Joe Biden and Kamala Harris / Image via Twitter
I’ll never forget the day Barack Obama won the 2008 U.S. Presidential election. I was in high school at the time and didn’t have social media so, needless to say, times were different.
For one thing, we didn’t get Twitter updates on everyone’s most recent bowel movement, the way we do these days (or thereabout). Instead, all of the info I received about the election came the old fashioned way – newspapers and telly and a little bit of YouTube (I just had to watch the Tina Fey take on Sarah Palin).
Still, despite the comparative primitiveness of our communications back in 2008 (I’m joking, sort of) the excitement around the Obama campaign was palpable. Even in pre-Facebook, pre-Twitter, pre-Instagram New Zealand. Here was a man who represented Hope and Change. And while, yes, his win would be historic due to the colour of his skin, he didn’t rest on that. He inspired people to vote for him through the sheer magnitude of his vision. He inspired people in New Zealand to wish they could vote for him.
The 2020 presidential campaign of one Joe Biden was markedly different.
I think the first mistake the U.S. Democrats made this cycle was assuming that running against President Trump would be a cakewalk. The second was to focus all their attention on beating him.
In my opinion, focussing all your efforts on your opponent almost never works. Instead, I believe political candidates should focus on their vision. “I’m better than the other guy” is simply not inspiring.
One of Hillary Clinton’s mistakes in 2016 was referring to Trump voters as “deplorables”.
I mean, naturally, I understand where she was coming from. But a statement like that is never going to inspire votes in your favour. Only outlining the ways you would improve people’s lives would do that. When people feel forgotten, mocking them only deepens their bias against you.
By comparison, whenever Bernie Sanders is asked about Donald Trump, he’s quick to refer to him as the most dangerous president in modern history, but you can hardly get him to shut up about healthcare (or minimum wage, or the Green New Deal). And let’s not forget that Sanders won the majority of primary states before the other candidates dropped out and endorsed Biden.
The fact Biden has beaten Trump is something to celebrate – and I’m genuinely excited about it. If I was in America right now, I’d be dancing in the streets. But, after Trump’s epic mismanagement of the Coronavirus pandemic, his opponent should have won in a landslide. Instead, Biden’s win was razor-thin, likely due to the fact he didn’t offer much in terms of vision (in my opinion, anyway).
I hope Democrats take this time to reflect on the fact Biden's victory was so thin, and make plans to change tack (yes, even in spite of the fact that he won).
I hope they notice that every Democrat who embraced Medicare For All won their seat (the entire "Squad", plus progressives up and down the country), while Democrats who ran as 'Republican-lite' lost badly (Amy McGrath in Kentucky).
It has often been said that the next authoritarian figure on the American right will be slicker than Trump, and if Biden governs as a standard politician (all words and no action), he will light the path for that future strongman to exploit.
I hope that doesn't happen. Instead, I hope the Biden/Harris administration will be bold and progressive. Now is the time to earn the mandate they've been entrusted with.Support Villainesse