Presidential elections are curious and complex events. They are part popularity contest, part mass-marketing exercise, and part elaborate theatrical production. They are based on deception, false promises, outright lies, black money, and shady backroom deals involving the worst kind of people in the world. Despite the layers of subterfuge, elections are somewhat predictable. The first step to win an election is to select the best candidate.
An effective candidate will hold advantages over his or her opponent that can be exploited throughout the campaign.
An old leader will normally fare poorly against a sharp-minded younger contestant. The upstart will be accused of inexperience, but every successful individual has had to push their way through such barriers. Nobody was ever FULLY qualified for any position. The younger mind will perform better under relentless campaign pressure, constructing impressive answers on the fly, switching from one topic to the next without pause, and detailing complex policy initiatives. This will prove a huge advantage during debates, but also during tough press interviews, and while rubbing shoulders with members of the general public who are known to throw the occasional curveball.
A good female candidate will normally be hard for a man to beat unless the woman is widely hated and considered by many to be a monster (Hillary Clinton). The campaign trail is a rough and tumble landscape, and the optics of a powerful man verbally attacking a woman is very damaging. The image will foment unconscious voter animosity.
A candidate that taps into some shift in the zeitgeist will always be hard to beat. If black women happened to be the flavour of the month, a white male will struggle to defeat such an opponent. He will appear to be ‘part of the problem’, and she can be painted as ‘the solution candidate’.
A candidate who is too similar to the incumbent will find it very different to distance themself without taking extreme ideological positions. The challenger will be pushed dangerously toward the fringes of accepted tenets, and potentially lose the centre of the political spectrum. This is universally considered political suicide, as evidenced by Boris Johnson’s recent defeat of the far-left Corbyn campaign.
During a period of social unrest tending toward anarchy, a candidate with a strong law enforcement background will prove a formidable opponent. They will have answers and solutions based on first-hand experience that will make sense to a nervous populace.
During a time of heightened military tension, a former soldier will posses an advantage over a civilian.
During a time of economic unrest, a businessperson will generally perform well. They are adept at business-speak and can talk knowledgeably about balancing budgets, reducing expenditures, and improving bottom lines.
During a period of recession, a leader who appears to be compassionate and empathetic will have a natural advantage. These circumstances will also favour someone who is self-made. The story of an ambitious bootstrapper who succeeded by working hard will play very well during such a time.
Against a candidate who is known for exaggeration and obfuscation, an opponent who appears honest and sincere will have a significant electoral advantage. The public is rightly suspicious of politicians and the appearance of integrity is pure electoral gold.
So where does that leave the 2020 US presidential election?
Joe Biden may be the Worst Candidate Ever to challenge an incumbent. Despite his current lead in national polls, Biden’s weaknesses are yet to be fully exposed.
Biden has no natural advantages over Trump. He’s older, slower, less mentally stable, and more has a much weaker grasp of reality. Biden has no business or real-world experience. Trump’s many weaknesses are Biden’s greater weaknesses.
Can Biden hammer the president on his long history of less than flattering relations with women? No. Can Biden attack Trump for being an old white man when this is the most despised demographic in society? No. Can Biden challenge Trump for his corrupt dealings when fifty years of political life has enriched the Biden clan way beyond what could be considered reasonable? Can Biden claim to be a fresh gust of change, after decades spent mired in the Washington Swamp? Can Biden call Trump a liar, with his highlight reel of blatant mistruths? Can Biden label Trump a racist when his legislative history is littered with initiatives that harmed the black community? Can Biden defeat Trump in any contest?
The list of Biden’s political advantages is embarrassingly short. He’s folksier and maybe slightly more charming. He has more political allies. The mainstream media is on his side, pretending that he’s a viable candidate at 78. This is hardly the most encouraging repertoire.
The Democrats have a long history of presenting woeful presidential candidates. George McGovern, Walter Mondale, and Michael Dukakis all failed miserably in their run for the top office. There’s an increasing probability that Biden will out-fail even these abject failures. He is walking his party off the edge of a cliff in his third doomed bid for the White House.
There is some chance that the Biden selection is part of some masterful long-term Democrat political strategy. Biden successfully saw off the challenge of Bernie Sanders and will be switched at some point before November for the REAL candidate. Kamala Harris would prove a formidable candidate versus Trump and would be certain to expose his weaknesses and blindspots in ways that Biden cannot. If this is the case, then the Democratic brain trust is to be congratulated. If not, they will be dining on salt for a very long and torturous Trump second term. A reinvigorated Trump may take the gloves off and really dismantle the institutions that the left cherishes so fondly. The Democrats will be caught in a hell of their own making.
Hillary Clinton’s name inexplicably haunts betting markets like the ghost of failures past. If the Democrats are looking to replace political arsenic with cyanide, then hold onto your hats folks, matters are going to get very interesting, as in civil war interesting. Guns will be fired by the losing team. Blood will be spilled. That much is a handicapping certainty.
G G Novack – Political Pundit