You are the head coach of fictional Donkey University. Your star quarterback (QB), Barack Obama, graduated two years ago and is starring in the NFL. Obama broke many school records at College U and he also won the Heisman Trophy. Last year, Donkey U was led by a graduate transfer named Hillary Clinton, who was solid but the team ultimately fell short of winning the championship.
The options to become the starting QB next year are Joe Biden, a senior who was Obama and Clinton’s back up for 3 years. Biden was competent in mop up duty and is well liked by the team and boosters. Another option is a transfer student by the name of Bernie Sanders. Sanders performed well at his last school but is a bit of an oddball fit for the “traditional” offense that Donkey U runs. There are also 3 freshman options, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar.
The spring practice QB battle was not as hard fought as people thought, as Biden separated himself pretty easily to be named the starting QB going into next season. College U is always competing for the national championship, and the question is, can Biden lead them to a championship victory? Biden doesn’t possess the pizazz and razzle dazzle of Obama or the experience and the grasp of the fundamentals like Clinton. Biden also doesn’t possess the upside of the freshman, but he’s the “safe” pick. Your mission, if you choose to accept is to guide Donkey U, with Biden as the QB to a championship this fall. No, this is not Tom Cruise’s mission from Mission Impossible, but it’s the mission the Democratic Party is faced with.
The problem with safe picks throughout history is that they rarely work out. For instance, we have had 47 Presidents in U.S. history, yet only 5 Vice President’s have won elections to become President (Adams, Jefferson, Van Buren, Nixon and George H. W. Bush). That’s only 10.64%, not a good rate, so why is Biden such a “safe” pick? In some ways it remind me of another “safe” pick the democrats choose for their nominee, Walter Mondale.
1. Biden and Mondale are both former Vice Presidents (VP), whose parties lost the previous election (1980 and 2016) and are now trying to win back the Presidency for the Democrats.
2. Mondale picked Geraldine Ferraro as his VP running mate, which was a progressive pick for its time and still for today (Ferraro and Sarah Palin are the only two women VP candidates in history). Biden has already vowed to pick a woman VP running mate.
3. Both served lengthy careers in the U.S. Senate, before becoming Vice Presidents and later winning the Democratic party nominee for President.
4. Mondale and Biden both supported unpopular wars (Vietnam and Iraq) before reversing course on the issue.
5. Both were “Activist Vice Presidents,” who advised the President, took part in the administration and trouble shot for the administration.
6. Biden and Mondale were both picked as VP’s mainly helping to shore up weak spots with the Presidential nominee. Mondale was Liberal, and an insider compared to Carter’s conservative and outsider campaign. Biden was a centrist who appealed to working class, midwestern Caucasians, where as Obama was perceived as more liberal and sadly “Exotic” to some American voters.
7. Mondale and Biden both defeated young liberal challengers, (Gary Hart, Jesse Jackson, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, and Cory Booker) as both had most of the party leadership behind their candidacy.
8. Both were the “safe” pick for voters during the primary cycle. Democrats thought Mondale and Biden had the best chance of knocking off the incumbent (Reagan, Trump) in the fall election. That kind of thinking didn’t work out for Mondale voters in 1984, and it remains to be seen what happens with Biden this year.
1. No Ronald Reagan figure:
Trump is no Reagan, not even by a long shot. There is no massively popular candidate on either side of this election. Unlike Reagan in 1984, Trump is vulnerable of being defeated. The Democrats would have needed prime George Washington, Franklin Roosevelt or Abraham Lincoln as the party nominee to defeat Reagan in 1984. Even still, I don’t know if they win that election. Reagan, in 84, was like going against the 1996 Chicago Bulls team. The odds were not in the other teams favor. Reagan even had voters calling themselves Reagan Democrats and voting for him. Reagan beat Mondale in the electoral college 525 to 13 in 1984! The equivalent of the 96 Bulls thrashing the 96 Vancouver Grizzlies. It was the worst electoral college defeat by a democratic candidate in U.S. History.
2. Barack Obama > Jimmy Carter
I like Jimmy Carter and think he gets a bit of bad rap, but he is no Barack Obama. Obama is the gold standard for Democrats and still universally loved by all but Republicans. Carter was not liked by his own party while he was President and had a low public opinion rating by the public before he left office. This was never the case with Obama. The difference is Biden can and is running on Obama’s legacy and goodwill, while Mondale had to separate himself and his policies from the Carter Administration. Mondale had to hope people forget he was VP under Carter, who still wasn’t well liked. Just like Republicans forgot, Trump used to be a Democrat and was a big donor to Democratic candidates.
3. COVID-19 outbreak
There was nothing close to what we are experiencing today going on in 1984. The closest thing was the U.S. announcing the discovery of the AIDS virus that year. Even still, sporting events went on including the Olympics. There was no self quarantining, no shutdown of restaurants, bars, clubs, movie theaters, amusement parks, malls and retail stores. All the above were still open.
People still had to buy their My Little Pony’s, you know? An interesting what if is if a pandemic like we are experiencing now had happened in 1984, would Reagan still have won? Or won as convincingly? Would the Reagan administration have handled things as poorly as the Trump administration? Would the U.S. money for medical supplies have been all tied up in Iran-Contra? These are things that keep me up at night.
Another subplot of the Pandemic is will people feel comfortable to come out and vote in November or will the voting numbers be down because people are still fearful of the COVID-19 virus. A situation like that would favor Trump because presumably it would be the big cities with low voter turnout rather than the rural areas who would favor Trump.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, I predicted a Trump victory because Biden is not that exciting or that great of a candidate. I think Hillary in 2016 was a better candidate than Biden and she lost to Trump. The Trump administration, bungling and mishandling of the pandemic crisis may be a game changer.
Here’s the thing about the safe pick, it’s usually not the best pick. It’s a fallacy people trick themselves into thinking when making decisions. Instead of making the best pick for themselves, they over think and settle for the safe pick. There is risk in any decision a human makes. We can minimize the risk, but there will always be risks. So why not make the best pick? Safe doesn’t motivate people to get to the polls or volunteer or to donate money. Mondale was the safe pick in 1984, Clinton was the safe pick in 2016. How did that work out? Picking the safe candidate is a mistake voters have to stop making.
The Democratic Party has to hope that Trump screws up so badly during this pandemic, that voters are like I’ll vote for anybody but Trump! In that scenario, people would vote against Trump more so than for Biden. This sounds similar to 2016, where voters didn’t like Hillary Clinton. Voter turnout was low and surprise, surprise … Trump is the U.S. President.
Our last two Democratic Presidents (Bill Clinton and Barack Obama) were two charismatic individuals who inspired voters to get out to vote and volunteer for them. I don’t get that same vibe from Biden. Biden is the “safe” choice, but is that good enough to defeat Trump this November? The similarity to Mondale has to be scary for Democrats to think about. I don’t think Biden loses as badly as Mondale did in 1984, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if Biden meets the same fate Mondale did, losing the Presidential election.
Originally published at https://mwmblog.com on April 13, 2020.