Draining the Swamp: Trump. Biden. Warren
Why the Democratic Party needs a course correction.
- Is Biden wise enough to be President of the US? He is not the breath of fresh air the country needs after the Trump episode.
- Warren could inspire more voters than a rapidly declining Biden. They cling to him not out of conviction, but desperation.
- Despite all her policy proposals, Warren comes across as a truly likable version of Hillary -- brainy, but warm.
- Warren is like an Obama “with balls.” She can very much go for the jugular in political infighting.
- Independent voters -- crucial in determining the outcome in 2020 -- don’t like nepotism, whether practiced by the Trumps or the Bidens.
As a result of his Ukraine shenanigans, Donald Trump looks increasingly as if he is mortally wounded. Establishment Democrats are understandably relishing the moment. With more Americans favoring impeachment now, they feel the tide is turning against Trump.
There also is special justice in the fact that Donald Trump is tripping up over a phone call to Ukraine. This applies all the more so as Mr. Trump has been making a White House visit by Ukraine’s new president conditional upon “dealing with President Putin… to see peace in Ukraine.”
By that, Mr. Trump presumably refers to a Ukrainian acknowledgment of the legality of the invasion and occupation of Crimea.
Is Joe Biden really inevitable?
But the Democrats should not rejoice too early. The presumed “inevitability” of Joe Biden as the party’s 2020 presidential candidate is now in question.
As unpleasant as it is for the Democrats to admit, it is important to recognize that Donald Trump has succeeded in one crucial regard: He has managed to create a “double swamp.”
Trump’s “double swamp” strategy
Swamp one is the utterly egregious way in which Donald Trump and his clan have mixed their personal business interests and government service. That has long been on the public’s radar.
Swamp two concerns the Democrats. While they are not anywhere as egregious as Trump and the Republicans, ever since the onset of the Clinton presidency in 1992, turning government service subsequently into a personal goldmine for oneself and one’s kin has become a standard practice for Democrats as well.
The idea that this second swamp exists had receded into the background with the 2016 election loss of Hillary Clinton. With his phone call to Volodymyr Zelensky, Donald Trump has put the Democratic swamp back in the public eye.
That, notably, is not a partisan Republican statement, but one that most Sanders and Warren supporters in the Democratic primaries would underwrite.
The Biden swamp
At the moment, Democrats may argue that no charges have ever been brought in Ukraine against Joe Biden’s son Hunter.
Whether or not those findings will stand for the rest of the 2020 election season remains to be seen. What is sure is that the ever-cunning Donald Trump has managed to seed doubt about the sense of propriety of the Democratic Party’s “nobility.”
Of course, Trump did that to obscure his own wrongdoings which are blatant. But Trump has always regarded going on the attack as the best way of defending himself. Duplicitous as he is, he has no reservation whatsoever against opting for that.
Trump also knows Americans’ soul. He firmly counts on voters’ lack of ability (or interest) in proper differentiation. To him and them, it’s sort of a draw as long as both sides are fighting charges of impropriety.
Trump is also well aware that elections are often won by asymmetric demobilization. (Betting on that is a rare common feature between him and Germany’s Angela Merkel). Hence, the key to victory is to get as many voters for one’s opponent to feel frustrated for some reason and not go to the polls.
Independent voters and nepotism charges
At least independent voters, the crucial variable in determining the outcome of the 2020 race, are reminded by the Hunter Biden matter that the Bidens, contrary to Joe’s folksy bonhomie, are part of the Clinton swamp inside the Democratic Party.
What matters politically is that Independents don’t like nepotism, whether practiced by the Trumps or the Bidens.
And they can figure out by themselves that the only reason why the otherwise not gifted Hunter Biden ever got on the board of the Ukrainian company Burisma Holdings is because he is a Biden.
He also allegedly had no specific oil & gas experience and/or, for that matter, Ukraine experience. So the question is: What was he doing on that corporate board?
Joe Biden’s judgment
Of course, Joe Biden was Vice President, when his son Hunter took on the Burisma role in April 2014. More to the point, he had responsibility for handling the very complex Ukraine issues for the White House under President Obama.
