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That was a somewhat surprising result, but I’m not disappointed by it…

November 8, 2020, 2:15 PM

On the morning of November 7, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that former vice president Joe Biden had won the race for president, defeating incumbent president Donald Trump.  I am not disappointed by this result, but I am a bit surprised by it.  I fully expected, when the election was all settled, that Donald Trump would win a second term in the White House, and it would be borne out that the Democrats had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, as they are so prone to doing, once again.

I started writing this Journal entry back in April when Biden had first captured the nomination, but then life sort of got in the way, which caused this to get cast aside, and become less relevant.  I was then going to rework it into a pre-election Journal entry like I did in 2016, but with all of the early voting, and my having voted almost a month before election day, I felt like it would be too little, too late, and so I didn’t do anything with it then.  So here we are now, with the election all but settled.  When I first started writing, this entry was titled, “He should have taken the hint when he got the Medal of Freedom…” and was lamenting the choice of Biden as a nominee.  That was following the winnowing down of a very large field of candidates that included the likes of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Michael Bloomberg, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Tom Steyer, Andrew Yang, and a whole host of others that you have probably never heard of.  I didn’t particularly like the way the nomination was reached, in that it felt once again like they were trying to stop Sanders, no matter what it took.  I recall that Sanders started out pretty well, outperforming each of the rest of them individually, though combined, the others still had more support than he did individually.  Then after Super Tuesday, the other candidates all started dropping like flies and endorsing Biden, who I felt like was the old coot trying to to remain relevant despite his being past his prime.  I figured that Biden hadn’t taken the hint that the Presidential Medal of Freedom that Barack Obama awarded him in their final weeks in office meant that his political career had reached its end, and that it was time for him to retire, and that this would have disastrous consequences for the country.  But with most of the other candidates gone and putting their efforts into his campaign rather than their own, Biden swept it and got the nomination.

Here’s what I said about it at that time:

I get the sense that the Democratic Party has likely done it again, and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.  Out of all of the candidates to run, we ended up with Joe Biden as the nominee.  Out of all of the candidates in the Democratic field, Biden was at the bottom of my list, and let’s admit it – there were a lot of stinkers in that group.  I am of the opinion that Biden should have taken the hint back in January 2017 when then-president Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  That should have been Biden’s clue that he had reached the end of his career in public service, especially after he declined to run for president in 2016.  In other words, thank you for your years of public service, and enjoy your retirement.

What bothers me about Biden’s candidacy is that he’s kind of a non-starter.  The problem is that he fits the profile of a “default candidate”.  For those not familiar, a default candidate is not someone that you vote for because you like them, but rather, someone that you vote for because you don’t like the other guy.  Thus a default candidate really only has to be a warm body from the right political party.  What does Biden stand for?  Who knows.  Do we care?  Not really.  The point is that Biden is not Donald Trump, and unfortunately, we have to vote for him if we want to get rid of Trump.

The problem with default candidates is that they tend to lose.

I can think of two other default candidates in recent memory: John Kerry in 2004, and Hillary Clinton in 2016.  Kerry ran against then-president George W. Bush, and Hillary Clinton ran against Donald Trump.  They were both awful candidates, and not surprisingly, they both lost.  In Kerry’s case, he really was a warm body that wasn’t George W. Bush.  His policies were terrible – he supported the Iraq War, for pity’s sake.  But we had to vote for him if we were to keep Bush out for a second term.  And we were unsuccessful.  Then fast forward to 2016, and the Democrats nominated the worst possible candidate for president in Hillary Clinton.  Clinton may have had decent policy positions, but they didn’t matter, because she had so much political baggage over the previous thirty years that it was practically open season because there were so many things attached to her for the Republicans to exploit.  And with Trump’s taking control of the discussion with his out-sized personality and rapid ascent to the top of the heap, Clinton became a default candidate, i.e. she was a warm body that was not Donald Trump, and the baggage wasn’t helping her at all.  Not surprisingly, she lost.

I will say that I am happy to have been wrong in this case, seeing the default candidate, i.e. the warm body who wasn’t the other guy, win.  Though I admit that despite that the nomination was all sewn up before Maryland’s rescheduled primary in June, I still voted for Bernie Sanders.  He was still on the ballot, after all, and so I said, why not?  After all, it’s like Randi Rhodes says: you fall in love in the primary, and you fall in line in the general.  I had fallen in love with Sanders (in the political sense), so I voted for him, knowing full well that he was already out of the race.  But the other races in the primary still needed my vote.  But come the general, I voted for Biden, i.e. I fell in line.  I also voted for my carpetbagger congressman, David Trone, because the Democrats need the numbers in the House of Representatives.  It’s a reminder that voting in the general election is best compared to a game of chess, and not choosing a mate.  It’s a matter of voting for the candidate that will get you a little closer to where you want to be during their term of office.

I will also say that while I was surprised to see Biden actually pull it out, Trump did have a few strikes against him.  First of all, thanks to the current pandemic situation (which is a topic for another time), the economy was in the dumper, and presidents who preside over poor economies typically don’t get reelected, as Jimmy Carter or George H.W. Bush could tell you.  Additionally, presidents whose approval rating remains under 50% leading up to election day also tend not to get reelected.  Trump’s approval rating has never been over 50% throughout his entire presidency to date.  And of course, sitting presidents who get primary challengers also tend to not get reelected.  I discussed this back in February 2019, and it ultimately came to pass, as Trump got primaried by former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld.  We all knew that Weld didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of actually getting the nomination, but nonetheless, it was another piece of the puzzle.  I imagine that the impeachment didn’t help things, either, but I don’t feel comfortable attaching any historical context to it, since Andrew Johnson didn’t run for reelection, and Richard Nixon (who almost certainly would have been impeached had he not resigned) and Bill Clinton were both in their second terms and therefore ineligible to run again.  So that one is without any real precedent, since Trump was the first president to run for reelection following an impeachment trial.  And hopefully we don’t find out whether that becomes a trend, because I don’t want to see another impeachment in any of our lifetimes, i.e. I hope that future presidents behave themselves while in office, ideally running as clean of an administration as Obama did.

