Last election saw the creation of nicknames “Hill Bots” and “Bernie Bros.” In the run up to 2020, we now have Beto Phobes and Beto Philes, added to our vocabulary. The Phobes don’t like Beto, calling him “The One” or “another One” and “magical manchild.”Beto used to be a skateboarding punk rocker with the internet handle, “Psychedelic Warlord,” after all. This distresses some. The Philes on the other hand, speak softly, but carry a big checkbook. Biden raised $6.1Mil in the first 24 hours after announcing his candidacy, besting even Bernie Sanders, who raised an impressive $5.9Mil. This solidified Beto’s position as a serious contender. So, now we have two white male centrists, Beto and Biden in the race, and which is Obama’s true heir? Vanity Fair:
You could say that Biden has many of Beto’s centrist vulnerabilities along with extra liabilities: a longer record, less wokeness fluency, and a tendency, in the words of Barack Obama, “to say something stupid.” On the last of these points, Biden told a crowd over the weekend that he had “the most progressive record of anybody running for”—stopping abruptly to change that to “anybody who would run.” If Biden is looking to play the sphinx and then wow the field by jumping in late, slips like that don’t help. One is reminded of the Far Side cartoon of an alien visitor falling down the stairs on the way to greet mankind. “So much for instilling them with a sense of awe,” reads the caption.
For all of Biden’s flaws, though, he’s still in a stronger position than Beto, because he represents a larger share of Democrats and consequently is leading every poll. That is to say, he appeals to those who love Barack Obama, hate Donald Trump, and pay scant attention to news about politics. That may not be the reader of an article like this, but it’s people we all know. Beto, by contrast, would appeal to a smaller part of Obama’s coalition: those who pay close attention to politics but not policy and loved Obama for his manner and style. This isn’t meaningless. Many Americans felt proud to have Obama representing their country to the world. The head of state sets a tone, and we feel it fast when that tone becomes appalling. But it tends to recede as a priority in the face of other problems.
So you have centrism with a record, Biden, or centrism without a record, Beto, as Vanity Fair put it. Beto won points recently when tearing into Trump’s absurd contention that El Paso, Texas, was more secure after the building of a fence. O’Rourke shot that down, by establishing that crime in El Paso actually diminished before the fence was built and rose after it. “We are not safe because of walls but in spite of walls,”he said. That is a statement of unity, and unity was the central plank in Obama’s platform, back in the day. So maybe Beto is Obama’s natural heir?
A lot of the objection to Biden is his age. Maybe, in the primaries due course, Beto can sway more of the voters who love Obama, hate Trump, and don’t follow politics — because, at the end of the day, that is the block of voters that’s going to deliver the election or not. This election is not about who is the purest Democrat for the job, it’s about beating Donald Trump.