Under those circumstances, the smart, if not imperative, thing for Joe Biden to have done would have been to advise Hunter to stay clear of Ukraine and lucrative, but dubious board posts. But he didn’t.
The fact that Hunter Biden’s attorney has just asserted that his client had not consulted with his father about taking on international clients can at best be seen as too clever by half. Even if true, it wouldn’t stand up to any solid sense of propriety.
Democrats still argue that there is nothing illicit in this. Moreover, they say, there was a Chinese Wall between Joe Biden’s responsibility and his son Hunter’s business dealings. Yeah, right.
So, is Joe Biden wise enough to be President of the United States? Apparently not. He is not the breath of fresh – i.e., clean – air the country desperately needs after the Trump episode.
Of course, Biden’s failings are far, far less significant than Trump’s. But there is no denying that Joe Biden is badly wounded.
Trump: Biden is a like ghost
If they are to be successful in the presidential race, the Democrats need a serious break with the past. Otherwise, Trump will not just argue in the debates, in a brutal fashion, that Joe Biden looks to him like a ghost.
Trump knows that there are few limits in this regard. A 73-year old blaming a soon-to-be 77-year old of senility and lack of virility cannot be blamed for age discrimination.
Trump, who loves going on the offensive to cover his own tracks, will cast Joe Biden as a crook and part and parcel of the Washington swamp.
His argument will be successful insofar as most voters tune into the 2020 race only very late in the game and they get turned off by anyone who seems to have a problem with nepotism. In that particular argument, it doesn’t matter that Trump is a worse offender by far.
Draining the swamp, Democrat-style
The political debate that is captivating people’s minds about wrongdoings at the White House goes far beyond the matter of the impeachment inquiry and the collateral damage that these hearings may cause for Joe Biden.
Biden’s problem is that he can’t run any longer primarily on the affability factor. That is the character quality he used in the past to make up for his penchant for political gaffes. At nearly 77, he is obviously considerably less agile intellectually than he was ten years ago.
The fact that Donald Trump has joined the battle of the swamps gives Elisabeth Warren, after Bernie Sanders’ heart ailment the only other major Democrat in the race, the mega-opportunity to rise above it.
Elizabeth Warren is well prepared for this battle. She is serious about changing the economic structure of the United States, but – unlike “I’m a democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders – she wants to do it within the well-established confines of capitalism.
Of course, there are those who want to throw the “Pocahontas” charge at her, as Donald Trump has repeatedly done. It’s Trump’s way to have an equivalent of the Obama “birther” debate.
Still, there should be an easy way to deflect the charges. Given Trump’s penchant for latent and not so latent displays of misogyny, Warren can simply ask: Aren’t we done with that yet?
Warren’s claim on a college application form that she was Native American was certainly a big stretch, but has been proven, sort of. Warren herself ordered a DNA test that shows that she has some Native American heritage dating 6-10 generations ago.
Moreover, Warren at least had the guts to publicly apologize for the pain she caused the Native American community with her claim. She thus actually “manned up.” Something the misogynist alpha-male Donald Trump is completely incapable of ever doing.
Fighter for the people
Elizabeth Warren certainly has the potential to inspire more voters than a rapidly declining Biden, to whom they cling not out of conviction, but mainly out of desperation.
In terms of political symbolism, Warren’s three advantages are these:
First, with – and despite – all her policy proposals, Warren comes across as a truly likable version of Hillary, brainy, but warm.
Second, she is like an Obama “with balls.” As a former Harvard professor, she is brainy like Obama (who graduated from Harvard Law School). But she can very much go for the jugular in political infighting where the former President always seemed curiously detached (and ultimately ineffective politically).
Third, Warren in an electoral way may come to be seen as the “new Trump.” She can lay the best claim to having the greatest personal appeal among those Midwestern voters whose vote got Trump elected.
As a result of these three factors, she can claim the “outsider” mantle, which Biden definitely cannot.