The full list included 30 players.

The Democrat party ended up choosing a candidate left over from 1958. Joe Biden is old, he’s tired, he lost the race for president twice already (once for plagiarism and lying about his education), and he appears to be in some state of cognitive decline. Between the hair plugs and too-much botox he looks waxy, like grandpa putting himself out there for one last fling after Grandma Obama passed away God rest her soul.

The entire premise of the Democratic party was false. It misunderstood Trump’s election as a fluke if not an outright scam, and that masses wanted a revolution. This was sustained by a relatively small group of disconnected people who through cancellation culture, peer pressure, and the need to fill a 24/7 media vacuum convinced each other they were right.

So when a mediagenic Hispanic woman won a nothing race with few votes cast against a sleepy incumbent in the forgotten mono-cultural ever-Democratic Bronx, they told each other they were right and AOC is the living proof. The echo chamber made it seem they were always right as they serially proclaimed new saviors, off stage The Squad, on stage Beto! and Pete predominantly, though Booker, Harris, Klobuchar and others were granted mini-moments after a decent debate performance or some minor event. Some call it the “pundit fallacy,” belief inside the echo chamber that Americans are at heart progressive people who just haven’t yet been educated to vote the way they really should.

The problem was as soon as the actual people were allowed a word it all fell apart. The primary narrowed very quickly. White voters didn’t like the black candidates. Novelty candidates like Yang and Steyer sucked up bandwidth and confused the electorate. Midwesterners were terrified of initiatives aimed at transgender, reparation, and illegal immigrant support blocks that existed only in the minds of those who read the Atlantic and The Nation. Everyone wanted better healthcare but very few agreed a massive upheaval of our capitalist economic system was the way forward. The candidates went out of their way to ignore public opinion on these issues and alienate voters, especially purple voters.

Now quick, name a Biden signature policy initiative.

The second-to-last man standing, Bernie, was artificial. Unlike everyone else in the field, he started with a pre-built organization, fully-formed policies, and cash from 2016. He had a certain glow to him, having been treated unfairly in 2016 but that did not help much when there was no anti-Hillary vote to glom. But while initial powerups allowed Bernie to survive, he never grew. The new voters he counted on never appeared, at least not for him. Voter turnout did increase on Super Tuesday compared with 2016 but most of those new voters went for Biden. Bernie was the rock band still touring behind its only smash hit; the audiences are the same people who loved them in the 70s, just older now, even as the size of the venues shrunk.

The process of elimination was nudged by old-fashioned party power plays. Black voters were massed by local pols in South Carolina to come out for Biden. Someone behind the curtain (almost certainly Obama) made the calls to Buttigieg and Klobuchar and told them, as he likely did in 2016 with Biden to clear the way for Hillary, “kid, this ain’t your night.”

You end up with Joe Biden.

One writer called Biden’s success the product of the “politics of exhaustion,” seeing a Democratic electorate not anxious for change, but one that’s just tired of being tired. The unrelenting apocalyptic news cycle burned them out, and all they want is put someone acceptable enough in charge. When Nancy Pelosi declared the morning of Super Tuesday “Civilization as we know it is at stake in the 2020 election” they had had it.

You end up with Joe Biden, running on three things: 1) he’s not Trump; 2) maybe he’ll die in office and his VP will take over early in his term and 3) Joe’s cognitive decline appears slightly less than Trump’s. Not exactly “Hope and Change.”

Biden candidacy also means sweeping three years of Democratic messaging under the bed. The list of once-familiar subjects Joe won’t be able to talk about is a long one. Russiagate imploded on its own. Impeachment centered on Hunter Biden and ain’t nobody on the Democratic side gonna bring that up.

President Bone Spurs? Biden received five student draft deferments during the Vietnam War, same as Trump. In 1968 when his student status was wrapping up, Biden was medically reclassified as “not available” due to asthma. Yet in his autobiography he described an active youth as a lifeguard and high school football player. He also lied about being on the University of Delaware football team.

Trump’s naughty finances? After leaving the Obama White House Joe and his wife made more than $15 million, mostly via sweetheart book deals. Biden and his wife made nearly twice as much in 2017 as they did in the previous 19 years combined. The University of Pennsylvania gave Joe $775,000 to teach, and then was nice enough to grant him indefinite leave of absence from actually teaching. Biden charged the Secret Service $2,200 a month rent for a cottage on his property so they could protect him. Since leaving office Biden made $2.4 million on speaking engagements, including $10,000 for travel expenses to the University of Buffalo. A speech at Southwestern Michigan in October 2018 included $50,000 in travel expenses.

Taxes? After failing to close the loophole with Obama, Joe left office to create his own S Corporation, so he receives money for things like book advances and speaking fees not directly, which would cause him to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes as with salaries, but laundered as divestitures from a corporation he owns. As corporate money, nasty personal taxes are fully avoided, and the corporation can claim nearly unlimited “business expenses” to be deducted against those profits. Joe’s S Corp also donated his own money back to his PAC. Legal laundering.

Trump’s sexism and racism? Young people, Google “Anita Hill” now. You’ll be hearing a lot about her come the fall.

Biden represents to many Democrat voters that they will never see healthcare reform in their lifetime (Biden’s comeback drove a $48 billion gain for health insurance stock; they know.) Absent a timely cardiac event, they will not see a woman president for who knows how many years. Income inequality will remain the salient descriptor of our society. To win, the 77-year-old Biden will have to break the record for oldest man to be sworn in as president (Trump holds the title now.)

But Biden’s worst enemy heading into November will be low voter turnout. His opponent for Democratic votes will be Mr. Just Stay Home. That’s why those polls which show broad dissatisfaction with Trump are pointless. The Trade Joe Moms of Northern Virginia are never going to vote for Donald Trump. But they just might vote for no one. There are ominous signs; polls for several states Biden won on Super Tuesday, including Massachusetts, Texas and several southern states that helped catapult the former vice president into front-runner status found young voters did not show up at the rate they did in 2016. Same problem for disrespected Bernie supporters who just might sit November out.

The black voters who saved Biden in South Carolina are notoriously fickle when it comes to turn out. Older Americans, who favor Trump, historically turn out at 30 to 40 percent higher rates than the youngest voters. The exaggeration of white privilege that became a cornerstone of the Democratic party — whites are racist opioid-soaked gun nuts — is also one of the ways Democrats risk losing the 2020 race, as it leads inexorably to the devaluation of the very voters needed to clinch the Electoral College.

Biden’s new status triggered the MSM to drop any talk of the issues which have dominated their agenda for three years in favor of droning about electability. It makes little sense. Why else vote for someone if not for what he represents and will do? You want electability, run a puppy. Biden represents the end state of the idea anyone must be better than Trump.

That’s betting the whole house on one thin straw. It’s what happens when you settle for Joe Biden.

Peter Van Buren, a 24-year State Department veteran, is the author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, Hooper’s War: A Novel of WWII Japan, and Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99 Percent.

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Peter Van Buren

Author of Hooper’s War: A Novel of WWII Japan and WE MEANT WELL: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts + Minds of the Iraqi People