Joe Biden’s biggest problem is that he’s a “proud Democrat.” He gave a decent speech last night. No gaffes. Firm message themes of light versus darkness, hope over fear, fact over fiction, fairness….yada yada load the platitude wagon Jill, we’re headed to Washington.
Biden is a decent man by all measures. His family has given the full measure of devotion to this nation. Joe himself has suffered unimaginable tragedy–the loss of a spouse and a child–which can turn a life into hell in a single gut-wrenching moment. Empathy is not an empty concept in the Biden home. The contrast with the billionaire businessman and celebrity hound in the White House cannot be more striking.
If Biden was running as a Republican, I think Trump would eat his dust in a historic landslide, but that’s a topic for Newt Gingrich to write as a historical fantasy novel.
Joe Biden is a man forged in a different time, and he’s a Democrat from a different time. His priorities and sensibilities are more in line with people like Zell Miller, Nathan Deal, Owen Pickett, Bill Lipinski than with his former boss Barack Obama. Deal became a Republican and a pretty decent governor of Georgia. Lipinski, of south suburban Chicago, stayed in office until 2005, passing the baton to his son Dan, who served until getting primaried by marketing executive Marie Newman. Her choice of profession is not lost on me. Chicagoland has produced a few marketing geniuses who moved into politics, such as Barack Obama. Branding trumps policy in today’s politics, and Obama was (and is) a master brand marketer.
The Blue Dog Democrats are long gone (they exist in name but not spirit and certainly not in influence). There are still a few Democrats interested in statecraft versus stagecraft, but Biden was never among them. He’s been a stagecraft politician his whole career. I don’t believe Biden would make a particularly effective governor because he’s a legislator at heart, not a buck-stopper or “decider in chief.” I don’t believe Biden will make a particularly effective president, but he’s a useful placeholder for the Democrats who have floated him like a weather balloon.
Biden is not a master brand marketer, and he’s running against an almost supernatural maestro who uses the White House as his current residence. He’s going to have to rely heavily on Obama and his own campaign marketers to build him up. All he has to do is give speeches from his basement, and not commit gaffes. The bar literally cannot be lower, and the cheerleading media will dig a hole to get under it.
But the problem isn’t really Biden. You’ve heard me say that Biden could be a potted plant, and I believe that. This election will be about Donald Trump, and the Democrats will do everything possible to cast him as the biggest threat and villain the world has ever seen. But Trump is wily, and has already baited Democrats into such monstrous errors as taking up the Postal Service as their cause. (Ask your neighbor how big a priority the USPS is in life.)
Biden doesn’t have the marketing chops to make his own image and lead his party–he’s being led by the bit like an aging pasture horse. He can’t separate himself from whatever image his party projects. No matter how good or decent a man he is, or how vanilla and sweet and light a speech he gave, as a “proud Democrat,” Biden is inextricably linked to the Antifa-recruiting, anti-Semitic praising, race-baiting, identity politics-hucking, blame-America-first, police-bashing, white Christian-hating, far-leftists who know how to market.
All the clever restraint, meticulous planning, eye-straining data collection, and buttoned-down Powerpoints coming out of bicoastal political consultants can’t spin past the raw branding of figures like AOC, Bernie Sanders (the anti-branding brand), and of course, Donald Trump.
Branding wins in 2020 America, like it won in 2008, 2012, and 2016. The Democrats are not the brand of Biden or Pelosi. They are the brand of The Squad.
Joe Biden, in his speech, got to the core of the argument.
So, the question for us is simple: Are we ready?
Ready to go back to governing over branding and stagecraft? No. Americans have succumbed to celebrity, fame, and the politics of cults.
One brand, the Trump brand, may go the way many Trump-branded companies and products have gone. But the man at the center of the brand isn’t going anywhere, brand-wise. In the White House or outside it, Trump the brand will be a force to be reckoned with, just like Obama (despite his own reclusion) has remained a branding force.
There will never be a Biden brand. He’s a minor stage player, but a decent man and probably a useful placeholder. Are we ready? No, but Biden isn’t either. He should have run as a Republican. But we already had Jeb Bush.