Chapel Hill is a beautiful place to live. Despite every effort to undermine it by a now rightist controlled legislature, UNC remains one of the county’s greatest public institutions of higher learning. The number of Duke faculty who call it home, further reinforces that we are a university town. They are joined by a host of high tech and pharmaceutical professionals. Chapel Hill is among the most progressive places where one can live, a liberal bubble in a swing state. Politics hadn’t heated up when I arrived here in 2006, but that would change as we closed in on the '08 presidential vote. People here are politically engaged. Soon bumper stickers appeared, and in this Democratic dominated place they tended to be either for Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. There were more Obama stickers (mine included), but a large number for Hillary. It was a contest with heartfelt enthusiasm and conviction on both sides. Obama ultimately prevailed here in the primary and then in the November election.
Fast forward to 2015 where, at this early date, presidential politics dominates the news. Even so, I’m not seeing any bumper stickers for the seventeen announced GOP candidates — this is a Democratic stronghold — but am struck by what I do see: “Vote Bernie”. I have yet to encounter Hillary’s name displayed in a local parking lot. Moreover, while inundated by emails and mailings from the 2008 Obama campaign — they still keep coming even though he isn’t running in ’16 — I have seen only sporadic snail mail from the assumed Democratic nominee. Perhaps that’s because I haven’t responded to the few that have come; in itself a big contrast from eight years ago when I had already contributed to Obama’s exploratory. Are we ready for Hillary? As I’ve written before, not so much, not yet. The “Vote Bernie” bumper stickers tell me that I’m not alone. Does that mean that I might be ready for Bernie? Absolutely not. I’ve cast my McGovern vote and won’t travel toward that dead end again. Also, bumper stickers notwithstanding, Bernie commanded a paltry crowd of 200 when he appeared recently in neighboring (and even more activist liberal) Carrboro.
It’s no wonder we’re hearing that Joe Biden may be seriously considering a run. Months ago, as in 2008, Hillary was already considered the presumptive nominee and once again something seems to be missing. In fact, even without the charismatic Obama in the mix, the level of Hillary enthusiasm seems, if anything, to be lower. Disturbingly, polls give her a negative rating on both honesty and trustworthiness. In many respects, these are the result of self-inflicted wounds, one’s that I have written about before. I’m not of course talking about Benghazi, a politically fabricated scandal reminiscent of Whitewater. I do think Clinton-wealth and foundations contributions are part of the problem, but perhaps not as much as her use of a personal email account while at State. It isn’t that she did anything illegal; it is rather the optics — not what it is, but what it says. In often tone-deaf ways the Clinton’s, emulating Frank Sinatra, like to do things, “their way”.
My question continues to be, “what was she thinking?” Clearly, Hillary never lost the presidential bug and knew from the day Obama won the nomination that she would run again. She knew it and everyone, most especially her close advisors, expected it. So if your positioning yourself for a presidential run and you know how treacherous those waters can be — certainly the Clintons know from personal experience — why do something that departs from the norm? Why raise a red flag? Yes others, including Jeb Bush, have used personal emails while in public office, but once his brother became president few people, including him, expected a run. He also wasn’t Secretary of State, among those in the line of succession. The perception is that rules are not made for a Clinton, that in fact a Clinton makes her or his own rules. It bespeaks a sense of entitlement; exactly what lost Hillary the all but certain nomination in 2008. History may repeat itself.
The question of a Biden candidacy first surfaced in late June. At that time, I posted a blog, “Why not Joe”. It was a statement, not a question. Nothing has happened in the intervening weeks that would change my mind. If anything, my unease about the coming election has grown and, despite some good speeches on substantive issues, my “not so much” feeling about Hillary has become, if anything, stronger. This is not to suggest that the GOP is offering any alternative. Among their crowded field are men who have been elected governors of substantial states or who serve in the Senate, but they are all avowed conservatives. Many have taken their states backwards. I shudder to think, for example, whom they might appoint to the Supreme Court. In that regard, Hillary stands head and shoulders above them — no contest. It is rather that she has done nothing to assuage my (and I think our) uneasy feeling. At this point, I don’t see any of the announced Democrats as a credible option. On the other hand, Joe Biden has done everything to make me feel better about him, starting with his obvious humanity but mostly his take on the issues of the day. A devout Catholic, he was out in front of Obama on marriage equality. He doesn’t merely understand the middle class; he is one of them. Like Obama and sometimes more so, he has been reluctant to get us involved in more unwinnable wars.
Biden is older than Clinton, but not by much. His biggest negative at this time in history is not his unpredictable mouth, but that he is a man. That is disappointing for anyone like me who would so much like to see a woman in the Oval. Is Hillary qualified for that job? Absolutely, but she brings in a lot of baggage, some of which might prove to heavy to withstand the general election against, say, Jeb Bush or worse a Scott Walker. What’s truly sad is that while there are some very able women, especially in the Senate, none (aside from Elizabeth Warren) has been allowed to even position herself for a run. That said, several would be powerful Biden running mates, among them Warren, Kristen Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar and Patty Murray. Would it be even better if one or all of them would run for president? Yes, but I don’t think that’s likely in what has become a late date for a new face on the national scene. Moreover, someone like New York’s Gillibrand would be hard pressed to challenge the woman whose seat she took seven years ago.
Could Joe Biden defeat Hillary Clinton for the nomination? I don’t know, but it’s clear to me that he has a far better chance than any of the currently announced candidates. I don’t take Sanders poll numbers and crowds for more than an expression of “none of the above”, most pointedly, Clinton. In fact, I’d venture that many Democratic voters would be hard pressed to even name the others much less know anything about them. Biden would give Hillary a real run — I hesitate to say a run for her money — and he could win. If he does, Democrats might have an even better chance of retaining the White House. If she prevails in a real challenge the same can be said of Hillary. I guess my bottom line is pretty simple, run Joe run.