The next shoe to drop for Joe Biden will be whether he still supports the death penalty. During his tough-on-crime phase 25 years ago (“we do everything but hang people for jaywalking,” Biden said in 1992), Biden boasted of how many crimes he thought should be subject to capital punishment. Now he is being resolutely silent to queries about where he stands today. Sooner or later he’s going to be cornered, and I suspect Floppy Joe will consign the death penalty to the same Outbox as the Hyde Amendment.
The Bezos Bulletin reports this morning that this is symptomatic of a larger problem:
Biden has a much more tenuous claim to front-runner status than [Hillary] Clinton did at this point. The early polls show his support is softer. In that way, his strategy often feels like a basketball team that’s playing to protect its lead in the first quarter. On the other hand, when Biden keeps stepping on rakes, the logic of holding him back makes more sense. But Biden’s lack of accessibility appears to be adversely impacting the tenor of coverage. It also increases the stakes for him to perform well in the first debates next week. . .
Biden has long been viewed by many liberals as a finger-in-the-wind politician who will be with them primarily when he thinks it makes sense politically. This is how they explain why he’s been all over the place on so many of the central issues of our time, including abortion. It wouldn’t be surprising if he flip-flopped on capital punishment after doing so on other hot buttons, for instance, but it would pour gasoline on the burning narrative that he lacks core convictions.
Of course, the correct way to understand this story is that the Democratic Party’s media cheerleaders are worried, and this story essentially says to Slow Joe: Please get your act together—fast!
Look no further than a story today in explicitly left-wing Guardian: “Four Reasons Why Trump Is Cruising to Re-Election.” In addition to the conventional reasons (the economy, Trump’s campaign war chest, the nature of his base, etc), there is this:
Third, against this mobilized minority stands a majority of Americans unhappy with Trump but largely uninspired by the Democratic party. They see a party without a clear profile, divided over more than 20 primary candidates, who differ on more than they agree on. Moreover, with still some 500 days to go until election day, Democrats are already turning against each other – with anti-Sanders donors trying to co-opt candidates, while Democratic insiders are feuding with the Sanders camp, which is fundraising against the Democratic establishment. . .
Trump may be historically unpopular, but he is popular enough to be (comfortably) re-elected. His supporters have agency and urgency, the two things the Democrats are still lacking. They have 500 days left to create this, together, rather than apart.
Again, the message to Democrats is the same as the Post’s message specific to Biden: Get your act together!
Meanwhile, over at Reason, Nick Gillespie points to still more interesting poll data that dramatize the weaknesses of the Demcrats’ position:
On the other, more consequential hand, that same poll underscores why Trump is almost certainly going to win reelection in 2020. One of the questions asked Democratic voters whether they will vote for a candidate with a “bold, new agenda” or one “who will provide steady, reliable leadership.” Fully three-quarters of respondents want the latter, with just 25 percent interested in the sort of “bold, new agenda” that virtually all Democratic candidates are peddling so far. This finding is consistent with other polling that shows that Democratic voters are far more moderate than their candidates. Even allowing for a doubling of self-described Democrats who identify as liberal over the past dozen years, Gallup found last year that 54 percent of Democrats support a party that is “more moderate” while just 41 percent want one that is “more liberal.”
Yet with the exception of Joe Biden (more on him in a minute), all of the Democratic candidates—certainly the leading ones—are pushing a massively expansionist agenda, thus putting themselves at odds with their own base.
Which can only mean one thing right now: Pass the popcorn.