The Myth of Joe Biden’s Electability


With the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries starting to heat up as we move closer to the Iowa Caucus, four candidates have started to emerge as early frontrunners. These four candidates are Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris. The current polling leader, former Vice President Joe Biden, has been touted by his camp and the media alike for being the most “electable” candidate in the 2020 presidential election against Donald Trump. However, if one takes the time to look more deeply into polling numbers and Biden’s overall track record/policy positions, they would find that he is not as electable as this narrative seems to suggest. 

 According to RealClearPolitics, which aggregates polls for presidential and congressional races into averages (known as the RealClearPolitics average), Joe Biden is polling at 50.3 compared to Trump’s 40.8. Sanders (49.7), Warren (48.4), and Harris (48.0) are all polling 1-2 points lower than Biden based on these preliminary aggregated polls. Are these polls alone really enough to already declare Biden the far and away most electable out of the 2020 Democratic field? I do not see how this is the basis for determining that Joe Biden would be the most electable candidate out of the field when he is polling marginally better than Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, two candidates with much more progressive policies. The same applies for Kamala Harris, who is two points behind Biden according to the RCP average and has very similar policy positions to him.

This calls to issue another problem with the narrative of Biden’s electability, some of his past and present policy positions. First and foremost, Biden opposes Medicare for All, a position that sets him apart from most of the 2020 field. He believes that Medicare for All, popularized by Senator Bernie Sanders, wouldn’t work and that Democrats should simply stick with a modified version of Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) that builds a public option into Obamacare. In statements opposing Medicare for All, Biden incorrectly stated that people with preexisting conditions would lose coverage under the plan and that the Affordable Care Act has covered 100 million people, when in reality it has covered closer to 20 million. While Biden’s camp clarified that he was referring to 100 million with preexisting conditions who had difficulties getting insurance before Obamacare, these statements still display an overall misunderstanding of a single-payer health care system.

Another position Biden has faced much scrutiny for on the campaign trail was his opposition to desegregation in school busing throughout his time as a US Senator from 1973 to 2009. In the 1970’s Biden, along with segregationist senators, supported legislation that aimed to limit the federal government’s ability to enforce court-ordered busing mandates. At the time, this was the fastest-acting tool to promote desegregation of schools. Not only did Biden vote with segregationist senators, he was good friends with some, most notably Strom Thurmond. Thurmond was a Senator from South Carolina who supported segregation throughout his life and political career and voted against the enactment of the Civil Rights Law. Biden once praised the segregationist as “one of my closest friends” and talked of him as someone who believed in America’s diversity. In 2003, Biden even spoke at Thurmond’s memorial service, who he claimed had “moved to the good side” in his later years. Biden added, in an admiring tone, a 1947 editorial which praised Strom Thurmond’s work with black students at “separate, but equal schools.” However these supposedly “separate but equal” schools were a defining staple and unconstitutional function of racial segregation in the South. Ultimately, this begs the question why someone like Biden, who claims to be an advocate for racial equality, would support policies that hinder the desegregation of American public schools and be such close friends with a notorious segregationist like Strom Thurmond.

I am not in the business of telling any person how they should vote. However, I believe that the voting public should be aware of any glaring faults or problems a politician may have before casting their vote for that candidate. Personally, Joe Biden’s past and current views on healthcare, busing, and his friendship with Strom Thurmond are only some of the many issues that make him far from the most electable out of the crowded Democratic primary field in my eyes. Additionally, Biden’s history of inappropriate touching allegations, his disastrous handling of the 1991 Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings (which could definitely hurt his support with women), and data from the aggregated RCP polls against Donald Trump damage this narrative of Biden’s superior “electability” perpetuated by the media.