It’s apparently never too early for presidential politics. Right now, former vice president Joe Biden tops, or nearly tops, every poll assessing the popularity of the potential 2020 Democratic presidential field. Biden, reportedly still mulling over whether 76 is too old to run for president, has claimed he’s the “most qualified person” for the position. Considering the players in the Democratic field, it’s difficult to argue otherwise.
Then again, the idea that experience is a determining factor for voters is a dubious one. The past two president have had little policy experience. Most of the Democratic field––at least the senators––has never voted for any consequential legislation. The most significant position, it seems, is how melodramatic a candidate can get about the imagined dystopia of the Donald Trump era. And when it comes to hyperbole, Biden is a heavyweight.
For Biden, though, another question remains: if his history and experience in Washington (he arrived in 1973) is the central argument for his candidacy, why does he spend so much of his time telling us how much he regrets his past decisions? The number of stances a former moderate Democrat has to reject just to be accepted by his party’s base is rather amazing. We’re not talking about inconsequential, long-forgotten partisan fights, either. We’re talking about some of the biggest debates of the past 50 years.
How does Biden feel about his 35 years of supporting virtually every expansion of the drug war and mass incarceration––even authoring the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act? He regrets it. How does Biden feel about his voting to repeal Glass–Steagall, which Democrats like to blame for the 2007 recession? He regrets it. His vote to authorize use of force in Iraq? He regrets it.
Has Biden ever really explained his 1996 support for conservative policy victories like welfare reform to the progressives of Democratic Party activist base? The then-Delaware senator even voted for the iteration of welfare reform that Bill Clinton vetoed. Has he ever really explained his strong support for the allegedly pro-bank bankruptcy bill of 2005 to anti-capitalist progressive dogmatists? Or his vote for an “immoral” border wall in 2006?
I’m sure Biden will regret all of it. Because Biden’s biggest regret is not being president.
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