Why Democrats Prefer Hillary to Joe
Fun item today from Ezra Klein, who wonders why most Democrats see Hillary Clinton as an obvious selection over Joe Biden. Klein's theory? The vice president's occasional gaffes.
These comments keep exposing a cultural gulf between Biden and the party he seeks to lead. Biden is an old-school, white, male politician in a party that's increasingly young, multicultural, and female. One of the biggest frustration for Team Biden is that their boss has become something of a joke on the internet — and that's partly because the people driving opinion online are young and very sensitive to the particular kind of gaffes Biden keeps making.
Clinton, Klein speculates, is "more adept at signaling cultural affinity with young Democrats," and therefore (perhaps just barely) on the correct side of the line of cultural acceptability that Biden slips over, no matter how much Democrats like him.
That's plausible, but I'll add two comments.
First. Biden's evolution into becoming the butt of jokes is mainly a predictable consequence of his office. The same thing famously happened to Hubert Humphrey, who went from being one of the greatest senators to a buffoon as soon as he was "elevated" to the vice-presidency; Tom Lehrer's song "Whatever Became of Hubert?" ("Once a fiery liberal spirit/But now when he speaks he must clear it") was recorded in July 1965, only six months after Humphrey was sworn in. Dan Quayle wasn't (perceived as) a clown until George H.W. Bush selected him as his running mate. And even as non-comic a person, with as non-comic a vice-presidency, as Dick Cheney became the hapless guy who shot a hunting buddy in the face. In this sense, Biden and the vice-presidency were made for each other.
Second, we've already been to this rodeo. It's not clear we need to look any further than the status quo as it existed back in 2007 to explain Clinton's lead over Biden in 2014. For example, a Washington Post poll seven years ago this month had Clinton at 41 percent and Biden at 3 percent. And that's pretty much what Biden faced through the months leading up to the Iowa Caucuses. That doesn't mean Klein is wrong; it's just that there's fairly good evidence that whatever Clinton has and Biden doesn't, it was there long before he became vice president and she became secretary of State. He may be the Practically Perfect Veep, but his presidential campaigns just haven't gone anywhere.
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