Well, Joe Biden is in trouble for something he said again (evergreen tweet), this time for discussing his long-ago personal friendships with long-dead segregationist senators James Eastland and John Stennis.
Obviously this is a mistake - but maybe not quite in the way you think.
Biden has premised his candidacy and his prospective presidency on the idea that Trump is an anomaly and that with The Donald out of the way, the collegial folkways of the past can return to government.
Now, political Twitter knows that those days are gone forever, and have probably been gone since Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill shared their last Irish whiskey some 30 years ago.
But, hear me out, what if Biden knows that too?
What if Biden is not simply nostalgic for the past, in a sign of his age, but instead is positioning himself in a popular niche? The salient political question is not "can we bring the bourbon and branchwater era back." The important question is: How many rank and file primary voters either think or wish that era could come back?
Over and over we see polls and hear voters saying they want politicians
to "cooperate" and "get along." Biden knows this too. Is he deluding
himself thinking this era can come back - or, I think more likely, is he just playing to that
sentiment in a segment of the electorate?
Personally, I think it's a myth that there's all that much real support for
Getting Along and The Sensible Center - because people are taught by the
Objective Journalism paradigm that we are supposed to Vote The Person
Not The Party, and because if you scratch the surface "compromise" usually means "compromise by YOU changing to MY position."
But at least it's an argument one could reasonably make with some data to point to, and I think it's a more plausible explanation for Biden's approach than "he's old and dumb."
If that's what he's doing, then his mistake was not arguing that
personal friendships across the aisle can fix things. His error was in
naming the wrong friends, men who while they may have been genial in
person were committed to the wrong side of history and justice. Had
Biden named colleagues like, say, Bob Dole or even Barry Goldwater, very
conservative men yet men who were not primarily (despite Goldwater's
vote against the Civil Rights Act) identified as segregationists, he
would have made his point more effectively.
Joe Biden is a lot of things, and in many ways he is the last son of a
bygone era. He may be far enough behind the times that he won't win the
But Joe Biden is absolutely not dumb, and I think his longing for the past is more strategic than nostalgic.