Also, historically, it was about time for a one-term president.  The last three administrations were all two terms.  Three two-term presidencies in a row has only happened once before that, with Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe‘s each serving two terms from 1801-1825.  I would have been very surprised to see a fourth consecutive two-term presidency, and also rather concerned at the same time.  Three two-term presidencies already was making me wonder if the American public was starting to consider a second term to be a given, and weren’t properly holding presidents accountable for their performance in office if they were just electing them for second terms as a matter of course.  Seeing the American public toss one out on their butt (more so when the person getting voted out made a name for himself with the phrase, “You’re fired“) restored a little bit of faith in our country, especially after the voters put someone so uniquely unqualified for the presidency in there in the first place.

As far as state-by-state results went, I was most surprised by Ohio, which is generally considered a bellwether state.  Ohio went Republican, missing for the first time in 60 years.  Recall that I said this in my pre-election post in 2016:

Speaking of swing states, looking at how some states have such an effect on the contest vs. others, I have joked that we as a country could save a whole lot of money and effort by just letting Ohio pick the president for us.  After all, since 1896, Ohio has picked the winner in every election, with only two exceptions: 1944 and 1960.  Save the rest of us the headache and let them do it for us.

Right now, I’m kind of glad that’s not the case.  But I remember thinking, as I read that Ohio got called for Trump, that Biden’s losing Ohio was a really bad sign, since it’s typically the case that as Ohio goes, so goes the nation, and I really wasn’t expecting a miss.

Ultimately, though, I’m going to be quite happy to see Trump leave office in a few months’ time, and see that dumpster fire of an administration leave town.  No more having to pay attention to nonsensical tweets.  No more having an inexperienced person who doesn’t even quite understand how the government works occupying the top spot.  I’m also glad to not have to hear the various potshots that the left has loved to take against Trump over the last four years.  I never want to hear about the color of Trump’s face, the size of his hands or other body parts, or anything else about his physical characteristics ever again.  Of all of the things related to his actual job performance to bust his balls over, those sorts of attacks are, first of all, juvenile, and second of all, it tells me that the person using it has nothing legitimate to criticize him over, and therefore has to resort to personal attacks.  Do better than that.

Meanwhile, I will be interested to see what the Biden administration ends up looking like.  We already know that Kamala Harris will be our first female vice president, because she was part of the ticket.  I was a bit concerned about the process that led to her selection, though, with Biden’s pledging fairly early on that he would pick a woman as his running mate.  I felt vibes of Walter Mondale‘s choice of Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate in 1984, and recalling what a slaughter that race ended up being for the Democrats (Mondale only got 13 electoral votes to Reagan’s 525).  I also worried that Biden was boxing himself in with that pledge.  But working within that pledge, I had hoped that Elizabeth Warren would have gotten that nod, because she more closely represents what I like about Bernie Sanders, and I was hoping that the Biden camp wouldn’t completely shut out the Sanders wing of the party like the Clinton campaign did in 2016.  I had low expectations that Warren would get the pick, but, hey, one could still hope.  The choice of Harris surprised me because she was from California, which has voted for the Democratic candidate in every election since 1992.  Thus it’s not like they might have drawn any extra usable voters on account of her being from that state, since it’s assumed that California will go for the Democratic candidate every time.  Clinton’s running mate, Tim Kaine, was from Virginia, a swing state, and I imagine that he was the only reason that they won Virginia in 2016.  Mind you, it’s not like Warren was from a swing state, either, but once you’ve already got a state in the bag, there’s no sense in trying to milk it for every vote that you can get.  All you need is more votes than the other guy, and that’s good enough.  But in any case, the pick for Harris worked, and she’s there.

As far as the cabinet goes, I suppose that we shall see.  I imagine that some of the people that ran against Biden in the primaries will end up in some of the spots, I could see Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar’s getting cabinet posts.  Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren need to stay in the Senate, because I feel like they could do way more good there than in the executive branch.  Same goes for the congresswoman from New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  She needs to stay in the House of Representatives, because she can do far more good there than in the cabinet.  I would be quite disappointed if any of those three accepted cabinet posts, because it would mean that they were out of the legislature.

And then finally, I want to know what Biden’s Oval Office decor is going to look like.  Most presidents redecorate the Oval Office to suit their own tastes, with varying results.  I liked the styling that Ford, Reagan, both Bushes, and Obama did in the Oval Office.  The Nixon decor and Clinton decor, I thought were both far too bold.  I found Trump’s decor to be a bit of a disappointment, because aside from the wallpaper, it was entirely recycled from past administrations.  The rug was from Reagan’s administration.  The gold curtains were from Clinton’s administration.  The couches were from George W. Bush’s administration.  None of it was designed to work together, and it shows.  Let’s admit it: that Oval Office decor was a mess, because it was a bunch of unrelated pieces just sort of thrown together.  It was even more disappointing considering that for the previous 16 years, the Oval Office had been decorated quite elegantly.  I suppose that disaster of an Oval Office could be used as a microcosm for how the Trump era turned out, but in any case, I hope that the Bidens do a great job with the Oval Office decor, and decorate it in such a way that we can all be proud of.

All I know is, the future seems to look rosy again.  Let’s hope that the incoming administration makes us all proud.

Categories: National politics